“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.”
—Phyllis A. Whitney

5 Facts about Fear for Writers

There I was, in the middle of my first novel. I’d found my rhythm and was bringing chapters to read aloud to my weekly critique group. They were loving it. I was thrilled that I was finally making my dream come true.

Then, WHAMMO!

Out of nowhere, I lost my story. Nothing I wrote flowed anymore.

Fear Facts for Writers

Photo by Leo Hidalgo (creative commons)

I didn’t take chapters that week.

Or, the next.

By the third week, I was in tears. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong.

Fear.

A wiser writer friend made me promise to bring just one, small scene next time. It should be the shortest, dumbest, lousiest scene ever.

I brought a full chapter that next week, and got back on track.

Until Fear crushed me again.

I think it’s Fear with a capital “F.” Ugly, hairy, monstrous Fear.

  • Fear your writing is not good enough.
  • Fear no one will want to read your crap.
  • Fear of what family, friends, and strangers will think of your work.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Fear of success.
  • Fear of 1,000,001 different terrifying outcomes.

Here are five facts I want to share to help on your literary journey. 

1. Fear Has Many Names

Fear is part of the creative process. And, life for that matter. Fear hates us improving our world in any way. That’s why the new treadmill you bought is gathering dust in the corner.

Fear also plagues you whether you are brand new to writing, or a New York Times Best-Selling Author. Sadly, it’s not a one-time experience that you face, then forget.

Fear also wears many, different disguises:

  • Doubt
  • Procrastination
  • Stress
  • Perfectionism
  • Laziness
  • Anger
  • Jealousy

There are countless more, but if it’s negative and keeping you from writing, hello Fear.

2. Fear is Invisible

Fear can’t be seen, smelled, touched, or heard.

But, it sure can be felt. Maybe it’s knots twisting in your gut, a headache or shaky hands.

It might be sneakier, like deep fatigue. You’re sooo tired. You’ll research that magazine article idea.

Tomorrow.

3. Fear is Universal

Don’t take it personally. Fear doesn’t hate you by name. Every writer in the history of man has experienced this. Don’t believe those who say otherwise.

Fear can crush you anywhere in the process. When you first start writing…midway through your novel…when your short story just needs a final polish to enter that contest…a literary agent said your book sounds compelling. Please send ASAP.

You stall out. Do nothing. Want to quit.

Instead of thinking you’re a total failure, please note that’s Fear’s job — to keep us status quo and in our place. To not let our literary lights shine bright.

4. Fear’s Nasty Sidekicks

Self-sabotage is probably Fear’s strongest ally. (Why do you think so many writers are alcoholics?) Stop looking for that monster under the bed, people. It’s inside us.

We all have our justifications to keep you us from writing – social media, chores or your day job that pays the bills.

The first two are excuses. John Grisham billed a sixty-five-hour work week as an attorney, while he wrote A Time to Kill.

Another equally destructive sidekick is sabotage from others. Family and friends, well-meaning or not, who do not support your dream.

“Your writing takes up too much family time.”

“You’ve been writing forever, but nothing has happened.”

“How much longer are you going to waste on this hobby?”

This one is tougher, because it’s from those in our inner circle. Explain to them you’re happier when you honor your need to write. Try to connect with other writers who understand (in person or online). Lastly, try not to impede on time with others. I’m a morning person. My only guaranteed writing time is 5 – 7 am before my family wakes up. After that, we’re off and running!

5. The Most Important Secret about Fear

The more passionate you feel about that poem/book/short story (fill in the blank), the more Fear will try to stop you. Fears works twenty-four-seven. It never sleeps.

You don’t wait to get over your Fear, then write. You write through it. Writing makes the Fear go away.

Here’s another Write Pracitce post that gives more specifics on how to conquer Fear.

Do you struggle with fear in your writing?

PRACTICE

Spend fifteen minutes reflecting and writing about what steps you take (or need to take) to overcome your writing fears. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section, or just tell me your thoughts about this post.

About Marcy McKay

Marcy McKay is the “Energizer Bunny of Writers.” She believes writing is delicious and messy and hard and important. If you’ve ever struggled with your writing, you can download her totally FREE book, Writing Naked: One Writer Dares to Bare All. Find her on Facebook!

  • What a stimulating article, Marcy!

    I’m much of a writer who consistently strives for perfection. This leads to my fear of being judged by others even though I know that I could learn something of value from constructive criticism. Granted, it’s darn hard to get over fears and writer’s block.

    Here is a tiny mistake in the article: “Fears works twenty-four-seven.”

    • Miriam N

      Amen to that Chan. “Granted, it’s darn hard to get over fears and writer’s block,”

    • I often wonder if perfection can be described. It’s a matter of perspective and it’s inherent objectivity means that the standards are set by sliding scales. What’s perfect one day can look flawed the next.

      • To me, Dawn — perfectionism is more a behavior. Striving for excellence feels wonderful because you’re trying you’re best, while perfection feels terrible because we’re never quite good enough.

    • Thanks for sharing, Chan Huu. As a recovering perfectionist myself, I believe that perfectionism is a socially-acceptable form of abuse. It’s rooted in self-doubt and keeps us from taking creative risks because we don’t want to make mistakes…look foolish…be criticized.

      When I realized how much perfectionism was hurting me, I got rid of it. Now, I give myself permission to write sucky first-drafts and make plenty of mistakes to grow as a writer. My writing has improved + I’m a much happier person.

    • Avril

      Hi Chan, I used to be a perfectionist, and I these days I’m much better about giving myself unconditional acceptance, and permission to make boo-boos. The environment around us can intensify or defuse our perfectionism, and I urge you to accept this as a group that will work to defuse your tendency to be too hard on yourself. Whatever you are putting out here, you will get honest feedback, and when constructive criticism is necessary, it is delivered with compassion and encouragement. What I’m saying, this is a safe place to experiment with your writing, and make the mistakes you need, so you can learn.

    • 709writer

      Boy do I identify with that. I am an extreme perfectionist. You’ll understand me when I say this: perfectionism can and will consume you if you let it.

      • You’re 100% write about perfectionism consuming you. It’s a MONSTER.

  • Miriam N

    Alright Here is my practice. I hope you like it.

    Fear, now this is a thing I know all too well. Fear starts at a young age and grows over time. For me, the first fear I had was of the dark, then of spiders, or that infamous monster under the bed. Unknowingly, I created my own character to battle this fear. This is the point in my childhood where the hero games began.

    I was Miriam the warrior princess who could overcome anything. Save villages, battle dragons, and defeat bad guys. The games became deeper as time went by and I was pretty confidant of myself. Then the bullying began.

    “You’re a nobody.” some would say. “When are you going to grow up? Get your head out of the clouds.”

    “Look at her. Do you think she even washes her hair. Ewww… smell that its grease girl.” On and on these went bringing down my defences. Letting fear win again.

    Junior high wasn’t any better. The group of tormentors changed. They made fun of everything about me. They pushed me down till a point I felt I’d never rise again. Then I found my friends my true friends.

    They bound my wounds, lifted me up, and most of all told me I was important. As worse as the bullying was my self esteem grew to exceed it. I rose and kept rising. The bullying stopped. I was free.

    Now I stand writing about it all. I still am afraid of those who teased me. If I ever see them in the hall I look the other way. They probably don’t even know how much they hurt me but I remember it all. I know that I’m strong and destined for greatness. Fear, however, will never leave me. Thoughts like ‘What if they were right? What if I’m just fooling myself thinking I can be a writer?’ frighten me at night.

    I am stopped with a fear of never being good enough but I will rise. Nobody can make me do anything. Nobody can make me quit. I’ll make mistakes, I’ll fail, but I will NEVER quit. I love my talent too much to cheat myself. I’m better than those comments made by self conscious bullys. I’m special, I’m unique and most importantly I’m a writer. I hope that all of you can know that you can do anything if you have the desire enough to do it. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

    • Stories about bullying are utterly relatable and if you share your experiences, they will resonate with truth. Go for it! 🙂

      • Miriam N

        Thanks dawn 🙂

    • What a brave and courageous piece. I loved EVERY word. Miriam the Warrior Princess is about the best hero ever and may call on her in the future. The fact that you withstood that bullying says so much about your character, Miriam. Just in your practice, I can tell that you are truly a talented writer. Do NOT listen to the voices in your heard. WRITE ON, Miriam. Write on.

      • Miriam N

        I… I don’t know what to say. Thank you! THANK YOU! You made my day. 🙂

        • I’m glad to make your day, but TRULY, Miriam — you are the hero here. That Warrior Princess has been protecting you your whole life. Honor all that she’s been through and let yourself write. You have deep stories to tell.

          • Miriam N

            I will and am Marcy. Becoming an author is fulfilling the dream I have had since childhood.

          • Fantastic, Miriam. Best of luck to you…

          • Cheryl Hingley

            Dear Miriam N., that was a frank and eloquent contribution about fear and it’s great to hear that with writing you’ve gained the confidence you’ve needed since childhood. I just want to encourage you to banish fear from a stage that you’ll go through later in your career, when you’re submitting your work to agents, publishers, even a critique group—don’t let negative comments interfere with your writing; instead, seek out people’s positive, constructive comments and use their advice if you think it will help your work. You already have a wonderful strength to build on—you have the gift of engaging your readers. I say this as a published author and a former publisher, who’s seen the game from both sides of the desk: fear doesn’t belong in the submission process, and as long as you stay professional and never take rejection personally, your bright confidence will light the way to your publishing goal. Heaps of luck to you! Sincerely, Cheryl

          • Miriam N

            Thanks for your advice Cheryl and you compliments. It really means a lot to me to get comments. If you want me to be completely honest I didn’t really write everyday until I found the write practice. Its a great website that’s helping me grow as a writer and a person. Thanks again for commenting on my work. 🙂

    • Avril

      Miriam, your Warrior Princess is strong and brave, and also gracious and loving. She is powerful, and uses her abilities for the good of all, even the bullies. I see a woman who, through pain and fear, evolved into a most unexpected heroine. You are a woman to be taken seriously, and I hope you will write much, much more for us.

      • Miriam N

        Thanks Avril

    • Such honest and inspirational writing, Miriam! You’re amazing!

      • Miriam N

        Thanks Joy!

    • Leah Hona

      You should become a motivational writer. Very good you are awesome! ^-^
      <3 your writing

      • Miriam N

        Thanks Leah!

        • Leah Hona

          you’re welcome ^-^

      • I agree, Leah. Thanks for your thoughts.

        • Leah Hona

          yea, no problem

  • Thanks, Marcy, for more great insights into fear!

    Writing through fear nailed it for me as a method for overcoming its grip. Emotions, like fear, are energies which have to be recognized and acknowledged in order to transform. To deny or fight only makes the beast stronger.

    Also, your example of giving yourself permission to write to smallest chapter, as opposed to the fear based pressure of getting as much done as possible in as little time as possible. The journey of 10,000 miles begins with one step. Progress in writing can sometimes be glacial. While fear clutches at my throat, if I can write a short piece, page, or even paragraph, I will have made progress and that is enough.

    • As insightful as always, Dawn. Ignoring or resisting fear does make it stronger. It’s like monsters in our closets. When we shine the light of truth on fear and call it by name, it lessens, then goes away (if we keep writing).

      You’re on the right track, girl. Keep going!

    • Avril

      Dawn, thank you for affirming that we can have the faith to work through our fear. You are so right, that denying or fighting it makes it worse;, it feeds the negativity of fear.

    • Miriam N

      Thanks for sharing Dawn. This reminded me of a quote that a teacher had posted in their room. “You can’t get anywhere unless you start.” Happy writing!

    • “While fear clutches at my throat, if I can write a short piece, page, or even paragraph, I will have made progress and that is enough.” So true! Getting past the fear by just writing, even something small or something not so great, can loosen fear’s grip on our throats, allowing us to breathe again and write something fearless.

  • Avril

    Hi Marcy, thank you for writing about fear. Sometimes I have so much fear around my writing, I shut down. I’m afraid I won’t tell the story in an authentic voice, or that my writing will bore or annoy people. I’m afraid no one outside of this group will want to read anything I’ve written. Sometimes I deeply fear the act of picking old scabs, writing about deeply personal and painful topics, and then having to deal with the aftermath of the emotional refuse I’ve taken out of safekeeping. Your advice to write something, even a little, and work through it is a positive, action-oriented strategy, and I appreciate that approach. I just love that you made the case that, the stronger our passion for our writing and subject matter, the more fear will be an intruder on the process.

    If it will help anyone in this group, I will share the way I get myself going when fear shuts me down (or even if I am totally exhausted and plain old brain-dead). I get off the computer, and get out my notebook and a pen. I get out a book I love, or a card I’ve received that has an inspirational message, or maybe even a newspaper or magazine, and look for an interesting quote or topic.

    When I have selected my subject matter, I just copy it into my notebook. Most times this is a half to full page, though it has at times run to 2-3 pages. The act of writing and thinking about what I’m writing greases that little wheel in my brain, so the hamster can run again. When I’m done writing, I re-read what I’ve written a few times, then get to work. Sometimes I write my thoughts about the topic, or write about experiences in my life that seem to support or weaken the concept. I’ll write about people it reminds me of.

    Sometimes, if the topic gets me sucked in, I’ll go online for more information, and write that down too. Sometimes I copy word for word, other times I summarize. I follow my whims, and try not to hit my mental “edit” button.

    There are days when I dig into my memory, and I select a period in my life, and make notes on which people and events stand out, for better or for worse. I’ll make notes on what was going on in my life, what I learned, what my major issues were.

    I will also look through magazines and cards, and cut out photos or pictures that capture my attention, and paste them into the notebook. They may or may not pertain to the topic I’ve written about. Sometimes I get out colored pens and draw or doodle.

    On some occasions, this gets me back in the groove, and I go back to what I was working on, refreshed and not afraid, in the flow of writing. Other times I still don’t feel like writing, but I’m really happy with the cool notebook that’s developing, so I still feel that I have not wasted time. In future, when I’m stuck, I also read through my notebook and get ideas and inspiration, and notice how many pages can actually be written in one sitting.

    Don’t know if this will be an attractive tool for our members. Just my 2c, it works for me every single time. Good luck with this everybody, and please share your strategies, if you feel they work for you. I am very interested in how we all manage this frustrating distraction.

    • Wow, Avril. Fear may shut you down, but you’ve DEFINITELY got your processes to get you back to writing. EXCELLENT! Everything you do is creative, imaginative and refocuses your energy in positive ways: the drawing, the doodling, the searching for inspiring quotes. It’s all TERRIFIC! I’m sure the TWP community can add some of your tips to their bag of tricks. THANKS!

      • Avril

        Marcy, thank you for the affirmation.

    • Miriam N

      I am definitely trying this next time I’m stuck. What a wonderful Idea Avril!

    • Susan W.A.

      Love it!

    • Yep, great points Avril. Just keep adding something to the fire. Tease the flame.
      Massage the creative muscle until it surrenders.

      Thanks for your sharing. Some great tips.

      Love Dawn

      • Avril

        Thanks Dawn. Ha ha, love “Massage the creative muscle till it surrenders”. So much smarter than grappling with it.

    • Awesome exercises! Thank you!

    • Diane Turner

      What terrific suggestions, Avril. Thanks for sharing.

  • Why I didn’t want to be Tweedle-Dee

    I’m sitting watching Alice in Wonderland on TV. Stunning contemporary cinematography, costumes, make-up, sets and CGI. Everybody is rad and mad. It’s a long way from the annual high-school drama production that I was part of in the late 70’s.

    We went through the usual sign-up and auditions. Those of us brave enough to break through the taunts of the non-theatrically aspirational, attended after school meets in the temporary gym, heard about the acting parts, the technical and set production ideas, and backstage needs of costume design and make up.

    We read through the proposed script and broke away in to small groups to play with ideas and scenes.

    Of course, deep, deep down, I wanted to be Alice. But the surface me would not have dared to declare such a desire. Oh and to be the wicked Queen of Hearts, to tut and flick and command with exaggerated dramaturge. Yes I thought that may be fun too. Yet again I didn’t want the responsibility. So many lines. So much attention. So much expectation.

    I withered at the the thought of either role, yet my heart pounded with the idea that I may be discovered and encouraged to take on a major character.

    Instead I stood a little shy on the sideline at the auditions. I didn’t project my voice nor try to learn some lines off by heart, nor add a few little dramatic quirks to deepen the personality of the character.

    Alice was assigned to a girl a year older than me. A pretty blonde girl, who was clever and good at sport. A well behaved nice girl, I thought. Typical!

    The role of Queen was offered to a girl a year younger than me. A larger girl, with thick black hair and a loud voice and a big joyous heart. And an extrovert that everybody loved. She was funny and larger than life. Of course by then I realised that looks mattered. Stereotyping by size and personas was alive and well.

    I did, however, get cast as Tweedle-Dee. I had stated I didn’t want too many lines to learn and I didn’t know if I could make all of the rehearsals, but that I would like to be part of the play. I got exactly what I asked for in that case. Yet some part of me had already given up. I had decided I wasn’t capable of being selected for a more juicy role. I’d stomped on my dream before even letting it have a go, and I had decided that I was too plain and that I didn’t want to take too much of a risk.

    I also didn’t want to be a rotund dim-witted one part of a twin set. In fact the thought embarrassed me. I was to cool for that. To self conscious to bounce around in a stripey pair of foam filled pants and trip over and say silly things.

    After 3 weeks of rehearsals I resigned from the role. I didn’t want to perform after all I said. I asked if I could help with the costumes as I would prefer to work backstage, behind the curtains, out of view, unseen. Perfect! Eventually my drama teacher said yes. I was relieved and, at the same time, I was deflated.

    I couldn’t fail if I didn’t try. I could blend into the magic behind the scenes. Un-public. Needless to say though I thoroughly enjoyed creating costumes and sewing garments and helping with make-up at each of the performances. Yet each time I watched the play, the dress rehearsals and the matinees and the evening scores, a little bit of my heart melted. A little tear dropped from it’s deeply buried chasm and silently cried a loss.

    I’m not a performer, yet as a child I harboured a little-girl dream of being a dancer or an actor or a singer. When did I become so self conscious? Why did I become so afraid of failing publicly?How deep have I let this thread sew itself into the sails of my life?

    Oh I’m not harbouring any deep desire to start auditioning for stage. But I am wondering about this ‘not brave enough to fail’. If if don’t try I won’t fail”, it appears, is one of my main patterns.

    And I always thought it was ” I won’t start anything if I can’t finish it.” And I’ve prided myself on finishing what I start. Interesting and sly this ol’ ego of mine. Keeping me safe in my own “I’m a finisher” smugness.

    So I’ve picked writing as my art in mid-life. Easy to hide. Easy to make mistakes. Don’t have to share. Can scribble out, delete, erase, rip up, burn anything remotely fail-like.

    I can also start and not finish, because nobody but me knows I’ve started anything. Worse still this multi-decade pattern has thickened into a technicolor coat of laziness and procrastination.

    So Tweedle-Dee and me have some talking to do. I’m going to go in to dialogue with this colourful character of my early teens and get to the bottom of this.

    Who would have thought I’d be returning to Tweedle-Dee for some mid life counsel and, I hope, some inspiration. A jolt forward. A comical kick up the back-side. Some light insight from an apparent dim-wit.

    I’m going to consult with Tweedle-Dee and see if together we can push liddle-tweedle-me over this ‘submit, share your writing with a broader audience’ line.

    If the Tweedle-Dee and me dialogue is insightful or useful I’ll let you know.

    Have you thought about having a chat with a character or incident in your creative past that just may have a key or a pointer for your future?

    Let me know. Share below. Tweedle, Tweedle, Tweedle, Dee. 🙂

    • A really powerful memory that you shared, Dawn. Thank you for your willingness to share. The line the struck me the most was, “not brave enough to fail.” I have dialogued in a character’s voice and it can be very insightful. I hope you Tweedle-Dee talk more — a lot more, because very clearly you found your true calling in mid-life. You are absolutely a writer and the world needs to hear your stories. I hope you’ll become BRAVE ENOUGH TO FAIL because that’s when the real magic starts.

      • Miriam N

        Amen Marcy.

      • Thanks Marcy.
        Ive actually been writing since a very young age too. Back then I didn’t even see that writing was an artist option.

        In popular culture you only see the performance and visual arts.

        I guess the greater craving is creativity in any form. The inherent urge for creative expression. And if we judge, hide, suppress this urge, then who knows what damage (unseen) we are inflicting on our whole self.

        I’ve resolved to submit 2 items this week. 1- a novel for an emerging writer unpublished award. 2) a short story competition.

        Here goes. Thanks for the nudge.
        Regards Dawn

        • Yea, Dawn. Congrats on taking your writing dream two steps forward with submitted your work for that award and competition. Regardless of what happens — you’re already a winner.

          I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Each no takes us closer to that yes. Tweedle Dee has a goldmine of information for you. Keep going through the looking glass to uncover more information about your writer-within. Good luck!

      • Susan W. A.

        Dawn,

        First to answer your question in a previous post quite awhile ago…The “W. A.” in my name are my middle and last initials, not a geographic area : ). But I sure would have loved it if we lived in the same part of the world….to be in a writing group with you or simply chat over coffee or tea would be an enriching delight.

        Next, your writing style always inspires me. I have held on to your images of Rosie and the shoes and the book and the light that “honeyed” into the hall (was that the term? )

        Do you have a blog? Would love to read more of your explorations and expressions of your creative self.

        Enjoy your visits with Tweedle Dee.

  • Great post, Marcy! This is such an important topic, because it affects all of us in so many ways. I think part of the fear we writers face is from having to be so open with the world. Writing is personal. Even when we’re writing fiction, we’re pouring our hearts and souls into it, as a lot of our inspiration comes from real-life experiences. It’s tough to share our hearts freely. We’re so connected with our writing, that we fear readers’ responses. If they hate it, we feel like they hate us. This is a challenge for all of us creative people. We have to realize that criticism of our creation is not criticism of ourselves–that some people might hate our writing, but love us just the same. And we have to listen to others. Just like we let people influence our lives, we should allow people to influence our writing. We can’t write a novel on our own. And we can’t face all our fears on our own either. We have to distance ourselves enough from our writing to let it be our child, not our clone. Children have a mind of their own and so does our writing. We can only hold on to it for so long before we have to let it go. Give it roots and give it wings. Allow it to become what it’s supposed to be. And forget the fear.

    • Marvelous, Joy. I especially loved about the writing — give it roots and give it wings. Such a beautiful image — our words taking flight to become what it’s destined to be. This is why communities like TWP are so great.

      • Thank you, Marcy. The Write Practice is definitely a special place. 🙂

    • Miriam N

      “We can only hold on to it for so long before we have to let it go. Give it roots and give it wings. Allow it to become what it’s suppose to be. And forget the fear.” great lines Joy! Keep up the good work

      • Thank you, Miriam. 🙂

    • Lovely sharing Joy.

      The other thing is that once we release the story to the reader, it becomes the readers story. They see it through their own life lens, interpret it some times in ways beyond or beside its writers intention. And the story, like a child, begins to love its own life beyond the pen of its creator.

      I enjoy your sharings. Keep it up.
      Love Dawn

      • Thanks Dawn! That is a good point about it becoming the reader’s story and how it finds its own life. I enjoy your sharings too! 🙂

  • Susan W. A.

    My recent writing practice has been emails and texts to family and friends chronicling the courageous last days of my remarkable mother’s life. Therefore, I’ll make this short.

    THE #1 way that I recommend anyone to overcome their fear of writing is to post on The Write Practice. I am a novice writer and I cannot imagine a more supportive, useful, encouraging, worthwhile place to feel the ground solid under your writer’s feet than here.

    Thank you for each of your contributions to my “being and becoming” as a writer.

    I tip my hat to you.

    • Yes. Totally agree Susan.
      And deep condolences to your family.
      Regards Dawn

      • Susan W.A.

        Thanks for your supportive words, Dawn.

    • My deepest sympathies to you about your mother’s death, Susan. Those emails and texts you recently sent were probably some of the most important you will ever write — because they were 100% REAL LIFE, IN THE MOMENT, and PRECIOUS.

      Your soul needs time to grieve, but writing will help you do that. And, your so correct about TWP — it’s an amazingly supportive community.

      Sounds like to me, Susan, you are already a writer. You’re just now beginning to claim that important fact. Best of luck to you on your journey.

      • Susan W. A.

        Thank you for your wonderful comments, Marcy. Yes, my time journeying with my mother in her last days is sacred to me and I am grateful that I shared my experience with loved ones as a kind of journal.

        Your reminder to shift my perception of myself as already being writer and to “claim that important fact” resonates within me. I will carry that thought with me and it will carry me. I remember another TWP post about that very topic “I AM a writer” versus “I want to be a writer”. It does feel good to claim that part of me.

        Thank you for your post and your feedback. … Very meaningful

    • 709writer

      You honor your mother greatly. May God bless you.

  • Sidney G Fox

    I can so relate to this post right now! Good timing, thanks Marcy 🙂

    A friend of mine asked me how I was getting on with my writing the other day and I replied “Yeah.”
    He waited.
    I really like that he knows to wait.
    After several hundred semibreves of silence, my brain came up with this.
    “It’s like.. much easier to be in a busy place where you can believe that one day, with total confidence.. believe that when you have time, you’ll be able to do something amazing.. with no doubt about it. whereas now. Yeah. I have all this time and no excuse to fail and. Argh. I don’t know. Self-doubt. Fucker. ”
    “Wow. Quote of the Day?”
    “Yeah.”

    Fear.
    Can’t write.
    Can’t string a sentence together.
    Can’t think.

    I’ve managed this, though.
    And I’ve admitted to having fear.

    Is it worse to try and fail, than fail to ever try?
    Or better to try, and know that then you can’t possibly fail, because you tried.

    Still no Quote of the Day but something’s beginning to stir…

    • I love your, “Can’t string a sentence together.” It’s 100% times better to try and fail, than not to try at all.”

      Since you seem to be well aware of fear shutting you down, the most important thing for YOU to remember that the amount of fear you’re feeling equals the amount of PASSION you have toward a writing project. In an odd way, fear is a great indicator is this is something worthy of your time, patience and practice. You got this, girl, now WRITE!

    • Miriam N

      I can relate to this Sidney. I’ve had those days where nothing seems to come together, as I’m sure we all have had. I tell myself on those days that if I don’t’ write anything then there’s nothing to fix. You can’t fix a blank page after all. Thanks for sharing with us.

      • Sidney G Fox

        Thanks Miriam, they’re the most frustrating days, aren’t they?
        I set myself a good chunk of ‘time out’ after way too many of them in a row, and am now (eagerly) counting down to the start-again day. The blank pages await..
        🙂

  • CarolynL

    Fear is an ancient being, battling within a man’s heart for ages. It strives to knock out our stance in life in order to see us helpless on the dirt floor in defeat. With one step forward or one step on your feet, it readies itself to take away your second move forward. Fear takes away what could have been.

    In life, we sometimes let fear get the better of us. We allow it to rule over certain areas of our life. At the end of the day, you realize how small you might have lived as if you were in some tiny, white cell. When the world is filled with change and growth and motion, you narrowly walked through your same routines in fear of some imagined opposition. I know I have.

    Then, a sliver of light seeps through a hole to this darkness. A light reminding that we are human, and that making mistakes, and learning from them, is what life is about. Everyone does it. It not about whether or not if what you’re doing is good enough, but it was always about the after part that matters. It hangs at the top of the door of your next path in life saying, ” what will you do next?” And I think the winners to this fight of fear say this: Let’s try again. All of sudden, you find yourself standing tall over a helpless, small creature on the dirt floor. A smile naturally forms on your mouth. Victory is mine.

    • FANTASTIC, Caroline. This part blew me away: Fear takes away what could have been.

      Clearly, you’ve battled fear before, but understand that it will still darken your doorstep again. If you keep writing, victory will always be yours. Thanks!

      • CarolynL

        Thank you for the inspiring post! I loved it.

        • My pleasure, Caroline. I appreciate your inspiring comment, as well, and it was nice to “meet you.”

  • 709writer

    You know what’s creepy? That picture looks almost EXACTLY like a hallway in my house.

    Most of the time I get inspiration when I’m not even at my desk where I write. I’m talking with my brother, I’m watching a movie, or I’m in town and a random person triggers an idea. But my problem–my biggest fear–is that when I sit down to write, I can’t always turn that idea into something! I’ll think clearly when I’m away from my desk, but often the minute I sit down, I get writer’s block and I find it difficult to push past it.

    I admit, I don’t write everyday (a no-no). I love writing, but I don’t always make time for it. I work, I study, I do a sport–but there I go, making excuses. What I need to do is make a commitment to write every single day. Even if it’s only a few pages, or one page, or a paragraph.

    But I digress; here’s my practice.

    Louise stood on the shore, listening to the waves crashing over the sand. The sun was almost gone, just a sliver of gold light on the ocean’s horizon.

    She sensed him approaching and turned.

    Marcus—Doctor Johnson—was several yards away when he stopped on the sand. His unusual amber-colored eyes pierced her.

    She felt her dress billowing out as a heavy breeze rushed along the shore. She shivered, but squared her shoulders and met the man’s stare.

    “I’m alone,” she said. “Just like you asked.”

    Marcus did not move, only continued to stare at her. “You still think it’s over, don’t you.” His voice was flat.

    “Isn’t it? Julia’s long gone. You’ll never find her.” Louise felt her heart pound. If only she could take her sister home with her. She’d only known Julia for a fraction of her life, but already Louise would do anything to protect her from this man. At least Shadow was watching over her. “Why did you want me to meet you here, anyway?” She folded her arms.

    Marcus’s face hardened. “Shadow cannot be trusted.”

    “And you can?” Her voice tightened. “Let me tell you something. I’d rather my sister be in the custody of a complete stranger than with you.”

    “Shadow is dangerous,” Marcus said. He held Louise’s eyes. “You’re a fool if you can’t grasp that.”

    Louise raised her voice. “You’re the fool, If you think I’m going to help you find Julia so you can torture her again.” She spun on her heel and marched up the beach toward her car.

    “Louise,” Marcus shouted behind her.

    When she heard him closing in, she whirled on him and jabbed her finger into his chest. “Why aren’t you in jail for life after all you’ve done to my sister?”

    Marcus seized her hands and growled in her face, “This is far from over. I will complete my research on Julia—with or without her consent. Or yours.”

    Louise shoved free and clenched her hands into fists. “If you ever so much as look at my sister again—” She turned to face her car. “You won’t have to worry about finishing your research.”

    I’d love comments and/or critique!

    • Miriam N

      Nice. I love the tension in this scene and would love to know what happens next. Great job! keep up the good work

      • 709writer

        Thank you!

    • 1. That IS creepy your door looks like this post’s photo.

      2.
      You’re obviously a writer because you get ideas everywhere you go + fear
      shuts you down as soon try to write. Try this great TWP post to help.
      I’ve written gobbledygook for years. It works.
      http://thewritepractice.com/writing-exercise-unstuck/

      3. Your
      practice is both mysterious and compelling. I want to know what Marcus
      has done to Julia and why Louise hates him so much. WELL DONE!

      • 709writer

        Thank you so much! Yes I will definitely check out that website. : )

        • That’s another post HERE @ the Write Practice. It’s terrific + fun — a wining combination. Best of luck to you.

    • Pedro Hernandez

      I loved this so much, this makes me want to find out why Louise hates Marcus so much! It also adds an atmosphere of mystery

      • 709writer

        Thanks, Pedro!

  • Chloee

    Fear. That word means many things to me.

    The soul wrenching feeling as you sit and watch a someone near to you slowly shrinking into a ghastly pale corpse and the wanting of power to heal them.

    Maybe it’s the anguish as you watch the moving van pull out of the driveway of your childhood home knowing that you’ll never have that same feeling of safety again.

    It could be the misery of long hours in a hot, sticky, humid bakery as you try to scrape by to put food on the table for your family hoping that you’ll finally leave this place but each day that thought gets defeated once again no matter what you do.

    What about people who lose your trust so many times that you’ve bulit up walls to keep you and those you love safe but end up hurting yourself. Instead they screw something else in your mind and you snarl like a rabid dog making sure no one gets close to you.

    I don’t know. Something like that. I want to know what though.

    • Amazing, Chloee. All these examples of fear struck my gut. You’ve definitely been there and detail it powerfully. I definitely hope you’re writing because you can take such universal moments — moving away, or watching someone you love die — and make them profound. Thanks and keep up the great work.

  • Ed Pena

    I have no fear of writing. I know my ideas are good, and I know my writing has tremendous potential. Instead, I struggle with frustration. Sometimes the words flow so fast there aren’t enough minutes in the day. Other times, I cannot clearly imagine what I want to say, and the words at best dribble onto the page. It’s like that sometimes with my music, where the emotions are so deep I cannot find the chords or notes to adequately express them.

    • Congratulations Ed on not struggling with fear. Your confidence rings true. They say real writing comes in re-writing, not the first drafts. So, let your words come at whatever pace they may — in a complete floor, or a tiny dribble. It won’t be perfect the first time and it’s NOT SUPPOSED to be. Know that you came back and add/delete/reshape to where you want.

      Remember, practice makes progress. Good luck

  • This is SO true! I shared my outline with my well-meaning husband—I was SO proud of it… but instead of seeing my grand vision, he had lots of questions that totally shut down my creativity. I ALMOST walked away from writing altogether. Instead, I let his questions and my plans marinate, grow, and birth into a BETTER story concept. Now I’m writing my first draft and I love where it’s going. BUT, I also know better than to share my work until I feel more comfortable with it! 🙂

    • Miriam N

      Good on ya for continuing writing. I hope your first draft goes well.

  • Kate

    This post was so timely for me. I’ve been struggling with very similar questions to this one for a while recently. I’ve got a handful of different projects going on at the moment, from a freelance copywriting gig to revisions on a novella of mine to rewriting a novel that’s near and dear to my heart. I spend all day long at my desk at work longing for the time to just sit and work on my writing, wishing I didn’t have to have a day job because if I could *just* be at home right now I could get so much writing done.

    And yet, when that free time finally does come around at the end of the day, I find myself wasting it with tv shows or internet browsing or reading or heck, even doing dishes! And suddenly it’s bedtime again and I haven’t done any work on anything and I’m kicking myself.

    I think fear becomes this wicked cycle for me, in which I can’t get myself to start when I have the time/opportunity, and then launch into a bunch of self-loathing for never getting anything done. Which only serves to reinforce the fears — obviously I’m not a good writer, I lack any kind of discipline at all, I can’t finish anything, I don’t have anything to show for all my thoughts and ideas.

    But, when I actually do grit my teeth and turn off the tv, more often than not I find myself really pleased with the work I turn out, and this feeling of a weight lifting off my shoulders takes over. As in, oh, look at that, I’m not as hopeless and horrible as I feared, I’m actually, dare I say it, kind of good at this. Why don’t I do this all the time? So the quote from this article, “writing makes the fear go away” is exactly my experience, and one I’ll be taping up over my desk and putting in my notebooks, etc., to remind myself to just get started and damn the fear!

    • Miriam N

      I’ve been here before *cough cough*. I do, however, get what you’re saying. I’ve noticed that writing gets rid of my fears too. Hope you can make progress in your novels.

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  • Carrie LaRue

    This persistent procrastination is another face of fear? The truth overpowers me. I’m finding it hard to breathe. I love to write, and I’ve a completed novel that I’ve sent for professional editing. I check my emails every morning, hoping she has something favorable to tell me, shaking because it is so hard to read criticism–again.
    This fiction novel has been in process for seven years. Every re-read exposes something else to improve, another place the action is too slow, a shallow or unbelievable quality in a character. I love the story. I love these major characters who’ve become as real to me as old friends. But it’s been at least weeks since I last wandered into their world to continue the hard work of polish, delete, change, improve.
    As I think about this on-going delay and your words about fear, I feel truth rising up within me. My heart’s hammering. My hands shake. I see myself with boxes of published books, my book in print. Will I dare let anyone else read it?
    Friends tell me I’m a gifted reader. Critics show me my amateurish mistakes and flaws. They show me in bold red ink with circles and cross outs and notes I’m too shaken to absorb. Fear tells me it’s safer to use a pen name. Fear tells me to remain a closet writer. Fear tells me to forget trying to publish. It’s too risky.
    Fear feels like a coffin door closing over my life.

    • Miriam N

      “Fear tells me to forget trying to publish. Its too risky. Fear feels like a coffin door closing over my life.” Love those lines Carrie. I also really relate to what you’re saying. I hope you can get past your fear and continue to improve on your writing craft.

  • opsimath

    This is a fascinating post, one which sums up all of the fears that prevent me from writing at all, much as I would love to. I have read countless books and articles about writing but they never seem to penetrate my real fear of writing. I have tried all the things suggested but inspiration never comes to me, and I just can’t see that writing, ‘I don’t know what to write’ over and over again, is going to do to help.

    I look at the books of my favourite authors, people with such wonderful imagination, writers such as Erin Morgenstern and Neil Gaiman, and I find it impossible to believe that they were EVER frightened of writing, or had the least difficulty in actually doing it.

    I can only conclude that some (most?) of us are just not destined to be writers; I know about intransitive verbs and the correct use of the em-dash and all sorts of things, but writing eludes me. It always has and I fear it always will.

    Thank you for a great article and a marvellous site. My only big wish is that I had never been bitten by this damned writing bug in the first place!

    • Miriam N

      Writing is never as easy as it seems. You may think that published authors don’t have fear about writing or that their work comes naturally. I can assure you that most of us have fear in our writing. Its over coming that fear that gets us published. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Opsimath. Best of luck to you.

  • April Myers Redmon

    You have an uncanny way for putting your finger right on target, Marcy McKay! This post rings true for me, nearly every word of it.

  • Kim Robinson

    I’ve never really thought about it like that, I just assumed that it’s because I gotta balance out my college workload with my personal life AND writing. But I guess fear does know how to work its way through the cracks of our conscience.

    Whenever I tell myself that “I don’t have time to write right now, I need to get stuff done,” I really do have time but I choose not to take advantage of it.

    Well one thing is for sure; I might take advantage of those morning sessions you mentioned.

  • Simone

    For me Step one in combatting Fear is take myself seriously. This looks like going to bed early enough to know I will wake up early, one or two hours before my boyfriend, to journal a few pages and then write other stuff. Step two is forgetting about being serious. To me this is creating the habit, then forgetting it- forgetting it by remembering how and why I enjoy writing. It’s play time. To combat fear is to forget that I need to take myself seriously, because I’ve already lost myself in the writing. Forget fear just to be able to enjoy and look forward to my time alone, creation time. Then the final step is to give myself the gift of a little more time. Enough time to continue my long term ideas AND play/create/discover new ideas. Happy writing to all!

  • Great advice. Take a deep breath, meditate or take a walk and then concentrate on the love of writing, painting or any call to creativity and fear will fade away like the illusion it is. Because the truth is there is nothing to fear.

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