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.
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!