The actual title, from the 9th chapter of Wishcraft is “Winning Through Timidation, or First Aid for Fear. Barbara Sher labels this section “Crafting II: Moving and Shaking.”

The first enemy is fear.  In all creative endeavors, sooner or later, you’ll run into it.  Difficulty with fear is what stops most dreams in their tracks.   Barbara says, “Missing out on your dreams and never finding out what you’re capable of is a hell of a high price to pay for peace.”  I would have to agree with her.  What a sad thing to lose your dream simply because you’re scared.  Particularly since fear is inevitable. If you’re not feeling fear, you’re not moving forward. 

There are two kinds of fear, according to Barbara.  There’s stage fright, which is normal and healthy.  Perhaps a hissy fit or two and some kind words and as Jackson Browne says, “Those lights come up and we hear that sound and we remember why we came,” you rise to the occasion and do what you have to do.

It’s the other kind, the Survival fear which knocks most of us down.  It’s based on a notion that you can’t do it, you’re likely to fail and all that jazz.  Barbara captures it well, “All survival fear is exaggerated.” It comes from the child’s point of view.  Your mind may know that none of these things will happen, but your feelings don’t. Susan Jeffers, the Fear Expert would agree that “The best antidote is the adult experience of going ahead and doing the thing and finding out that nothing so terrible happens after all.”  But it is just that experience which our fear doesn’t want us to have.

Barbara goes on to say that this Survival Fear has a message for us. ”It’s trying to tell you there’s something you need and have got to get before you can afford to take risks and have adventures.”  This is the practicality of Barbara Sher that makes her process work.   The realization that you can’t know everything.  You don’t come out of the box ready to be a star.

She lists three possible Survival Messages.  The first one is about being prepared.  If there’s information you need, go get it.  If it’s practice you need, do it. If you’re afraid of messing up (and who isn’t?) Barbara’s got a few methods.  First of all, imagine the scenario where you do everything perfectly.  Then, imagine doing everything wrong.  From that you will see that neither extremes are likely.

The other remedy is to role play the other person’s part.  I recently heard a talk (through Libby Gill’s Accountability Club) where a negotiation expert told us to remember that everyone has an agenda.  Realizing that the other person has their own fears tends to lessen our own.  Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  This will also help you see what you need to do.

In the end, real life is unpredictable.  You can’t know everything, but the more you can prepare yourself to know, the less afraid you’ll be.

The second Survival Message is: “Lower your Standards, at First.” We are hard on ourselves and often expect ourselves to be perfect the first time out. Many teachers talk of the practice of making mistakes and letting that be okay.  I like the way Barbara phrases it, “Give yourself the liberating gift of joyously expecting yourself to be bad.”  One of my heros, Anne Lamott, speaks of “shitty first drafts.”  You have to get moving and not allow the fear of making mistakes to stop you.  You’re going to make mistakes no matter what, so it can’t be an excuse.  If you wait until you won’t, you’ll never do anything.

Barbara’s statement sums it up beautifully, “There’s only one way to get really burned: stop because you’re scared.  That’s what real failure is.  Cop outs cost more than your worst mistakes.  When you fail you learn something, if you quit, you learn nothing.”

Barbara also uses what she calls,  “The Graduated Risk Principle.”  It’s based on a theory that you can move out gradually.  Test the waters in a shallow pool, first.  Do a workshop for a few friends.  Try it out with some colleagues and then, when you feel less afraid, you can include the strangers. Allow yourself to make mistakes without criticism, in front of a friendly audience.

She also suggests liberal rewards.  I love this.  There are two kinds of rewards. One is the reward you earn.  Little rewards for little achievements and big rewards for big achievements.  The second kind is Just ‘Cause.  Just because you are you.  Not for doing anything in particular.  These are the rewards that often get forgotten and passed over.

Survival Message #3 tells us that it’s lonely out there, so get all the help you can along the way.  The next chapter is “Don’t Do It Yourself.”