Have you ever been so afraid to do something writing-wise that you felt physically ill?

Nausea strangles your throat and swirls through your gut. You feel shaky and unsure of yourself. Maybe you’re afraid to start writing that novel, to send out query letters once your manuscript is complete, or to meet that awesome editor at a conference.

When you stretch yourself creatively, fear…

give fear the finger

Photo by Shuji Moriwaki

… paralyzes the best of writers.

I’ve taken many writing risks:

  • I landed a literary agent for my debut novel
  • I’ve been paid for more magazine articles than I can count
  • I’m an award-winning copywriter and short-story author

Each step scared the hell out of me, but I conquered those self-doubts anyway.

Despite those victories, each new challenge feels bigger and scarier than ever before.

Two years ago, my agent adored my characters, but felt the plotline needed to be taken up several notches. Her suggestions rang true for me, so I agreed. The rewrite was so massive that I didn’t know how to remedy it except to go to a blank page one and rewrite 400 new pages.

Many times, I wasn’t sure I had the talent to fix my book. Worry haunted me every step of the way.

What’s the Problemo?

Fear is part of the creative process. It wants to keep us small and in our place. To not let our literary light shine bright. Status quo whether we’re beginners, or New York Times Best-Selling authors.

So, what’s the solution?

Give Fear the Finger

Easier said than done. You can’t just tell someone, “Don’t be afraid. It’ll work out.”

If we’re scared—WE’RE SCARED!

The only antidote to fear is action.

Not giant, sweeping change. Not big leaps. That’s too much and freaks us out.

I’m talking baby steps. Tiny. So small that most might not even notice a change. One small step toward your dreams can still make them come true.

3 Easy Steps to Give Fear the Finger

How exactly do we give fear the finger?

It’s as Easy as 1-2-3:

1. Write It Out.

Scribble away about the good, the bad and the ugly of your situation. I free-write what all scares me as fast as possible. I write like I ‘m on fire. It’s like a Laundry List of terror:

I’m afraid my book will never be good enough. I’m not sure I can pull this off. I hate that it’s so hard…

Writing calmed me down. I’d be fine one day, then a basket-case the next. Journaling took the anxious voices from my head and onto the paper where I could face them. Still, it was a constant struggle.

2. The Upside and Downside.

Next, take your Laundry List of terror and examine the pros and cons.

The upside of quitting now is I don’t have to face my agent’s disappointment, or rejections for editors. The downside is I’ll never know if I have what it takes to do this rewrite. I also lose my agent and I worked so hard to find her…

This part helped a lot because it showed me my choices.

3. What’s Next.

I got to decide at my own pace what I was and was not willing to do.

My rewrite took well over one year to complete and proved I was a stronger writer than I ever imagined.

Sadly, my agent left the biz before we submitted my novel for publication. My current creative struggle is debating whether to continue the traditional route for my book, or publish it myself.

I’m doing the best I can to find the right answer for me. I think we all are.

Remember the key is small steps. Because each foot forward still gives fear the finger.

What are you afraid of in your writing?

PRACTICE

Write for fifteen minutes about whatever fear(s) you’re facing in your own literary process. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section, or just tell me your thoughts about this post.

Give fear the finger!

Marcy McKay
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!