Making Out with Fear by Jenny O'Brien

Today I'm please to share a guest blog post from fellow author Jenny O'Brien. Check out her take on how to overcome fear:

My friend told me to French kiss fear.

Since she's survived some trauma and manages to be kind to strangers and herself, I'm taking the advice seriously, but it's still early in our relationship. I'm just not sure how fear is reacting to this new paradigm.

Overcoming fear.

Working through fear.

Ignoring fear.

Shifting fear to angry to GET THINGS DONE.

These modes I know well, but to get as intimate with fear as fear has gotten with me is something else altogether. And if I'm the aggressor, well, that shifts fear's position from the back of my brain (or some days, all of my brain), to the end of my tongue with all the connotations and denotations I can conjure. Because, let's face it, if fear doesn't get out of control, it can be a nifty motivator. It's why you cut back on whiskey or trans fats. It's why you teach your child to handle himself. And some days, it's why you show up at the keyboard because it's easier to face that fear rather than the fear of what happens on the days you don't write at all.

This blog post was intended to be the story of overcoming fear. I've been a dancer for eighteen years. For seventeen of them, I had severe performance anxiety. Last year, for a bunch of reasons that included shrugging off the constraints of an extremely conservative day gig, I started dancing again after a very long break. I wanted to be visible in a way that hadn't been possible while working at the day gig (I re-entered the dance world at dancing at a benefit for homeless snakes as well as other furry creatures and reptiles). Teamwork is great and whatnot, but so is getting full credit for your efforts. I figured if I was going to ask for credit, I'd better get used to being out front, in that spotlight alone.

Jennifer (J.C.) O'Brien performs a Turkish belly dance to Mustafa Kandirali at B Sharp Coffee House for Kat Ross's Tacoma Revue in Tacoma, Wash.

I had two drinks before that first show and I was as terrified at the end as I was at the beginning.

The thing is that you're never alone onstage. Not really. You've got all the people who put on the event, and musicians if you're lucky enough to be dancing to live music and the audience. They're the scary part for me.

When I'm dancing, I worry that they're bored or critical or would rather be dancing themselves than watching me.

That changed for me last January — the second gig after my long hiatus. A dear friend spent the day telling me how beautiful I was (I know, looks shouldn't matter, but there are still some men in this world that really like women and when they give you a compliment, it sticks. He's that kind of guy.)

I was terrified when I drove to the gig in another town. There were a lot of other dancers performing and people I didn't know helped pin me into my costume (old school belly dancers pin to avoid pulling a Janet Jackson) and there are some dancers in this world who are like my complimenting friend—when they tell you everything will be fine on stage, you believe them, because they've been there, right the way you are now: terrified, uncomfortable, trying to see through false eyelashes.

Usually, a room full of other dancers, who can see each and every one of my mistakes, gives me great pause and there were some terrific dancers in the room that night. But when I got on stage and started to dance, I had all of my friend's love right there. He's a saxophonist. He's used to giving to people when he performs, so I took his compliments and wound them into my dance and a minute or so in, the audience started to respond. This wave of warmth rolled over me. I knew that they understood how hard it was to layer movements over a steady shimmy and this bit of technique and that, but what happened wasn't about technique. I felt something and I sent it out into the audience and they sent it back. (Yeah, Angie, like a kiss. A really good one.)

While I no longer feel like I'm going to vomit before I dance, I can't say that I love performing or that I'm living for the next gig, but I am getting comfortable getting out there, letting people see as much of me as they see on the page.

I don't have the same performance anxiety when it comes to writing. Nineteen years in journalism took care of that. What I do have is the fear that no one will read what I've written—that the warm audience I found at the B Sharp Coffee House in Tacoma won't be there on the other side of the page. So I'm taking steps like this blog to get used to being visible. And, yeah, Angie, when I'm alone and worried that no one is going to read my stuff, I'm going to practice making out with my fear.

J.C. O’Brien delivers supernatural noir and horror with a large dose of blood, muscle and action—and a firm respect for the mystical arts. When not at the keyboard or reading, she belly dances. She lives in Seattle with a jazz-musician husband, their son and a black dog with a strong sense of deadline. Her books can be found on Amazon and Smashwords. She also blogs at, tweets occasionally @jcobrienbooks and can be found on Facebook J.C. O’Brien Author.

Welcoming Stages in Seattle

If you'd like to see a wide range of dancers for yourself or check in with the promoters for a chance to get out on stage, here are some resources in the Seattle area:

  • Kat Welsh runs a monthly belly dance show at the B Sharp Coffee House in Tacoma (that's near Seattle) that features a wide range of local dancers, a warm environment and amazing coffee and tea.
  • Skinny Dip does a monthly belly dance and burlesque show at the High-Dive in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.
  • Alauda runs a family-friendly show at the Skylark in West Seattle. (Angie, the kiss adviser, is one of the producers).

Please get in touch with Jenny if you're going to be in town—she might join you for the show.