Do you wrestle with fear of writing?
Maanya posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Hey! I was wondering how to get over the fear of writing. What I mean is that I have a great idea for a book, but I’m just terrified of writing it, let alone letting the world know. Are there any tips? Thank you for your time..
Randy sez: I’m surprised nobody has ever asked a question like this on my blog. (At least not that I can recall.) Because I’d bet this is a problem for a lot of writers. I’ve certainly had to face down my own fears many times in the past.
I wish I had a super simple answer, but I don’t. This question is above my pay grade. What I can do is give my first thoughts on this, and then I’ll throw it open to my readers to see what insights they can give.
First Question: What are You Actually Afraid of?
I don’t think Maanya is afraid of the actual act of writing. I suspect the fear is about something that goes along with writing. Here are a few things a writer might be afraid of:
- Maybe I’ll agree to a a deadline and then miss it.
- Maybe my writing will be awful.
- Maybe people will hate my writing.
- Maybe I’ll get really horrible reviews.
- Maybe my book won’t sell and I’ll wind up having wasted a lot of time.
- Maybe _______________ (fill in the blank with your own fears).
Second Question: Is it a Rational Fear or an Emotive Fear?
The second thing to ask is whether there’s actually a reason why you should be afraid.
If you live in a place where tigers roam around freely and if there’s a good chance you might actually run into a tiger, then you have good reason to be afraid of tigers. That’s a rational fear.
If there is essentially no chance that you’ll ever run into a tiger, and you still live in constant fear that you’ll be eaten by a tiger, that’s an emotive fear.
Let’s be clear that fear is real, no matter what’s causing it. Even if you know that your fear is not rational, it won’t just magically go away. It feels the same, either way. Fear is fear.
But it’s still useful to know if your fear is rational or emotive, because that gives you a clue on how to deal with it.
Dealing With Rational Fears
If your fear is rational, then you can deal with it rationally. You can ask yourself questions like these:
- How likely is it that the thing I fear will actually happen? Are the chances one in two? Or one in a million?
- Can I make a plan to make sure it won’t happen? Or at least make it much less likely to happen?
- If it does happen, will it really be so awful? Do other people live with it? Can I live with it?
I always procrastinate before blogging (or sending my e-zine or posting a new book to be published).
I’m afraid it won’t be my best work and people will hate it. And that’s a rational fear, because every writer has been slammed for something they wrote. I have in the past. I know I will in the future.
I deal with that by asking myself: “Is this the best work I can do today?” (I don’t ask if it’s the best work I’ve ever done in my life. By definition, that only happens once in my life. I ask if it’s the best I can do on this particular day.)
If the answer is no, then I rewrite it until it’s the best I can do today. And then I send it out. I remind myself that J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling and Stephen King all have received scathing reviews, and it didn’t kill them. I’m not in their league, so I’m guaranteed to get scathing reviews too, many times. I won’t enjoy them, but they won’t kill me. (And I won’t go out of my way to find them either. If somebody puts rat poison in your spaghetti, you don’t have to eat it.)
Dealing With Emotive Fears
I’m not an expert on this, but I don’t think you can deal with emotive fears by rational self-talk. I’ve had my share of those in the past, like everybody. I couldn’t solve them by myself.
To get specific, I used to have quite a lot of travel anxiety. And I had extreme, extreme, EXTREME fear of public speaking. Those are very inconvenient fears to have when you travel to lots of conferences where you then get up in public and teach. And it’s no picnic to go to an awards ceremony when you’re more afraid of winning than losing (because if you win, you have to go up front to accept your award).
I lived with those fears for several years and they didn’t get any better. They weren’t rational fears, so rational self-talk didn’t help. They were emotive fears.
Eventually, I found a good counsellor and we spent several weeks dealing with those fears.
And we kicked those fears to the curb. I won’t say they’re dead. They’re still out there, lurking, but they don’t have a home in my heart anymore. I’m very comfortable traveling now. I’m very comfortable speaking in public.
What Do My Loyal Blog Readers Think?
I’ve said all I can on this subject, so now it’s time to ask my Loyal Blog Readers. What do you think? What would you tell Maanya? How have you dealt with fear of writing in the past? Or other fears?
Got a Question for My Blog?
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer the ones I can, but no guarantees. There are only so many hours in the day.