Janet ErikssonCongratulations to Janet Eriksson for Winning the October 2016 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The Challenge was to write an essay that answered this question:

With Halloween being a time to enjoy all things spooky and scary, what fear(s) have you overcome on your journey to the writer’s life?

In this month’s essay, Janet finds out that butterflies are a normal part of the writer’s life, and ultimately, nothing to fear. Enjoy her story…

The Fears Get Smaller

When I was 15, I played flute in the band. Two friends and I prepared a flute trio for a competition. Playing in front of a judge was intimidating enough, but then we were invited to play in church. In front of people we knew. That was enough to cause my legs to shake the entire time, although the music came out beautifully.

That’s also when I heard a word of wisdom that has stayed with me  and, to this day, impacts me as a writer when fears surface.

As I awaited our flute trio performance, my whole body trembling, my mom tried to encourage me. She turned to our elderly organist, who had been a long-time music performer prior to taking this retirement gig at the church.

My mom asked him, “Do the butterflies in the stomach eventually go away?”

He smiled. “The butterflies never go away. They just get smaller.”

As someone who has written professionally for 30 years, I can tell you he was right. The butterflies have never gone away. They still flutter every time I think about contacting a prospect or taking on a new writing project. How will the client react to me? Will my writing be good enough? Can I really do this? The butterflies’ wings move faster when my funds are low, and I wonder if I will ever have money again, despite years of successful gigs and bills paid. (I have yet to miss a meal or sleep without a roof over my head.)

The butterflies are still there. Are they smaller?

Yes, they are. Because I have learned to look at them for what they are. Real fears. With a decreasing amount of evidence to support them.

Here’s how it works.

I need to contact a prospective client to let her know I am a copywriter.


All the “what ifs” come at me, and those butterflies flap their wings.

Then I stop and remember — one by one — the amazing clients I have worked with. I remember the conversations. The laughs. The times they said, “Thank you. That’s just what I needed.” Or, “Thank you. That postcard mailing brought me lots of new inquiries.” I remember the client who told the agency I worked for, “Janet was so fun to work with. I feel better about my project now.” Then there was the bonus check that arrived in the mail, right when I was desperate to pay a bill. A note was attached: “You’ve done great work for me this year. I wanted to say thanks.”

When I remember those moments, those interactions with clients — real people, just like me — my fears get quieter. They don’t go away, just as the organist said. But I can look at those fears and say, “Why should I be afraid to contact a prospective client? I have loved the people I’ve worked with, and they have loved me.”

The fears still come. But I can look at them and say, “You’re wrong. I can do this.”