”I’ve learned to welcome that fear — paddle into it — whenever I recognize it. Why? Because that territory is where adventure and discovery live.’’ Ron MacLean, GrubStreet


Here in Australia it’s NAIDOC week. It just happens to coincide with Nunavut Day on Wednesday 9 July in Canada. I’m about half way through my project on belonging and I feel like I’m stalling. So why is the quote about fear? Read on.NAIDOC, which originally stood for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, is a week-long celebration of the achievements, history and culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

At least that’s what it says on the official website. To me it’s something more. It’s not just for the indigenous — it’s for everyone to learn and to connect with them, to participate and to share. It’s about bridging gaps and creating understanding. For me, NAIDOC week looks like an exercise in expansion and acceptance. It looks like possibility.

Nunavut Day marks the day 21 years ago that the Canadian government and the Inuit people of Nunavut signed the Nunavut Lands Claim Agreement which created a new territory in Canada and gave management of the territory of Nunavut mainly back to the Inuit people. Nunavut means ”our land” and this aboriginal lands claim settlement was the largest one in Canadian history. Nunavut is almost one-fifth the size of Canada. Nunavut Day celebrates the possible.

Recently I shared an article by US writer Ron McLean about how fear can make us better writers and Juliana commented that she could apply this to her life. She wondered whether she was holding herself back out of fear. This got me thinking more about my own situation in a broader sense.Following our fear — and here I’m talking about things that aren’t life threatening, but that are linked to our vulnerability and the picture we have of our strong independent selves — means we take risks we wouldn’t normally take for fear of embarrassment or exposure. Wading into our fear — of failure? of success? of being exposed as a fraud? — makes our lives fuller. Hopefully we become better people too.

Why all this talk about fear? Because I feel a deep need to understand the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their heritage and history. I sense it is somehow linked to my ability to connect with this country. Yet I am afraid.

Afraid I will be found wanting. Afraid I will be found ignorant and oh so inadequate. Not up to the task. I can’t just walk into an ancient community and say, ”Hey – how’s it going? I want to understand. I want to connect.”

Or can I?

And yet, if I don’t explore this, what great things am I missing?


There is another pathway too that I want to take with my writing and the more I think about it the more fear blocks me. This pathway looks huge and overwhelming. It shouts at me: who do I think I am to take this on?This pathway also looks unchartered. Exciting.

US writing coach Cynthia Morris would call these negative voices gremlins. They try to keep us wallowing in mediocrity and want to stop us from pushing through to the new.

Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, would say, I need to push past my fear. I pull out her book, underlined with green pen and yellowed with age. It was the book the helped me to leave an unhappy marriage and it’s travelled with me from Canada to the UK to Australia.

I leaf through it. I find this quote:

”The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.’’

How do you push through your fear?