My earliest memory is a dream I had when I was four. I was sitting on the black and white diamond shaped kitchen floor tiles in my childhood home, staring at my feet when I heard a growling sound. I looked up to see a massive lion on the other side of the room. The thick yellow and dark brown mane that encircled his powerful neck was wet with drool that was spilling down across his huge fangs. His eyes were inky and a tuft of thick black hair stood upright at the end of his long bushy tail.

I turned around, rushed to the kitchen door and grabbed upwards for the doorknob. It was just beyond my reach. I teetered on my short wobbly legs, starting to panic, when I suddenly realized that I was
dreaming and I needed to wake up. I rolled my body into a tight little ball on the floor, covered my head with my hands and waited for the beast to attack. I heard the raspy inhale, I felt a blast of hot wind and I smelled the musky scent as he flew into the air. A moment later, I woke up in the kitchen, standing at the Formica table, fingering a pink plastic placemat. I had no idea how I had gotten there but I had faced my fear, I had awakened and I had survived.

Some day in some way, every human being has to face off with the beast. It shows up in a lot of different forms but each form causes terror. It might be a person, an experience or a change you have to
make. And you might have more than one. No “one to a customer” warning. By the way, I’m not suggesting putting yourself in danger to see if you can get out of it. I’m not encouraging you to see how long you can stand on the rails until the train comes. Or balancing at the edge of a precipice and trying not to fall over. Our brains are biologically programmed to register those kinds of danger and
to help us do what we can to keep our bodies safe. We have to recognize and pay attention to that. But we can train ourselves not to buckle from free floating fear that’s coming from our psychologically programmed thoughts. These are the lions in the kitchen, the kind of fear that stops us from fully living our lives. The kind of fear that can be recognized, endured and overcome.

Whatever your beast looks like, wherever your fear comes from, you’re going to have to come to terms with it sooner or later. When you do, the reward on the other side is The Zone, a place of peace and satisfaction and the sense that now, you can survive anything. As a writer, my beast is the blank page and when I face it, my reward is the Writing Zone, an airy magical place where time stops and I am the ruler of my own private world. I make up the rules, define the boundaries, and determine how long to stay and when to leave. I am judge and jury of my internal reality that I create according to my imagination. I decide who is welcome and who is not, who is guilty and who is innocent. I don’t feel lonely there. I feel full and expectant, marveling at what I might find and content that no one gets to add or subtract anything in my world without first getting
permission from me. How often does that occur in life, where you are the sole creator of a reality that is yours and yours alone?

The only way to tame the beast is to face it and make friends with it. When you stop second guessing yourself and your abilities and look the beast directly in the eye, your creative world can be a safe haven, a place to drop into and feel welcome, an outlet to express
your emotions and an escape hatch when the world around you gets too overwhelming.