6 Ways to Beat Writing Fear

Fear is a common emotion among ALL writers. We need to understand that writing fear is normal and very much a part of the process. Fear will come and go, strengthen and weaken, so you kind of have to accept it as part of the deal.

Normal, yes. Common as dirt, yes. Fear is essential when we need to make decisions about our physical or emotional safety, but when it starts to block our writing, that’s no good.

Writing fear created lots of trouble for me.

For too long, I allowed fear to step in my path and stop me from moving forward. Of course, I didn’t know it was fear. Or maybe I did but I disguised it in my own veil of denial:

I should probably wait to submit and research the Civil War one more time.

Maybe it would be better to get three more writers to give me feedback so I can be sure I’ve got a good story idea here.

I will only query agents whose names start with the letter ‘U’ and have an odd musical talent, like being able to play the piano with their toes.

If I flip a coin and it lands on ‘tails’ then I will put the draft away for three months. If the coin lands on ‘heads’ then I will put the draft away for 6 months.

Oh! There’s a writing conference coming up this summer. I really want to go. I will take the time between now and then to decide what to wear.

 

Basically, I made it really difficult for myself to just take a hit. I did everything I possibly could to avoid the fears of rejection by pretending I was taking my journey seriously.

Most of my writing journey has been a mountain of question marks—

Why am I doing this?

Should I quit again?

What else could I do?

What if I can’t make it?

What if I’m laughed at?

Am I a good enough writer?

Do I need to go on meds?

I know those questions are normal among many writers, creatives, anyone starting something new, anyone struggling. But lingering on questions like that, frankly, gets me really down. I hate feeling down. I’m a fairly lively and enthusiastic person, even if I am shy and introverted. I rally under the right conditions. (Did someone say pizza?)

When I finally woke up to see what I was doing to myself, I was shocked at how much I’d missed. I must have been color-coding all my writing guides when writers were learning about three-act structure. I guess I was organizing my folders of Little Darlings when vampires were the next hot thing to write about. People were learning how to write punchy sentences on Twitter while I was rewriting the rewrites of my rewrites.

Thankfully, I came to my senses before I started clipping writing articles and alphabetizing and cross-referencing them.

What are your writing fears? Are they severe enough that they stop you from making any forward progress on your writing journey? Read this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach to learn 6 ways you can beat your writing fears.

Fear is absolutely normal, and it comes in handy in certain circumstances, but it doesn’t have to rule decision-making in our creativity system. In my mission to overcome writing fear, I found 6 med-free methods that work like a charm and keep me in control of my journey.

6 Ways to Beat Writing Fear

1. Identify what the writing fear is about

What exactly has you spooked about writing? Is it revision? Sharing your work? Disapproval by your family? In your journal write down 3-5 possible solutions to help you push through that fear. You don’t have to put these solutions into action if you don’t want to—but knowing there ARE solutions helps undermine fear’s power over you. When you’re ready to act, you’ll have solutions in hand.

2. Keep your writing journey real

Focus on the tangibles and the concretes–what you know. Don’t get hung up on things that might go wrong, that might not work out. At some point, things will go wrong, and things won’t work out, but trying to foretell the future doesn’t do you any good. Today is just about writing. Developing a character. Meeting your daily word count. Researching vegetation in New Zealand. Focus on crafting the story and cross the bridge of problems when you get to it.

3. Talk to your writing team.

Your team is there to support you, cheer you on, and help you fight off the blues or the fear or the dread. All you need to get started is just one person who gets the creative life.

4. Where’s that confounded joy?

Joy should be the chief reason you’re writing. After all, if you don’t love doing the work then it will be easy to let the writing fears control you. Review the reasons you write, explore them in your journal to help remind yourself why you are truly here. Allow them to help you believe in your journey once more.

5. Writers are human, believe it or not.

Samuel Beckett said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Writers are human who have to learn in order to improve. We often have to try again and again and again before we get it right. Don’t make this about fear! Make it about experience.

6. Reward yourself.

Every time you sit down and pay attention to your writing, reward yourself. You are getting a job done, day by day. Pat yourself on the back, eat some chocolate, light a candle, pour yourself a glass of wine, eat pizza. You have stowed the writing fear while you worked, and you deserve a treat.

Do you struggle with writing fear? What are some methods you use to keep calm and write on?

Have a writerly day!

15 thoughts on “6 Ways to Beat Writing Fear”

  1. Fear is something that comes up every so often – that and doubt, which I suppose ultimately is the fear that we aren’t good enough. Fortunately it has never got me to the point we’re I’ve given up, but I can see how it might if I couldn’t work my way through it.

    • I’m so glad that fear hasn’t impacted you to the point where you would want to give up. I think that’s great! Yes, fear that we’re not good enough. It’s a big one. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I think we all face most, if not all, of your mountain of questions too. Some days they can really take away the drive to write. We just have to silence them best we can and get to work. I always feel better when I do, but sometimes it can seem pointless to even start.

  3. As a blogger I face your questions to a much lesser degree, but they still haunt me. Here are my answers. 😉

    Why am I doing this? Because I can.

    Should I quit again? No. Too difficult to start over from scratch. Just keep going.

    What else could I do? Dust the house, but that’s boring.

    What if I can’t make it? I’ll know that I tried.

    What if I’m laughed at? I don’t care if I am. Whatever, people.

    Am I a good enough writer? For blogging, definitely.

    Do I need to go on meds? Yes, but not for writing anxiety. More for eye strain.

  4. Yes, fear too easily takes hold of me. Fear of failure, fear that I’m nowhere near a good writer or storyteller, fear that others will laugh at my writing attempts. I try to remind myself that what matters is my enjoyment of the stories and characters, to have fun writing them even if no one else ever enjoys them.

    But then some wimpy/cranky/contrarian side of me says, “But why bother if no one else would read them? You can just keep the stories in your head.” Somehow, the “writerly” piece of me needs to get stronger.

    • I hear you!! That back and forth is dreadful. So true–why should we bother if no one else would read them??

      The thought that comes to mind, for me, is that I truly enjoy the process, the act of writing. I love learning about different ways we can make a story come alive. I love learning how to develop characters, how to tighten the plot, how to write across genres. All of that, while challenging, is fun. So that’s why I continue to write even though Eris (my IC) taunts me that no one will want to read it.

  5. Another wonderfully inspiring post Kate. Thanks for drawing out the insecurities in us writers and helping us to learn to get over our fears!
    P.S. I thought I subscribed to this new blog but my email notification takes me to the old blog page first. Is there a way you can find out if I’m already subscribed so I don’t subscribe twice. It’s happened to me with a few blogs I follow that I’m receiving duplicates and believe it or not, when I click on ‘unsubscribe’ for those duplicates, it won’t!

  6. Btw, my writing fear until I overcame it last fall (Yay!) was fear of rejection/fear of someone in the publishing world reading my work and thinking it was awful. That was the main hurdle I had to jump over to finally take that cleansing breath and submit to a few online literary and publishing magazines and the director of artistic programming at the local community theater (she was the first of all places and playwriting was not my first choice in writing, which lead to an informal reading of my two short plays there and then one of them performed at an Open Mic Night at their smaller theater on January 20). Once I did the latter, I submitted to the online places. And then I got notice that one of my short stories had made it, and I was one of the top twelve finalists. Still waiting to see/hear if I make it to the top two or three, but I’m just happy I made it in the top twelve because all twelve of us are featured on the website, and our stories will be in their anthology that will be out in a couple months. Very proud of myself for having gotten past my fears. 🙂 Thanks again for your encouraging post. 🙂

    • It’s all about stepping out of our comfort zones and taking baby steps! Congratulations! I think you found a hack, actually, and I may to write about this, but your experience reminds me of something I did to overcome fear a long time ago. Yes, good going and I hope you continue to grow as a writer!!

  7. I’d have to say that my biggest fear is dying before I achieve my goals. But at a deeper level, that translates into sadness. So what I focus on, instead, is writing the best stories I can, making them better through revision and study. And I also focus on my writing community and helping others achieve their goals of writing the best stories they can. Because we have no control over what happens to the stories when we’re done.

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