Much that is immediately visible to you will conspire against you. For many of us, a voice arises when we go to write or think about writing that says, “What if it’s terrible?” The only answer a writer can give to that question is to shrug. What it it’s terrible? It’s a silly question that misunderstands the layered process of creation, but it’s one that dogs me nonetheless. The only cure for that fear and the others that arise is to write anyway. Do it daily, habitually, with tenacity. Show up and write. Get used to the taste of fear, metallic against your tongue. The doubt that assails every word.

When I was preparing to give birth, I was told something important: in our bodies, pain is most often a signal that something is going wrong. In childbirth, there is a different kind of pain, a radical opening, that is not something going wrong. It was suggested that I approach this pain differently, that I not attach the word “pain” to it, that I not frame it in fear. I practiced this in the months leading up to the birth. When the time came and the contractions grew intense, there were instances I was afraid–and the experience was harder, more powerful, scary–and then that contraction would end. Perhaps during the next one I would remember, this is the process of opening. I would not feel afraid, though I still felt the grip on my body that was like nothing I’d felt before. But without fear, the intense sensation wasn’t quite pain. It was opening, a tremendous superpower, a deep sightline into the workings of life.

So it went–sometimes fear arose and sometimes it did not. So it will go with your writing. If you keep going and do not give into panic, even when it comes up and you cannot stop it, you will open up and produce miracles. Most importantly, you will produce.

A Practical Alphabet for Writers: Find all the letters so far at


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