Fear of Missing Out - by Liz Carter

Over the last week or two we've had some lovely posts about the ACW Jubilee weekend. These posts transported us there, right into the action, and gave us as readers a sense of encouragement and joy.

But I'm going to admit to something else, too. That FOMO monster crept up, nudged me, then kicked me in the shins. Yep, I had full on fear-of-missing-out, even after the event (maybe that should be sad-at-missing-out by then?) I wished I could have gone. I wondered what all the talks were like I'd missed. I wondered if it might have motivated me with my writing, and if missing out meant that lots of my lovely ACW friends would form groups without space for me. Yes, really - I'm going for some brutal honesty here, chaps, because I believe in that stuff. I soon kicked that FOMO monster out, of course, with its insidious whispers and all, and told it where to go. I read the posts and smiled with genuine joy for all those who'd attended, and decided I'd received from it vicariously through all the generosity of sharing. And it's true - I did.

But it led me to thinking a bit more about FOMO. I think as writers we're particularly prone to it, because such a lot of our time is taken trying to get our stuff out there in a world where there is a whole lot of other stuff out there. We spend time in the pit of submissions, and see other authors get agents and publishers, and the FOMO looms large. We enter competitions, and don't win, and oh - there it is again. The FOMO monster is close buddies with the disease of comparisonitis, of course - one follows on from the other, and forms a vicious circle whereby the more we compare, the more we get the fear of missing out, so then we start comparing again, and then...well, you get it.

I've struggled with FOMO a lot in my life, due to a health condition that's kept me missing out on a whole load of stuff (including my own book launch, memorably - yep, I even had the FOMO for that...) I've had to battle with it and make decisions to combat it, to not succumb to its clutches, because it's unhealthy. For us as writers, we need more positivity in our lives, right? So we need to learn to tell that old monster where to go. So how do we do that?

I guess it's the same as with comparison, envy and all of that, the stuff with the same root. Paul had some pretty good advice about where to concentrate our thoughts when things got tough:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

I go back to these words time and again when I'm struggling with anything to do with my writing, or, well, anything else in my life, really. This is basically spiritual CBT, where we train our minds to concentrate on the good stuff instead of that which seeks to rob us of our joy. So when we see our friends having an amazing time somewhere and we're not there, instead of wallowing in the envy/fear of missing out, we practice thankfulness - thankfulness that our friends are experiencing joy, that we can share in it, that God is doing some good things. It's not always easy, though - sometimes we say these things through gritted teeth! But it gives us a much better grounding for our own joy and motivation than listening to the whispers that wound.

What about in our writing, then? How can these words help there? I believe it's about an attitude for life, a mindset we take with us into all our days, into good times and bad. So if we take it into our writing, and especially into those times we have to compete, or wait for the attention of others, or ask for reviews, then we might find things a little easier when the reviews don't come (or are not great), when the agents say no again, when we don't hear back from that competition.

Perhaps the places where we can exercise this mindset most of all is in the support for others. ACW is so good at fostering a supportive ethos, and I know the WOWIG weekend was a great example of this. So instead of feeling that we're missing out, let's jump right in to helping and supporting one another in any way we can, celebrating one another's successes, commiserating with one another's struggles, and sharing in one another's lives.

To end, then, I'm going to remind myself - and you - of more of Paul's words. These are words about love, about how it doesn't envy, doesn't boast, is not self-seeking, it is not proud. It is patient and kind, it does not dishonour, it's not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

And never fails.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Liz Carter is an author, poet and editor from Shropshire. She loves to write about the difficult and painful times in life, and how we can find gold in the mess. Her books Catching Contentment and Treasure in Dark Places are available in online bookstores. You can find her at www.greatadventure.carterclan.me.uk and she’s signed a contract for her next book with The Good Book Company, coming 2023. She's just brought out a new prayer journal which is filled with verses and poetry about creation, and now works freelance to proofread, format and design books.  

 



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