I’m excited about today’s topic, because identifying my fears about writing has helped me make the biggest breakthrough in starting my career as an author. I hope by sharing my own experiences, you’ll be able to identify your own fears, the things that are holding you back, so you can start working through them too.
I could talk for days about my passion about writing, and the obstacles I’ve overcome to pursue writing in a head-on approach, instead of shying away and trying to pursue it through indirect routes. Since there’s so much to say on this, I’ll get started.
Fear and Writing: Before I decided to allow myself to pursue writing, I was already feeling overshadowed by doubt. I somehow had it in my head that it was too late to start writing. I thought to have a career as an author, I had to start right out of college. Looking back, I wonder how old I thought I was, I’m decades away from retiring, so why did I think I was too old? Even if I was retired, why would I think I was too old? Fear.
When I started writing, I realized how young I was, and how much I had to learn. Which led to my next fear: Writer’s Block. There are some authors who refuse to acknowledge writer’s block. They say it doesn’t exist. When I started out, I thought there was only one type of writer’s block. The kind where your mind goes blank and you can’t come up with a single idea to write about. What I found was that there are about 50 different types of writer’s block, okay, so I’m not sure if there are 50, but I know there are a lot more than one.
Here are just a few that plagued me:
- Fear of messing up the story.
- Fear of putting in a lot of hard work and getting it rejected.
- Fear of not being good enough and having my lifelong dream of writing come tumbling down around me.
- Fear of people asking how my writing is going, and having nothing new to report.
- Fear that there were already amazing writers being published in the world.
- Fear that it felt like everyone was trying to write and get published, so how would there be room for me?
Every single type was as effective at keeping me from writing as the traditional form of writer’s block. And the keyword starting each type of writer’s block is fear.
If there is one point I want to get across in this post, it’s this: Fear is not based in reality. I can give you tips on how to work through each scenario I’ve listed above, or that I will list below, but the truth of the matter is that all you need to do is recognize that what’s limiting you is fear and then do exactly what the fear is trying to prevent you from achieving.
Fear and Publishing: The goal of writing is often to have the piece published. Which is amusing if you think about how many writers are shy about sharing their work. How many people do you know who write who won’t let you read their work until it’s finished? And even then, a lot of writers don’t want to show anyone what they’ve written. It’s a fear of rejection, which is the biggest obstacle when seeking to get your work published.
Here’s something to wrap your mind around now, if your desire is to publish your work: Everyone gets rejected. Accept it and expect it. The thing is rejection, isn’t usually about you or your work. Literary magazines, agents, and publishers are usually looking for a specific type of work. Your work won’t always fall into the pocket of what they are looking for right at that moment. This doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good. You just haven’t found the right fit for your piece yet. If you get to a point where you have dozens upon dozens of rejections, and still no nibble on your manuscript, reexamining your editing process or your submission strategy may be in order. Otherwise, relax. It’s a long road to success, but this industry favors the persistent.
Fear of Supporting: One of the greatest assets writers can provide to other people, especially other aspiring writers, is to share their journey and what they’ve learned. Sometimes as I sit to write a post, doubt creeps in asking, “Who am I to teach other’s about writing? I’m just beginning.” But the truth is, I’m not just beginning. Writing has been a part of me since I fell in love with it in second grade. It’s part of who I am, not just something that I do. What I’m new to, is sharing my journey publicly. To me, that’s very scary. But these things I’ve learned over the years, I don’t want to secret them away and keep them for myself. I want to share what I’ve discovered in hopes of inspiring other people and helping them on their journey.
I frequently undermine my own achievements, but I work to change my thinking, because if I let that fear stay put, I not only hinder my writing and growth, but I deprive myself from the joy of helping other writers from benefiting from my journey. Writers face the same struggles — the same self-doubt, inner critic, and high expectations. The trick is recognizing the fear, and then pushing ahead.
Don’t let yourself be scared by other writers, by their success, or achievements, or where they are in their journey. Nothing good comes from comparing yourself to someone else. It’s defeating. But I can tell you why you want to support and encourage other writers. Writers read, possibly more than any other group of people. So the people you want to reach with your writing are likely writers themselves. So by growing and supporting the writing community, you’re helping develop a pool of your own potential readers. Success will lead to more success.
In my journey, I’m getting pretty good at identifying when I’m not pursuing my passion straight on. I can recognize my fear. It still takes me a little bit to wrap my mind around the solution and then start moving forward but I’m talking about a matter of a few days, compared to weeks, months, or years that I wasted before. One of the great things about where I’m at now is that I have so many writing projects that I’m currently working on, including blogging, editing, writing short stories, poems, novels, etc. that if I get stuck in one area, I can work on something else while my mind works through a solution on the area that has me stalled on another project.
Growth: All this leads to growth. I’ve faced more fears, and grown faster in my writing within the last four months than any other period in the last three-and-a-half years. It’s been a longer journey than three-and-a-half years, but that’s when I fully committed myself to writing fiction. Each challenge that I’ve faced and overcome has led me to try something else. From starting this website, to publishing my first poem, which led me to try to write new poems. Meeting the challenge of reading my work out loud led me to providing audio clips with the stories and poems I’ve published on this site. Submitting my work to literary magazines has led to getting eight pieces accepted since I started this website in September. Getting accepted has helped me cope with the rejections, and most importantly the whole process has led me to write more and consistently submit my work for consideration. All of this is in support of a novel that I’m in the early stages of editing. It’s all pushing me forward and helping me grow.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have fear about writing. That’s the interesting thing about having a creative mind, it’s always coming up with new things to be afraid of. Fear trips me up. I fall. Hard. All the time. Weekly. Sometimes daily. But I get back up.
This is the result of recognizing fear, and refusing to let it stop me.