Writers, Here’s How to Give Fear the Finger

by Guest Blogger | 114 comments

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?


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!

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  1. Sarah Somewhere

    I needed this today, thank you. I love reading about writing fear – it makes me feel like I am not alone and it is a normal part of the process. Also, that if it doesn’t scare you, it probably is not worth doing!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Hello, Sarah. I’m so glad this post helped you. You’re absolutely NOT ALONE. Fear is part of the creative process. Expect it, though the funny thing is — it will STILL terrify you each and every time.That’s why I think it’s important to talk about it to other creatives. Folks who understand the process. And you’re so right, if it doesn’t scare you, then it’s not worth writing about. Thanks for stopping by. The Write Practice ROCKS!

    • Dawn Akemi

      Yes, The Write Practice rocks! 🙂

    • Dawn Akemi

      Sometimes fear can be confused with excitement. Both live in the body as agitation in the tummy and increased heart rate.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Another wonderful comment, Dawn. Thank you!

  2. Angie Dixon

    Marcy, this is so great. I’m struggling with some fear in my own work, and I never thought of just writing it down and evaluating it. Thanks.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Oh, Angie, you’re going to LOVE writing down your fears. For me, it takes so much of the power out of whatever is scaring me, and reminds me that I — me, myself and I, have the power over the situation. Try it. I think you’ll like it.

    • Dawn Akemi

      Writing it down will help you uncover it’s face. It is the monster that doesn’t want to be seen.

    • Angie Dixon

      Ah. I started reading a book called something like Taming Your Inner Gremlin. I set it aside because I was/am recovering from major surgery and I didn’t have the energy for it. But your comment sounds like that, and I completely get it.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Taming Your Inner Gremlin? I LOVE that! I want to read strictly for the awesome title. Thanks so much for passing that along.

    • Dawn Akemi

      I love that book!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Ooooooh, Dawn. I LOVE that. Writing our fears absolutely does help us uncover the monster that does not want to be seen. You are a wise woman. Thanks such much for helping our fellow writers out.

    • Joy

      Wow! That’s good insight!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Such a great way to describe it, Dawn. We don’t have to look under the bed for monsters anymore. They’re inside us.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Oh, Angie! Writing down my fears has SAVED me over the years. Please do this. It really helps.

  3. Sandra D

    I am afraid of writing most days when I go to write my story. Though when I start writing, I usually find I do fine. It’s funny how people say that the definition of a writer is someone who cannot not write. I have often wondered how someone who can be afraid of writing can ever be a writer? I guess as long as they keep writing.
    One of my fears is that one day while writing I will not be able to think of anything more to write about.
    The other thing I am afraid of is that I will not do a good enough job, that the story the character won’t feel real enough.
    I like writing though, and I would not be able to stand the idea of giving up before I ever finished anything, so I think that keeps me going.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      I have GREAT news for you, Sandra. You have plenty of fears; therefore, you have plenty of talent. The other wonderful thing is YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Every writer has the same fears you so bravely listed. And you’re right, once you start writing, the fear fades away. Please do try the exercise. And thanks for the comment. You have great insights.

    • Dawn Akemi

      Never equated level of fear with level of talent. Love that.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      HA! I just replied to your comment to Angie. I’m delighted that I’m the one who shared the wisdom. You have great insights, Dawn. Thank you for stopping by The Write Practice.

    • Dawn Akemi

      If I had made the relationship, that would be me owning a very high level of talent (commensurate to my fear), something that is is quite difficult for me to do. Even as I type this, I feel myself negating the veracity of the equation. Lol.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      I so appreciate EVERYONE’S honesty, but hope we’re all taking away that WE ARE NOT ALONE in our fears. We’re all big, ‘fraidy cats, full of self-doubts and inner critiques. The trick is to write anyway. It’s not easy, but doable. Thanks, Dawn.

    • Dawn Akemi

      It looks to me like you already did the exercise. 🙂

    • Sandra D


  4. Dawn Akemi

    There are two great fears: my inner critic and an audience who doesn’t care.

    In the grips of trembling, writing feels like a dream where you try to scream and you can’t. It looks shadowy and murky where you have something to say and but the right words remain elusive. It sounds like my voice talking, trying to be heard, but no one is listening.

    Often the clutching at my throat can be eased by eating the elephant one bite at a time. Don’t think about the whole project, but tackle the little bit that can be handled right now. And if I can’t work on a specific project, then my journal or a writing exercise will suffice. On days filled with dread, any writing is considered good writing.

    Fear feels like frustration and looks like procrastination. I know I want to write but everything else becomes more important. Writing out my excuses becomes the creative exercise in itself.

    Depression mounts when inner hysteria seems to be winning. Writing is an act of belief in myself. If forsaken, who will believe in me? Abandonment of my self-expression makes the walls close in and the air too thick to breathe. Eventually, motivation for anything else is lost. Its pain eventually becomes greater than the terror and pushes me to write something, anything.

    The most positive method is reward, similar to how I train my doggies. At the end of any writing session, small or large, I get a treat. It can be ice cream, a fun activity, or a cocktail of choice. Gentle and forgiving encouragement feels good. It is the acceptance of fear and telling it, I’ll write anyway.

    • Miriam N

      Thanks for sharing Dawn. I absolutely feel you here.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Exactly, Miriam. Good luck to you in dealing with your creative monsters.

    • Dawn Akemi

      Thank you, Miriam. 🙂

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Wow, wow, wow, Dawn. Everything you said was so insightful and so powerful. I loved reading every bit of it, and can’t add anything to it. I hope every TWP reader reads your comment because you summed up FEAR perfectly. Thank you so much your generosity.

    • Dawn Akemi

      Thank you, Marcy. My aim was to be helpful. 🙂

    • Sandra D

      Wow powerful imagery. Fear can get real thick quickly.
      Tackling difficult tasks through baby steps is an important lesson my mom taught me. Second to last paragraph says to me that you have to write, that you would not feel happy without having this mode of expression. It’s funny there was a time I didn’t write, but I can’t imagine going back to that.
      I like your idea of reward. I have never done it though. I like the words gentle and forgiving encouragement. It sounds really loving to yourself. No matter what, if writing for you is about your belief in yourself, you are not going to trample on it. 🙂

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Sandra – in addition to the “gentle and forgiving encouragement,” I really started paying attention to my “self talk.” I would NEVER talk to my best friend the way I do myself. Which I catch myself being hyper critical, I switch to her voice and say what I need to say the way she would. It’s much kinder, and I respond much better to my best friend’s voice. Make sense?

    • Dawn Akemi

      Thank you, Sandra. It’s true about needing to write, or more broadly, needing creative self expression. It sometimes scares me when fear feels so powerful, I think I might give up. Your mom wise. 🙂

    • Joy

      This is beautiful, Dawn. You shared your struggle so honestly. “Fear feels like frustration and looks like procrastination.” So true!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Amen, Joy. Fear is disguised one thousand different ways: procrastination, perfectionism, self-doubt, etc. Thanks for commenting.

    • Dawn Akemi

      Thank you, Joy. 🙂

    • Lisa

      I love this! Thank you Dawn. I might try the reward system! I love to write because it heals me and reminds me who I am. Any writing is always better than no writing. I am terrified that I am not good enough, that I don’t have the self-belief and perseverance necessary to fulfil my dream…what if I don’t make it? Just writing this where it will be seen makes my palms sweat! Baby steps sounds good. I like this article too – we have to overcome these fears – they only show us what it is that we really want. Step by step. I feel that I need to know the steps, make the time, and then take some leaps! And I hope I will one day land where I want to be.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Lisa – I hope you will try the reward system. It works wonders. It can be something as small as, “I’ll let myself check Facebook after I written my pages.” And, you’re correct: writing reminds us WHO WE ARE. I hope your seeing from all these comments that EVERYONE struggles with “good enough?” That’s why it’s so important to connect with other writers who speak the language of putting to pen to paper. I’ve also found that writing is RARELY the big leaps. It’s more the small steps. Just your bravery in posting your fears is a step forward. Happy writing.

    • Lisa

      Thank you Marcy. Great article! And I am loving this supportive community 🙂

    • Dawn Akemi

      Thank you in return for your vulnerability, one of the keys to good writing. If I were to rewrite this post, I would add a para on patience with myself. The fears cannot be beaten away so much as coaxed and nurtured into transformation. There is power in fear and if we are listen, we can hear its subtle aim.

    • Dawn Akemi

      Also, your sweat doesn’t show in your writing. 🙂

    • Julie Davis

      I have the same two fears. And I’ve discovered that 10 people can like my book, but if the 11th doesn’t, I focus more on that than the ten people who like it.

    • Dawn Akemi

      Yeah, I get that. I try to view criticisms as a growth opportunity. It may bug us cuz there is a kernel of truth and need for improvement. Still, no outside critic can be harder on me than myself.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      I can relate to you 100%, Julie. I can tell how “centered” I am on how negative criticism affects me. Sometimes, I can let roll off my book. Other times, it digs deep under my skin. Thanks for sharing.

    • Michael Follen

      Very relatable. Thanks for sharing.

    • Dawn Akemi

      My pleasure. Sharing is win win. 🙂

    • Jeffrey Whitney

      The best thing about writing is also the worst: there’s no single yardstick. It’s like art. You look at a painting, and if it moves you, it’s good. If it looks like crap, then that’s what it is. Your left brain will only get you so far. You can check off all the spelling errors, make sure your subjects and verbs agree, but after that it’s like you are on an ocean. You ask ‘which way’ and somebody points in a general direction. “Head that-a-way. Just row until you get there.” And you ask, “Get where?” and he says, “you’ll know it when you see it.” Thanks a bunch for nothing ocean dude.

    • Dawn Akemi

      Thanks, Jeffrey! Art imitates life which imitates art. We’re all wondering which way to go, feeling our way along. Love your ocean metaphor. 🙂

  5. Miriam N

    Alright. I really needed to hear this today Marcy. For a couple weeks I’ve been in doubt as to whether or not I can actually become a writer. I know I want to and I know I would enjoy doing it but I fear whether or not I will be good enough. I know I have the desire to become a writer and I have ideas, but is my desire enough?
    I have really felt discouraged for a while because I haven’t been able to work on my WIP for almost a year. Every time I have tried to start writing I seem to be stopped with the fear of making a mistake or failing in my attempts. Thanks for this wonderful post it has really given me back some confidence knowing that having fears is normal.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Sweet, Miriam. How BRAVE you are to admit the struggles you’ve had this past year. Fear is 100% normal and part of the process. Expect it. It will still scare the hell out of you each and every time, but when you KNOW it’s coming — it makes it easier to move on.

      PLEASE return to your work-in-progress and know that it’s probably going to be rough in the beginning. I love the quote by famed Romance author, Nora Roberts. She says, “Anything can be fixed except a blank page.”

    • Miriam N

      Thanks Marcy. I… I think I’ll try to work on it more. I too know that I can’t fix a blank page. Let’s just hope it’s not one of those resolutions that is thought about and never done.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      You can do this, Miriam. The key is baby steps. Not big sweeping change. Just try to work on 20 minutes a few times a week. At the end of that 20 minutes, you very well may want to do. You’ll get scared again, and again, but you can totally do this. Good luck!

    • Miriam N

      Thanks Marcy. I’ll try that and see what happens. 🙂

    • Miriam N

      For all those who have posted comments thus far, thanks 🙂 You guys are awesome. 🙂

    • Dawn Akemi

      I love Nora Roberts’ quote! Thank you!

    • Sandra D

      I know what you are speaking about. I’ve always had a plenty of self-doubt.
      I hope you succeed in what you are trying to do.

    • Miriam N

      Thanks Sandra.

    • Joy

      I really hope that you can find time to pick up your WIP again, Miriam. I’m sort of at an awkward standstill with my WIP, but I’m hoping to delve back into it soon. I hope you do too. 🙂

    • Miriam N

      Thanks Joy 🙂

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Good luck to you in returning to your WIP, Joy. Just try baby steps, expect fear, and write anyway. That’s the strange thing about Fear. We don’t get brave enough first. We continue writing, despite being terrified, and the fear goes away.

    • Joy

      Thank you, Marcy. 🙂

    • Dawn Akemi

      There are no mistakes and no failures. Our lives are a work in progress and a journey of souls. 🙂

    • Miriam N

      Thanks for the comment Dawn.

  6. Joy

    There’s a song called “Brave” by Sarah Bareilles that I think is an incredible song for all writers struggling with fear. I’ve loved that song ever since I first heard it. It’s been an encouragement for me since I struggle with fear too.

    I fear publishing the next blog post. I fear being edited. I fear I might offend someone with my writing. I fear people will judge me because of my writing and think I’m weird. When I write out those fears they sound so dumb, but they don’t feel dumb most of the time. Those fears try to cripple my fingers and keep them from typing the words my heart so desperately wants to say.

    Fear rings in my head, but the love of writing rings even louder in my heart. And so I publish the next blog post. I give my writing over to be edited once again. I share my writing with others even though someone might be offended (even though I don’t want them to) or someone might judge me and think I’m weird (even though I shouldn’t be worried about that). I keep writing because God has given me a love for writing. I keep writing because I won’t let fear win. I keep writing because I am a writer. No matter how I feel at the moment, as long as I write, I’m a writer. Fear can’t take that title from me.

    And yet, I know that the fear sometimes helps my writing. It helps me relate with other writers who are struggling too. It helps me to scrutinize my writing and be more cautious about what I write.

    I imagine I’ll always face some fears with my writing. But I dream of a day when it won’t hinder me so much. Perhaps someday I’ll be a more confident writer, but for now I’m taking baby steps. Story by story, word by word, I’m learning to conquer fear.

    • Lisa

      I am also afraid of offending people, Joy. I’m afraid of hurting my family too. I am afraid to show who I am and what I really think, but I truly admire writer’s who aren’t and I would secretly love to be like them. I think you have to write the truth, so this is probably a big thing holding me back…and I would actually love to be real, be the voice that I am. I actually think it’s really healing for others when writer’s admit to their imperfections, insecurities and dark thoughts. Then we realise how much we as the mass of humanity actually share. See, even now I am actually afraid of posting this because I might have admitted that I have experienced ‘dark thoughts’! But I’m going to do it anyway! Thank you for inspiring these thoughts and admissions…!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      I can so relate to not wanting to offend people, Lisa. So many of us were raised to be, “nice girls” and to admit that we experience dark thoughts, that our lives are less than perfect? That’s really tough.

      Start small in sharing your writing — maybe only to those who 100% have your back, and will encourage you. I find the more I write, then risk myself, the more comfortable I become in my own skin. I’m better to handle those who disagree with me (because they’re stupid, anyway). 🙂

      Thank you for posting a comment, despite being afraid to do so.

    • Joy

      We most definitely have to “write the truth.” I think that is one of the hardest things about writing. I so agree with you. When we are honest and considerate, we can all relate so much better to others. Thank you for sharing your struggles, Lisa. You have written them out so beautifully and honestly. I can relate to what you have said. We’re all in this together, girl! 🙂

    • Lisa

      Thanks Joy! 🙂

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Beautifully spectacular, Joy! It gave me chills when I read, “Fear tries to cripple my fingers.” So truth. I’ve experienced every fear you listed, multiple times. I can’t stress this enough: Fear is part of the process. It’ll always be there, just write anyway.

      Congrats on ignoring fear and posting your next blog post. I hope you get back to your other WIP.

    • Joy

      Thanks for your comments, Marcy. You’re very encouraging. 🙂

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      That’s what I’m here for, Joy, because other writers do it for me. 🙂

    • Dawn Akemi

      This is wonderfully passionate. I feel you. Thank you.

    • Joy

      You’re welcome, Dawn. Thank you. 🙂

  7. Bill Holmes

    I apologize for not reading this blog post sooner since I had a busy Saturday. My biggest fear when it came to my writing was the fear of success. Too often, I’ve been intimidated by being a successful writer. Some insecurities that popped into my mind included taking on the responsibility as the expert of his or her book; writing a book that readers didn’t care for and becoming a failure; setting a goal so high like becoming a New York Times Best Selling author.
    Journaling allowed me to acknowledge and confront my fears and to see them for what they truly are: negative thoughts that stifle my creativity. This was not only my baby steps, but it was also my therapy. I felt empowered with every word I wrote, gaining confidence in myself as a writer.
    Currently, I journal every day, having developed a daily routine for the past six weeks. This routine allows me to not only be creative, but to also relax. When I feel relaxed, fear has no place inside my thoughts. Some of these sessions have been very inspirational for me to develop new ideas for my creative endeavors. Aiming to see my name and my book’s title on the New York Times Best Seller’s List doesn’t feel that intimidating anymore.
    Thanks, Mary, for this wonderful post.
    Be blessed.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      No apologies, Bill. Your comment was worth the wait. I journal daily, too. A practice I started YEARS ago (and I do mean years), when I first read The Artist Way (by Julia Cameron). Like you, journaling helps me relax. It stops the thoughts from squirel-caging in my head and gets it onto the page. Finally, I become so sick and tired of me whining, being afraid, resenting (fill in the blank with the correct negative emotions) that I finally deal with them.

      And HELL YEAH, to you have the courage to proclaim your desire to hit the NYT list. We’re all right there with you.. Blessing back to you, my friend.

    • Dawn Akemi

      I started regular journaling, years ago, after reading The Artist’s Way, too! Seems like we share some commonalities, Marcy. 🙂

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      I’m laughing, Dawn. That’s beautiful thing about writers, we’re so much more alike than we are different. 🙂

    • Lisa

      Too true – I am also an Artist’s Way-er! 🙂

    • Dawn Akemi

      Keep it up, Bill. I found Eckhart Tolle’s the Power of Now helped my with my ambitions and insecurities. Presence and awareness are some of your best writing tools.

    • Lisa

      I love Eckhart Tolls too! Helping me heaps at the moment 🙂

  8. Michael Follen

    It’s scary how easy to put it off, It can be pretty frustrating. Procrastination is the devil’s idle. It sounds so simple to cure on paper (or screen). Just do it, right? But so much can be put in front of it. It can be a real metal battle.

    Writing is very personal for me. It feels like I am getting up in front of an audience and trying to dance naked, it’s hard to be comfortable, be yourself and remain focused.

    Sometimes a place a piece of my soul in one of my characters. To me it can feel like your just giving away something sacred and you want to make sure it is given justice/honored in writing.

    Editing is really scary for me too. I never know how to rearrange the pieces. After I spit all my ideas down, I have a hard time shaping the pieces to fit together. It’s like carving out existing pieces to a puzzle for your own mosaic. It can be quite the mind game.

    Despite all these negative angles, I have realized fear can be good. It can be used as the fuel in your writing reserve. I just envision myself on my deathbed thinking back and regretting that I never finished anything and I’ll tell that to the procrastinator in me. It is better to have written junk than to never have written at all.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      I feel like you’ve been listening to my inner thoughts, because I’ve felt everything you wrote countless time. Good for you that you write through your fear. I especially enjoyed how you ending your comment, “It’s better to have written junk than to never have written at all.” Didn’t Shakespeare say that? 🙂

      Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Dawn Atkin

      Agree. Agree. Agree.
      For me procrastination rules. It is such a busy beast.
      Cheers Dawn

    • EJ Heijnis

      The death bed vision is a haunting one, and I agree that I’ll probably be okay with myself as long as I know I tried to write my best.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Fantastic, EJ. You’ve nailed it. As long as we try our best, that’s really all we can ask of ourselves. Best of luck to you and your writing.

  9. April Myers Redmon

    I’ve been paralyzed by fear on many, many occasions. What if I get rejected AGAIN? What if readers think my stuff is crap? What if I actually succeed? Will I be able to do it again?

    Thanks for giving me some food for thought. Marcy!

  10. Dawn Atkin

    Oh dear, here comes the fear!

    They say you know you’re a writer when you have a burning desire to write.
    I don’t; I just like to write.
    They say they understand the passion that runs so deep that you can’t bare to not write means you are a writer.
    Well no, I wouldn’t say I’m that passionate; I just enjoy it.
    They say you know you have a story to tell and you simply must tell it.
    Well actually, with regard to new stories, I’m kinda struggling.
    They say just do it!
    They say write through the fear.
    They say keep it up, just keep on going.
    OK, I’m still here.
    They say carry on, just move with it, drive through it.
    Yep. OK.
    They say ‘x’ amount of words for a blog post is likely to receive ‘x’, ‘y’ or ‘z’ response.
    Oh. Great information. I’ll think about that.
    They say readers like a problem and a resolution.
    OK. Oh no. Actually I can’t think of a problem.

    Oh dear, here comes the fear! Think of a problem, expand it, count the numbers, add a snappy image, make it chatty, check for typos, meet your readers needs, who’s your target group, what response are you hoping for.

    They say then press publish.
    Oh. OK. Actually no.

    I’m not that passionate. I can’t think of a problem and make it in to a chatty story at a prescribed word count to engage a target I don’t even know.

    I just want to write. Free flow. Dribble. I just want to play -occasionally.

    I just want to know what is this little niggle in my tummy that reaches up and tugs at the back of my throat? What is is this whirring confusion? Where is my story. What, why, when, how? Who – am I writing for.

    I’m not a writer. Seriously – who am I kidding?

    Oh well. There’s always The Write Practice 15 minute prompt.

    • EJ Heijnis

      Who are you really accountable to? If you want to write, who’s going to say what standard you have to meet?

    • Dawn Atkin

      I’m just talking tongue in cheek. 🙂 just letting the pen dance free form in response to the prompt.
      I just write what I like , whenever I feel like it.
      When I consider writing something for a specific outcome I seem to clam up. So I go back to free for and tailor the content later.

    • EJ Heijnis

      Reading back, my comment seems a little presumptuous, and I apologize. The point I wanted to make is that all that advice you mention is just that: advice, which you can take or leave. All anyone can ever do is offer you their perspective, and none of it may apply to you. I think it’s awesome that the prompts give you a way to keep the words coming.

    • Dawn Atkin

      Yes I agree it is just that -‘advice’. And it is often very good advice that I find extremely useful.
      My own writing process is to let go and write and then return to the tips and advice to shape up what I have written.
      No need to apologise neither. I enjoyed your response/s.
      It was also a clear demonstration of how differently a reader can make sense of my writing. 🙂
      It was written ‘tongue in cheek’, intended to be a little bit funny, and aimed to demonstrate how overwhelming all sorts of advice and statements about writing can be, and how often I question myself as a writer. My fears.
      Thanks EJ, I appreciate your comments and our conversation.
      Kind Regards

    • EJ Heijnis


    • Joy

      I love your freestyle writing, Dawn. Don’t let all the rules bear you down. 🙂

    • Dawn Atkin

      Thanks Joy.

  11. EJ Heijnis

    I think a lot of our fear comes from the massive volume of advice out there. I think we’ve all read plenty of “you MUST do this” articles and blog posts, claiming you simply will not succeed unless you write every day/write at least 1000 words a session/create a writing space in your home/write every chance you get/own cats and trip on caffeine/etc. I have trouble thinking of a journey more personal than one’s growth as a writer. It involves reaching ever deeper, confronting one unpleasant truth about one’s self after another and finding new ways to process and distill the endlessly complicated experiences that make up our lives. There is a technical side to writing, and there are some firm rules about craft that should not be broken until you are so familiar with them you know when it’s appropriate to do so. The personal side, however, is governed entirely by your own, personal goals for your writing. There is no law that says every writer has to aim for a spot in the history books, or a bestseller list, or even publication. You write because you want to. You’re not required to need to write. The image of the frazzled, partially-insane artist, bent over the keyboard 20 hours a day furiously banging out one page of sheer literary genius after another while bathed in the soft golden light of divine inspiration, angelic voices harmonizing a haunting theme in the background… Where was I going with this? Ah yes. This is unrealistic, of course, but it sometimes feels like the fact that we have to work to get ideas, develop interesting characters, come up with shocking plot twists, or simply get words on the page means we are frauds. In truth, we are making our own, unique, inimitable way through the world of writing, and although we may well produce an end product that touches other lives and holds meaning to other people, the value of the journey exists only for ourselves. So what is there to be afraid of?

    • Sandra D

      Wow, that is perfect! Encore!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Correct, EJ. Every writer is different and we each have to find our process. I heard on a podcast that some published author said once his book was complete, he couldn’t tell the difference between the days he was truly INSPIRED to write, and the days he had to MAKE HIMSELF DO SO. He just did the work. Thanks for your great comment.

    • EJ Heijnis

      And I think that is such an important thing to remember! Those moments when the words come faster than you can type and you’re convinced Shakespeare’s got nothing on you are so rare and far between (at least for me!), we’d never get anything done if that’s the only time we’d allow ourselves to write. I’m going to be putting words on the page, and if they suck, that’s nobody’s business but mine. And I’m totally cool with it.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Rock on, EJ. I want to be you when I grow up! 🙂

  12. BreeL

    Writing, being a career I’m willing to give a shot at, is the hive of all my fears. At times, it gets overwhelming. To pick the greatest in a thousand fears is impossible, but I guess it can be narrowed down by which ones appear most often in my mind.

    Probably for one thing is whether or not I have a good decision-making judge in me. I believe in all creative works such as art, film, writing, and etc., you always end up making small and big decisions that ultimately create the finished work. It’s along those lines of if I have what it takes, and it kills me. It’s those small decisions like ” What kind of name should I give this character” or ” How should the plot go” or ” Should I add that scene” types of questions that needs to be answered in order to make it happen.

    You kind of need that gut instinct creativeness. I hope in time, I will have it. I just wanted to let it out.

  13. Doug Schenek

    I’m at the point in my story where I have ideas to further along the plot but I can’t seem to flow the dialogue and put it down on paper. I guess one of my fears is that might story is too cliched. I’m thinking of collaborating with another writer but I don’t know where to start.

  14. Chloee

    The words flew from my pen dripping onto the the blank piece of paper soon the clean space of white was overtaken with the inky words the twirled around on it. I wrote flying over from one word to the next barley pausing to stop and think. The ideas gushed out of me and into the paper.

    I sat stone still concentrating on how to finish. I was almost done with the last sentence when I stopped. Reading over what I wrote I gritted my teeth.

    “Garbge!” I bellowed.

    I tossed the papers in the air and sat down in the middle of the floor. The papers fell onto the floor like snowflakes. Their rustling was taunting and teasing to me as I tried to figure out how to not make it seem so poorly written.

    I could hear the gears in my mind turning yet couldn’t seem to figure how to. I finally gave up and stuffed the papers in a folder marked. “Undone” in there were many more unfinished novels collecting dust.

  15. 709writer

    You’re absolutely right: the only antidote to fear is action. Just like in martial arts, in sparring, if you’re afraid, take action. Go for it anyway. You may get hit, but you may score your point!

  16. EndlessExposition

    I’m writing a murder mystery and I’m very afraid that I don’t have the talent for it. So far it’s going ok, but I still worry. I also worry about no one reading my stories or caring. For me there’s no point to writing and creating if I can’t share it.

    • 709writer

      Hey, you’ve got this! You’re a great writer. You just have to trust yourself and push forward! : )

  17. Sherrey Meyer

    WOW! I feel better just reading this post, and yet I know my two fears: my inner critic and whether or not I can build an audience to read my book. Most days I feel overwhelmed by how much there is to read and learn about building platforms, email lists, newsletters, this software program vs. this one, and on and on. I don’t have time for all that, and that’s when the inner critic begins hounding and the fears escalate.

    I was a smart kid growing up — straight As and honor roll, honor society in high school and college, Dean’s list in college and more. I worked over 35+ years as a successful administrative legal assistant to a high-powered partner, and not only made him look good, I began to get compliments on my work from attorneys outside our office and judges. Not once did I feel the fear I experience as a writer. Is it because I started writing later in life (62 when I retired in 2006), or is it the fact that the topic of my memoir in progress is the mother who criticized everything I did growing up? Probably.

    Yet, somehow, I have a strong will and determination plus a fantastic husband who keeps encouraging me at every turn. I will get this book published, my platform built, my community gathered up, and I’ll be giving the finger to Old Man Fear all the way! Thanks for the encouragement and post!

  18. Karen R

    In college, fear really got the best of me as a creative writing major. When the due dates for my short stories neared, I’d get this lump in my chest. It felt like a pill stuck in my throat — only lower. And no matter what I tried, nothing helped. Only after the deadlines passed would the lump dissipate. But often fear/perfectionism dominated me to the point that I wouldn’t even submit my stories.

    I told myself writing was not for me. I walked away from it (and college). But it was always there in the back of my mind. And today the desire to write is strong. Many ideas have come to me. Characters speak to me. But to be that vessel through which their words flow frightens me. This article came at just the right time. I’m going to make another run for it. Thank you much.

  19. rcovian

    I think your post is amazing and spot on. My wife is also immersed in this process of writing, I have seen countless times how she deals with all the things you mentioned. And is because of this that now I realize how hard it is to get published. To help my wife confront her fears and also to confront my own fears (not writing related so far :)), we are developing a website. Since we are just beginning we are happy for any feedback we can get. The website is not yet open to the public and is by invitation only. Ill be more than happy if you can share some feedback with me since is obvious that you are very involved in all the writing stuff. If you are interested let me know and I’ll be glad to give you an invitation code.
    Good luck with your novel.

  20. Bubblegum710

    I fear that my writing is too boring and not lively. Whenever i write, it feels like my writing style is the same as i was when i was a 6th grader. It’s rigid, with no flow and liveliness. When i read books i become very jealous because they’re writing is so clear and comprehensive in comparison to mine. I don’t even know why i chose to post a comment here. I usually don’t have fears, except the usual phobias. But i truly am terrified of writing as a high school student. I have a very tough English teacher and i don’t want to fail that class. And i’m so confused with commas, semicolons, and colons; i don’t know when to use them when i write ironically. Writing is the only way for me to clearly voice my thoughts but when i try reflecting onto paper they never turn out as i want it to. Even when i’m texting friends, the conversation is so dull. It feels like i’m just not as creative a person as my mind is.

  21. Eliese

    This post is fantastic. Thanks!

  22. freja

    I found out lately the best way to give fear up is to write about it but I do it in a fictional way. At first I was scared to do it, but then I realized it was so much fun. I know there’s probably no one that will care about the story that I wrote while describing my fear (it was actually an horror story). But I don’t care. I think the secret is to have fun with your fear no matter what kind of story you might be telling.

  23. Larry Kort

    Why is it that some writers cannot express themselves without being crude. Is it because you don’t have a good enough knowledge of the English language?

  24. Rueroux

    Not my biggest fear, but one I’ve never seen addressed: I’m terrified to write things in the horror/psychological horror/murder mystery genres even though I really enjoy plotting out convoluted mysteries and I happen to be quite good at the shock value aspect. I’m horrified at the thought of the kinds of things I want to write being recreated by some nut-job out in the real world. I know it’s a strange fear to have because it’s just fiction right? It’s entertainment and social commentary, and most people have the morality not to commit such atrocities, don’t they? I’m not so sure about that. I know I’m not responsible for anyone else’s actions, but do I really want to contribute to the negativity? I love these stories even if they are fucked up, is my love enough to make it ok to bring them into the world? Are my intentions as the author justification enough to take the chance?

  25. Missoma Kundi (MsMissy)

    I know this is an old post, but I’m so glad I stumbled upon it because it is just what I needed to see and hear. I have just finished my manuscript for my first novel and I’m currently looking for agents and researching their query letter submission styles, and the fear is rushing in. I look at the sample queries and think that I can’t possibly create a query that’s as convincing enough because my story is garbage, that my story is for sure not going to be accepted because it is not exactly what the agent is looking for, that this entire process is going to be more arduous than I thought, etc., etc. But as you said, I have to kick this fear in the butt. I’m going to try your journaling techniques, however, what also works for me is to look back at all that I’ve accomplished in my life so far and to tell myself that if I could accomplish those things, then I can do the same regarding this book.
    Once again, thank you for this post!



  1. 5 Facts about Fear for Writers - […] another Write Pracitce post that gives more specifics on how to conquer […]
  2. The 3 Most Important Times to Keep Writing - […] drawn to the dark side of creativity. The fears and phobias we let shut our writing down. I wasted too…

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