How Writers Can Beat Fear the “Dune” Way

Carol Tice

If you don’t know Liz Strauss yet, let me introduce you. Freelance writers should read her, because she has a lot of great advice for you about conquering fear.

And we all know fear is a big problem for many freelance writers.

At SOBCon in Portland last fall, nearly all of Liz’s talks were about fear.

She noted that the words suicide, homicide and decide all share a root meaning: Death. The foreclosing of options.

One common problem for freelancers is that they are boggled by all the options. Then, they don’t choose one and move forward.

“Kill off all other options,” Liz says. “Find the vision and have a real mission that attracts other people to go there with you.”

For writers who’re trying to be generalists, I think this is particularly useful advice about the importance of specializing.

What’s your mission as a freelance writer? What is your passion? What do you know a lot about? Find a concise way to describe that to people, and you’ll connect more easily with the people who need that.

You’re not just any old writer. Define who you are, what you do — and most importantly, where you’re going.

Beat fear by reconnecting, Liz says. Your head to your heart, to your values. That will point the way to the right path.

Think big, Liz says. “Don’t ever say you have a little business again. It adds nothing to the conversation, and it’s not true.”

“If our values are aligned, decisions happen faster,” Liz noted. “And that’s profitable.”

Liz reminded me of a powerful fear-beating tool I had forgotten. It’s in Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel Dune.

The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear:

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.


I first read this so long ago. Hearing it again in a business context was like rediscovering a treasure you tucked in a drawer as a kid and forgot — a reminder of how fearless we all need to be to pursue our goals, and a road map for how to do it.

And an acknowledgement that our fears don’t exist out in the world. They’re in our heads. We created them with our minds, and that means we can use our minds to defeat them.

You don’t have to face that fear alone either. Liz pointed out that so many of us in business think “help” is a four-letter word.

It isn’t. Reach out and move forward.

Why do we need to beat fear? Because fear and trust can’t exist in the same environment, Liz notes.

You need to trust yourself to unleash your potential and become the writer you were meant to be.

How do you overcome your freelance-writing fears? Leave a comment and let us know.


  1. Diane Mc

    You’re right, the fear is in my head and is all an illusion. That’s how I face my fears and deal with them. I have to remind myself they aren’t real. Most of the time that’s all I need to do. Awareness is a useful tool. And coming here and reading this blog helps with that.

  2. Steve

    Hi Carol:

    From this and prior posts, it appears the SOBCon meant the world to you.

    Liz’s words have great meaning for me, especially now as I’m re-evaluating my independent writing career. I’ve always been a generalist, and now I’m looking at specializing.

    Thank you,


    • Carol Tice

      Specializing is really important these days for earning better. I say be a dork — if you learn about insurance, or metalsmithing, or something most writers can’t write on, you usually find some great markets.

  3. Emily Anderson

    I love the Dune reference–one of my favorite books. Fear is definitely a double-edged sword–it can motivate, and it can paralyze. I am having a really hard time killing off the options so I can focus. I think I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what I should be doing instead of figuring it out for myself. Hopefully the New Year will help me get more clarity. Thanks for he good info.

  4. Liz Strauss

    As my husband will tell you the first thing he noticed about me was that I was a writer — before I made money doing that. Now after decades of earning my way on my words, I read your words and I bow to you.

    I know my thoughts. I’ve had many people quote me and share their experience of what I’ve said. Never has anyone done it so well, so accurately, and in such a way that resonated all through me.

    You are a writer.
    You already knew that.
    I did too.

    This gift of truth is such shining proof.
    Thank you.


    • Carol Tice

      Hi Liz –

      Great to see you here.
      Thanks for all the inspiration you offer to everyone in your life.
      Still trying to learn to write as short as you do! Admire the brevity.

  5. Josh Sarz

    Hi, Carol. I really like this post. Fear is something that we face everyday, and it’s also one of the main reasons why a lot of people don’t get the success they deserve. They’re hindered by fear, or sometimes laziness.

    Have a great Holiday season!

  6. Linda H

    In the past two weeks I’ve realized how fear has impacted my confidence levels and this article is helpful in knowing that I make the changes. While I’ve never seen Dune, I have a quote posted on my wall that I heard in a movie about Edgar Degas, the French painter who created “The Dancing Class,” one of my favorites, that holds similar meaning for me: “Self-Doubt is an insidious insect that can suck the life out of even your smallest dreams. Never give into it.” Moving forward one step at a time makes great strides; with each stride things get done and goals are accomplished.

    What’s encouraging is knowing that even the pros face fear and overcome it.

  7. Michelle McNeill

    I’ve been following Liz’s blog for quite some time and she surely knows what she talks about ! It’s not that easy as a fresh freelance writer, but her tips always helped me a lot !

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