A Songwriter's Tip for Moving Past Fear

He was one of America’s most influential and prolific songwriters.

You’ve probably heard some of his songs, including “Moon River,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and “I Remember You.”

Johnny Mercer wrote songs for 90 motion pictures, won four Academy Awards, and wrote six Broadway shows. And he played a role in developing other well-known artists, including Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.

The secret behind his success can help you overcome your fears and finally achieve those big and scary dreams you’ve had for years …

More on that in just a second.

First, let’s take a look at what stops us from accomplishing our goals.

It comes down to a fear of failure.

We want to achieve something, but we’re afraid to go after it because we might make mistakes … we might fail.

As a result, we become paralyzed. For some, it translates into “analysis paralysis.” For others, it’s chronic procrastination.

For instance, if you’re an aspiring copywriter who wants the money and freedom that freelancing brings, maybe you haven’t taken the action needed to land your first client. You’re afraid you’ll get rejected, so you never even try.

However it manifests for you, the result is the same – plenty of goals and dreams that go unfulfilled. We fantasize about “one day.” But as soon as we think about taking that first step, fear stops us dead in our tracks.

But when I heard Johnny Mercer’s secret, it completely changed my perspective on things … and is helping me make strides towards the life I want. Hopefully, it will do the same for you.

It’s one simple sentence: “Write for the wastebasket.”

It means you stop trying to write something that’s perfect from the beginning. By telling yourself that what you’re writing is going to go in the trash anyways, you release the fear and free up your creativity.

This also applies to the things you want in your life (but don’t have yet) …

No matter what you want to accomplish, realize that mistakes are okay. It’s unrealistic to be perfect – especially when you’re trying to achieve something new. By definition, it’s something that’s out of your realm of experience, so mistakes are bound to happen.

It’s ironic, but when you give yourself permission to “suck” at whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, you drastically increase your chances of success. You’re taking action instead of sitting on the sidelines, worrying about a bunch of “what-ifs” that may never happen.

You can apply this “write for the wastebasket” principle in your life right now. Make a list of those big, scary goals you still haven’t achieved. Pick one, and write the very first action you can take towards that goal, no matter how small.

Then tell yourself it’s okay to make mistakes … and go for it.

You’ll still feel some fear. That’s normal. But by taking all the pressure off, it’ll be a whole lot more manageable.

And if you ever find yourself worrying you’ll make a mistake or are waiting for the perfect time to get started on a goal, remind yourself:

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one.”

– Elbert Hubbard
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Published: October 17, 2012

1 Response to “A Songwriter's Tip for Moving Past Fear”

  1. Great article, Guillermo!

    There is no success without failure. Some call it "practice". Others call it a "learning curve" or "trial and error". But giving yourself permission to fail is the key to unleashing your potential. It always has been. And always will be.

    Thanks again, Guillermo!


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