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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.