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 Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.

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07: Tiny Doses of Courage: My Interview with Allison Fallon

Nov 12, 2015

What draws us to each other? Is it appearance, voice, personality, talent or attitude?

I think we connect most deeply through our humanity. I believe it’s our stories of pain, struggle, failure, brokenness and even loss that bring us together. Allison Fallon is a writer who is telling these kinds of stories well.

Meet Allison Fallon

Allison Vesterfelt

Allison Fallon is the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. She blogs, coaches writers and speaks across the country.

I first encountered Allison through a video she did with Donald Miller promoting her course, Author Launch. Allison was honest, transparent and engaging, so I subscribed to her blog and have been enjoying her incredible posts ever since. When I decided to begin this interview series, Overcoming Fear, Allison was in the first group of people I emailed a request to interview and she graciously accepted.

I’m so excited to share her insights with you and I think you’ll find them encouraging and hopeful, as you nod and mutter to yourself, “me too.”

Allison Fallon on the Battle with Fear

SS: Allison, thanks so much for sharing with us today. I want to start by talking about fear. What does fear most often look or sound like in your life?
 
AV: Thanks Scott for including me in this series.
Honestly, fear either looks like me procrastinating, or sounds like me complaining, being self-depricating or feeling sorry for myself. So usually when I know I am supposed to do something (like work on the new book I’m writing) but I’m scared the new book won’t be as good as the last book, or that the last book wasn’t good either and maybe I’ve been a crummy writer all along, I will do things like: the dishes. Or the laundry. Because these tasks are so passive and mindless—and “responsible”—that they can act as worthy distractions and then I have a good excuse later for why I didn’t do my creative work. “Well, somebody has to do that laundry… it’s not going to do itself.” And again, the minute I find myself complaining about my circumstances (wishing I had an office space, or more money to go on vacations, or that I could go buy an expensive cup of coffee…) I know this is just me putting off what I know I need to do today. They’re all distractions.
The minute I find myself complaining about my circumstances, I know this is just me putting off what I know I need to do today.

Allison on The Voice of Fear

SS: Thanks for being honest with us. I can totally relate! What has fear kept you from doing in the past? Is there a particularly vivid example?
 
AV: The better question is what is fear keeping me from doing in the present. 🙂 This is a daily struggle for me, and for all of us who are fighting to put our voices into the world—with music, with books, with humanitarian work, etc. I am working on my next book project but fear keeps me from blocking out specific time on my calendar to get the work done. I tell myself, “I’m too busy… I have too many other things to do… I have clients who are waiting on me for these projects… I have to make money… I have things on my mind… I have to support my family.” These are all excuses. Then, when I do sit down to write, fear whispers things to me like: “you’re no good at this… no one is going to read this thing anyway… you don’t know what you’re doing… your story is so boring… or your story is too salacious… or there are already hundreds of thousands of authors out there and they’re all better at this than you… there’s no room in the market…” etc, etc. And many days I let that voice win. But I also try to celebrate small victories. Just 500 or 1000 words on the page, even if they’re crap, is a huge step in the right direction. You have to celebrate those moments.

Allison on Courage

SS: I think it was Anne Lamott who wrote, “bird by bird”, right?
It seems you’ve discovered courage, at least enough to publish a book, launch a course for writers and faced some crises in your personal life. What has helped you become courageous in the face of fear? Was there an inflection point when you became a LOT more courageous?
 
AV: First off, I think it’s a bit of a myth that we’ll reach a point where we suddenly feel courageous. Courage comes in tiny doses, and usually comes right along with shaking hands, a squeaky voice and a pounding heart. And what I’ve found is that when we put off our creative work, the anxiety we feel (which is different than fear—it’s constant and pressing) grows. So you can choose to be scared now, and do that thing you’re putting off, and experience the growth and peace that comes afterward. Or, you can choose to avoid the thing that scares you now, never have to feel that stomach-turning feeling of fear, but choose to be underwhelmed and unsatisfied with your life and feel that low, dull ache of anxiety all the time. That anxiety comes from living incongruent with yourself.
BUT, all that said, there are moments in your life that inspire you to FACE fear with a renewed courage. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel scared. It just means that you set your sights on the reward that comes after you’ve faced the fear and you do it despite how you feel. I’ve had a few moments like this in my life. My dad suffered a massive heart attack and almost died. My little sister had a baby. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. In these moments I’m always reminded life is a gift and there isn’t one second of it I’m willing to waste.

Allison on Hope

SS: Wow! That was incredible! Allison, amidst all the difficulty and the struggle, how do you stay hopeful?
 
AV: My faith keeps me hopeful. I know everything I suffer is for a purpose and I’ve been able to see, over the course of my life, how many of the worst things I’ve experienced have become the greatest blessings in my life. I don’t think this makes those things I experienced GOOD, it just makes them bearable and purposeful and makes me want to hang onto the people I love and make the most out of every minute of my life. I think we begin to find hope the minute we admit the pain we’ve endured, we feel heard and understood in connected relationship, and we begin to see the beauty we have to contribute to the world.

A Word from Allison to You

SS: I think fear is a universal human experience. So regardless of whether we’re writers or not, we all battle fear. I know there are folks reading this interview who are in a fierce fight with fear. Allison, what would you say to readers who are battling fear? 
 
AV: Face it now. There is no good time. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. If the fear feels unbearable (and for me many times it has), find someone safe who you can confide in. Sometimes just talking about how afraid you are helps the fear to melt away. You begin to hear yourself say things like, “I’m terrified I don’t have what it takes….” and you disbelieve the words even as they are coming out of your mouth. It takes the power away. Also, read a book by Brené Brown called Daring Greatly, and another one by Julia Cameron called The Artists WayNever give up. It’s worth the fight. There is no better time than now. 

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Allison. You can check out Allison’s site at AllisonFallon.com or connect with her on Twitter (@missallyfallon).

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