[MAKING THE LEAP] Name That Fear!
Written by
Julie Luek
December 2012
Written by
Julie Luek
December 2012

Back in the 70s, when I was very young (of course), I used watch a game show called, Name That Tune. The theme of the show involved contestants bidding against each other to name a title of a song in as few notes as possible.

"I can name that tune in eight notes,Tom," one contestant would challenge.

The other contestant would up the ante, "I can name that tune in five notes."

The bidding would continue until finally one of the contestants would challenge their opponent to, "Name that tune!"

In our last conversation, we talked about staring down the writing precipice and taking the leap. We had a great discussion about making the fateful decision, whether we walked away from a career or not, to commit ourselves to writing. But implied in the whole concept of "leaping" is that there is something to fear if we do.


But what exactly are those fears?

Fears are an awful lot like the game show Name That Tune. With only a few hints or suppositions about what that fear may be or if it even exists, we give the fear a name, and with that name a reality, and before we know it the fear is a brain itch we can't quit humming.

It's time to confront these fears. Come with me on stage, face the audience, the smiling host and the cameras, and let's play a round of Name That Fear!

"Tom, I can name that fear in two physical symptoms-- a sick stomach and spinning head--and a handful of petty insecurities!"

Julie... Name! That! Fear!


1. What if I really can't write? What if I devote my life, invest my identity into the pursuit of writing, and it turns out I really am not that talented?

Oh, I'm sorry, that's incorrect. The song really is "Perseverance": There is a lot less talent to the craft of writing and a lot more to practice, learning, timing and persistence. Are there naturally great writers? Sure. Are there a lot more people who have buckled down and learned how to compose a good story, an article, or learned the techniques of constructing an effective query? Absolutely.  

2. What if I fail? What if I get rejections on my great opus? What if I self-publish and the only sales are to my best friend and Great Aunt Merna?

Oh,wrong again. This snappy, little ditty is called, "Suck It Up, Buttercup": Failing is probably a given. It will happen. We might as well face that reality. But it's only a few notes of the tune. Success is a given too. It will happen on some level if we keep trying, learning and growing. After all, sometimes the best teacher is failure. As Thomas Edison said, "I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."

3. What if my muse hates me? What if all the ideas I come up with have already been done or fall apart halfway through my project? Or worse, what if I just stare at the blank screen and panic?

Oooo, sorry, that's not the song. The real title of this gentle melody is,"Relax And Write":There are so many great ways to generate ideas-- writing prompts, journaling, sitting in a coffee shop and observing people, reading newspaper articles, taking a walk, but for heaven's sake, write something! The only way to guarantee an absent muse, is to never write. Take Anne Lamott's advice in Bird by Bird, "So I sit for a moment and then say a small prayer--please help me get out of the way so I can write what wants to be written."

What is your fear? Most of the time, fear really is just a few simple notes without meaning we let play in our heads. Be careful not to name a fear too quickly and let it become an entire movement in your symphony of "why writing success is only for other people."

Name That Fear!

Then stick your tongue out at it and call it what it is: a couple false notes without a song. And above all...   

Keep Writing,


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  • Julie Luek

    Thanks Cathy. Getting to the heart of fears is easy if you (gulp) feel them too! ;)  But you know, I try never to let "fear" be the reason I don't do or try something!

  • Cathy Cimato

    Julie, great post!  You  got to the heart of our fears. It helps to hear that others have the same fears as you do. Fear of writing is like that monster in the closet or under the bed. It's all in your imagination.

  • Julie Luek

    Oh Jane-- I can relate to that so much! The new blog I started-- just to hone my writing-- is memoir and essay type posts and every time I publish it I have that very same insecurity. I always think about a lot of creative non-fiction books I've read. For many, it's not that the topic is so fascinating to me, but that the writer engages me in their story. That's an art.

  • Jane Baker

    I think above all that the biggest fear is that the stories and memories I feel so close to are just not interesting or worthy of reading. That's the biggest fear, and the most common one for me.

  • Julie Luek

    Cheryl-- you and I sound a lot alike with those nagging little insecurities. Although, I actually can trace the roots of mine. It's an old tune that has played in my head almost a whole lifetime. But I'm more stubborn than they are. Talking back is a great way to take control too! Thanks for your very thoughtful and insightful comment.

  • Cheryl Roshak Writing

    My grandmother and I used to watch and play Name that Tune on TV and I won't mention what decade that was, but the show was around for a very long time. What I remember feeling back then was that I could do it! I would know that tune. I would beat the contestants. Mostly I did, as I loved to listen to popular music a great deal as that time. I had no fears, I recall, about doing anything well. School excited me, Name that Tune excited me, and I felt more than competent in every way. I could hardly wait for that first note to be played.

    But now, I'm forever second-guessing myself. Is that the right word? Should that comma be there or not? Who's saying this? Too much exposition, not enough dialogue. Whatever. You can make yourself crazy, I've found out, and just shut down. Been there, done that.

    The question for me is, where does this need for perfection come from? I read a lot of published stuff and often cringe. Seriously. Those writers believed in themselves, took themselves seriously and felt they had something worthwhile to say. Where do my doubts come from? I would love to squelch those doubts and insecurities, shut them up actually. Not an easy task. They are very noisy brats that demand to be heard.

    Sometimes I try to name them, or just talk back to them when I'm strong. "You again? Get out of my face. I know your tricks." Or something to that effect. At other times they win the day. Is it a vicious circle, this writing thing. I think it takes a great deal of courage to be a writer and much trust in one's self.

  • Julie Luek

    Donna-- And thank you for reassuring me I'm not alone in these fears!

  • Donna Ashby Moore

    You must be a mind reader.  Thanks for encouraging me and calming my fears.


  • Julie Luek

    Valerie-- Thanks. Hope it helps you sing a new song!

  • Valerie Deering

    I love it!  Thank you.

  • Julie Luek

    Julie-- I'm a glutton for indulging fears. Sometimes they are good catalysts for change, other times they absolutely freeze me in my tracks. Thanks, as always, for your support and encouragement.

    Lizzie- I'm with you on the daily fears. I think true courage is working through the fears and not letting them win. 

  • Lizzie Eldridge

    Thanks for your down-to-earth and inspirational post! I'll keep re-reading it whenever negativity and self-doubt keep intruding - pretty much every day then lol :)

  • Julie Flanders

    I absolutely LOVED Name That Tune when I was a kid, so the start of this post really made me smile. And it's such a wonderful analogy! I have to say my biggest fear is #1, so I'm going to try and remember this perseverance song the next time that fear comes calling.

    Wonderful post as always, Julie! :)

  • Julie Luek

    Shannon--Ugh-- I may have to make that an entire post. I am queen of procrastination, although I think for me it goes back to  insecurities. I end up relying on the Nike slogan,"Just do it" to get my back end in gear. Thanks for the thought. I'm going to make that a post. I'm right there with you.

  • Shannon Hutcheson

    Great post Julie! What about us procrastinators then? I've got tons of ideas. I have just yet to get around to actually start writing them. Maybe because I just don't know where to start or HOW to start. Any tips?

  • Julie Luek

    Amy-- spot on about getting inside our heads too much.  Anne Lamott, in the first half of that quote in the article (which I didn't use) calls it listening to KFKD-- all that negative talk. So true. I like "cowboy up". Put on the chaps and keep writing into the sunset. 

  • Amy Miller

    Thanks for this post, Julie.  I think you're absolutely right (and I do remember Name That Tune AND Password AND Hollywood Squares, too).  Writing is such a solitary endeavor that it's very easy to stay inside your head and listen to your own bad press.  Writers also have to cowboy up and endure a lot of rejection, which doesn't help the insecurities and fears.  The few rewards most writers receive are rarely monetary, making the time/effort vs. payoff (in strictly speaking financial, not emotional, terms) a hard one to justify to our wage-earning friends and families, and at times ourselves.  Perseverance seems to be the name of the game (or tune, in this case).

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Clene--If there is a window it is because I live and breath this writing journey. I have decided I want to pursue this life, but boy does it come with a wide array of doubts and questioning and very little external validation. But when it does come; when I write something that's accepted for publication or that I just know is good, I feel like I'm pursuing what I was called to do. I'm just so glad I'm not alone.

  • Julie Luek

    Daphne-- I was--cough cough-- very young of course ;)

  • Daphne Q

    I'm too young to remember that show... but I get the concept. Thanks for the post here.

  • Julie Luek

    ML--I love this quote from you: But courage isn't the mastery of fear, it's feeling the fear and finding the strength to walk through it anyway. So, I pray...for courage and strength. Thanks for that reminder. 

  • mlswift

    Very nice article, Julie. Fears creep out of nowhere...perpetual composers...pounding out flat, monotonous ditties with the rhythm of broken windshield wipers.

    There can almost be a self-sabotage syndrome going on inside my brain sometimes. Things can be floating along swimmingly - all eggs in coffee - and fear appears out of nowhere, on the radio of my mind playing, "Bad."

    Because I'm BAD, I'm BAD...come on, shu-knowit, chum on, jah-know, Ooo-hoo! 

    It helps if you picture Fear with an open button-down shirt, athletic tee, and facing toward a gusting wind. Anyway, that fear can be crippling...so much so that I'm petrified to take the next step. Fear of failure. Fear of time-wasted. Fear of being told that I don't have anything substantial to say. Acknowledgement that I suck.

    But courage isn't the mastery of fear, it's feeling the fear and finding the strength to walk through it anyway. So, I pray...for courage and strength.

    Thanks for a wonderful article that I believe applies to all of us throughout the lifetime we write. :o)