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