As the morning wind blows the tall grass in the adjacent field to the riding arena, it stirs the wild mustang spirit within Billie. The slithering, hissing sound from the slender blades of grass and narrow shadows moving like a pit of snakes makes her freeze in her spot. As I try to control her nerves, and mine, I hear myself tell her, "We do not run away from fear. We approach it head on. We are a team. I would not put you in a harmful situation. I will protect you. You need to protect me. We are partners." I feel her relax as long as she hears my calm, reassuring voice. I continue to coax her to the fence line so she can investigate and know there is nothing harmful out there.
I often have to take a step back and think about Billie, and not just the ride. Horses are a prey animal. In Billie's case, she is a wild mustang from Nevada. She is very in tune with her instincts. Her flight response is very much in play, which some times makes riding her an adventure on windy days. She is always aware of her surroundings. She is aware if anything has been moved, been added or out of place. When Billie froze, she took a moment to figure out if she needed to follow her survival instincts and flee (forget ten years of domestication and the person on her back) OR, listen to the voice of reason that is encouraging her to move forward.
F-E-A-R - it's a four letter word. However, for some of us, it's a matter of survival. For others, it's a matter of motivation (fight) or resistance (flight). Fear can be a good thing like motivating one to run from poisonous snakes! Other times, it's a big negative like writer's block or procrastination. Either way, there is that moment in time to freeze and choose.
I often ask myself, why do I allow fear to govern my writing? To freeze me in my tracks? It's not like I have to fight off a mountain lion or a pit of snakes to survive, unless it's part of a manuscript. But it is there. Forget for a moment the external influences of agents, publishers and critics. The internal inhibitors are sometimes more overwhelming. The self-doubt of not being good enough, the struggle to revise over and over again, and the fear of not coming up with something new to write about in a clever way. It's enough to make me want to flee. A flight anywhere - California, Hawaii or the laundry room and household chores that will be there at the end of the day, every single day.
So why? Why? Why?! The answer? It's personal. Yes, it's personal. I am putting myself into the words I put to paper for the world to see. This is my work, from my heart and from my life experiences. My work is judged and critiqued, which in turn, my heart and life experiences are judged and critiqued. The fear is there. The fear is real. However, I also have a calm, internal voice coaxing me, encouraging me, to move forward to continue to investigate and overcome the obstacles on this amazing writing journey. I am learning to shed my thinner skin for thicker. In so doing, I am becoming more aware like Billie in those frozen, WHOA! moments. I am more conscientious of what I am choosing whether to flee or to fight against the fear factors. Fight against the procrastination, revising woes, as well as the writing and submitting blocks. Fight against the thought that I have nothing to contribute. A big part of what I have overcome is due to my writing partners, too. Like Billie and my partnership, I have an amazing group of writers, pre-published and published, whose external voices cheer me on. Their critiques encourage me to continue to tell my stories. I have a mentor who never falters in her guidance to make a better story as well as renewing my faith in my own storytelling instincts and truths. We are all a team. We protect each other and our stories so that we can share them to the world and overcome our fears.
After our ride, I allowed Billie to graze on the splendor of some lush, sweet grass. It's ironic that an hour prior, she was afraid of the one thing that she now devours eagerly, that nourishes her.
The snakes are out there. It's how we handle them that makes us a charmer or not.
Strength, Beauty and Grace~
Billie and Carolyn