Halloween is a time to look at our writing fears head on—you don’t have to write horror stories for writing to be scary.
But you don’t feel scared, you might say. You feel a lot of things when it comes to your writing, but scared isn’t generally one of them.
Well, that’s just the thing. Fear dresses up as a lot of different feelings, hiding itself in disguises so that you won't recognize it for what it is.
But it's important that we learn to look behind theses masks and face the fear itself.
How to Face Your Writing Fears
Here are the four faces of writing fears, and what do to about them:
You’ve got an awesome story idea in your head that gets you excited, and you know it could be an excellent novel.
But there always seems to be something else to do. The dishes. The laundry. The list never ends. There’s always something keeping you from getting to the writing
What’s really going on here? It’s unlikely it’s really that urgent to get those dishes out of the sink.
The truth is, there’s a fear behind your procrastination that makes you put off getting started. Afraid of what? Likely, that it will be harder than you expect, that the idea you’ve come to love so much won’t pan out, and ultimately, that you won’t be able to finish.
How to take the fear down down:
Never forget—the one thing that will truly hold you back from finishing your manuscript is never starting it. Acknowledge that yes, it will be hard at times. But that’s okay. It’s part of the process.
Then, make a plan to set aside time on a regular basis to write. When 7-8 a.m. every morning is blocked out for writing, the dishes get done at 6:50 or 8:10. And the world goes right on spinning.
2. Writer’s Block
There you are. Just you and the computer screen, stuck in a gridlock. You write a word. You delete a word. Nothing you write is quite right.
Writer’s block. It’s one of the writer’s greatest nemeses, and a prime thief of creativity. But did you know that it’s rooted in fear?
It’s that little doubting voice inside of you latching onto your insecurity and using it like a megaphone.
How to take the fear down:
Recognize writer’s block for what it is—a fear of not being perfect. Then, remember that it’s okay not to be perfect. In fact, it’s okay to be terrible. But it’s not okay to stop writing!
Ignore the critical voice telling you to stop and just let those awful sentences out onto the page. You’ll go back and edit them later anyway. At some point, it will stop feeling so awful and you’ll hit a flow.
Your friend from writer’s group just scored a choice byline or publishing deal. You plaster on a smile and say congrats, but deep down it’s eating away at you. Why her? Where’s your opportunity? Jealously is a particularly ugly monster.
But it’s no secret that jealousy isn’t about the other person, or even that person’s good fortune. It’s about you, what you feel you’re due, and the fear that you won’t get it.
When it comes to writing, that tends to be a fear that you won’t get published, or reach a certain level of success.
How to take the fear down:
When you feel that green-eyed monster creeping up on you, it’s time to ask the hard questions. What is it about your friend’s success that has you so bent out of shape?
Owning up to your fear will help separate those feelings from your friend’s success. And even better, once you understand your fear, you can come up with a plan to make sure you reach your own goals.
4. Frenzied Inspiration
It’s 3 a.m. Your eyes sting and your head aches, and you’d do anything to conk out in bed … anything but stop writing, because you’ve gotten a wave of inspiration and you can’t stop until you’ve gotten it all out.
This may be stereotype for creatives, and for some, a badge of honor. But underneath the impulse of inspiration, the reason you torture yourself like this is rooted in fear. Fear that if you don’t let the muse have its way with you, it won’t come back.
How to take it down:
Stop letting your muse boss you around, and train it to work with you instead of against you. The best way to do this is to write on a regular schedule, which teaches your muse to show up on schedule, too.
And for those eureka moments, keep a notebook on you and take down your ideas. That way you can refer back to it in your next scheduled writing session.
Fears Have Many Faces
Just as we dress up in costumes at Halloween, our fears often disguise themselves, too.
It’s natural to have fears when it comes to your writing.
After all, writers make a business of pouring our heart out onto the page and sharing it with the world.
But don’t let these fears hold you back! When you encounter one of the four faces of writing fears, rip its mask away and face it head-on. Then, take it down and get back to the writing.
What about you? What is your greatest writing fear? How can you face it head-on so that it doesn’t sabotage your writing? Let me know in the comments section.