I’ve found that the greatest threat to us writers is not the well of creativity running dry or time running out before we can finish our latest work or some other writer stealing our million dollar idea. The greatest threat to us lives within us. It is our own fear of writing.
My fourth novel is set to be released in one week, and fear has been working overtime in me.
It begins as a knot in the base of my throat then builds to discouragement in my heart. It is heavy on my chest, pushing me to step away from my work. It whispers in my ear that my words are no good, that I have nothing left to say, that no one will ever read what I pen, that my all my creative efforts are futile.
It tells me that I have nothing to offer, so I should quit now.
When fear of writing rushes us, it would have us believe that it will continue to build with no end until we are cowering in a corner in tears. It wants us to think that it is too strong and too large to be withstood, that if we do not give in to its demands, it will cripple us. It tells us that the only recourse is to do as it says and cease our work. In this way, fear is brilliant.
With a quick show of force, it positions it as our master, demanding we bow to its whims.
The truth is that fear is not a powerful master. It is the tide. It crashes into the shore with power and force. Its initial burst feels overwhelming as it washes over us, but once it has exhausted its momentum, it will recede.
If we can ride it out, we can move on with our work.
3 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Writing … and Write
We need not bow to fear of writing. If we can survive its initial surge, it will pass and we can get back to work unhindered. Here are three ways I survive the surge of fear:
1. Name It
I’m a father of five young kids and I work a full-time job. Thus, my writing time is at night after everyone has gone to bed.
When fear crushes down on me and tells me that my story is worthless and that I should stop writing, it helps to say out loud, “This is just anxiety, it is normal, and it will pass.”
Once I’ve said those words, I find that I am able to return to work. The fear isn’t gone, but its surge becomes bearable.
In order to strip fear of its power, we must name it. Saying out loud what it actually is reminds us that it is not our master. When it has a name and we understand it, we can reject it and move past it.
2. Lean Into It
When I was a child, my parents would take me and my siblings to the beach. One of our favorite games was to “jump waves.” This game consisted of wading out into the ocean until it was waist high. We would then wait for a wave to come hit.
As the wave hit us, we would lower our shoulders and jump into it like a football player making a tackle. Once the wave had passed, we would try to regain our footing without falling down.
I find myself now playing this game with my fear of writing. When that knot begins to build in my throat, I try to type faster. It doesn’t matter if what I’m writing is any good; the point is accelerating into fear’s wave until it passes. I can always go back and edit once I’m on the other side of my anxiety.
3. Meditate Through It
There are times when my anxiety is too great to lean into and naming it doesn’t help. At these moments, I resist the temptation to pick up my phone and check Facebook or read my email. To do so would be to stop working and admit defeat.
Instead, I close my eyes and wait for the wave to pass. Sometimes I will think about the feelings I’m having, recognizing that they will surge and leave; other times I will think through what I’m writing, taking the extra moments to review the coming paragraphs; and other times, I will simply pray.
The key is to take a mental breath, but not leave your work. When I do these things, I don’t let my fingers leave the keyboard. I hold them there, hovering, waiting for the wave of fear to finish so I can get back to work.
The Fear Is Not the End
Fear and anxiety may take a different shape for you than it does for me. My hope is that you find encouragement in this post. Fear does not have to be your master. It is not as strong as it wants you to believe it is. You are stronger and capable of overcoming it.
Are there other things you do to overcome your fear of writing? Share them with us in the comments.
Take fifteen minutes to write something that scares you. Maybe it's a scene you've been avoiding in your work in progress, maybe it's a story you've been nervous to start, or maybe it's a letter you're scared to write. As you work, if fear raises its head, try one of the techniques above to work through it.
Share your work with us in the comments as proof that you were able to overcome fear and finish your work.