How to overcome your fears around writing

Is fear the reason you are not writing?

Are you letting fear bully you out of writing?

As someone who spent way too long waiting to write or struggling to write my biggest breakthrough came when I acknowledged my fears.

I want to help you understand how fear could be affecting your writing

Fear of Success

It took me a long time to realise that I was afraid of success. It was a deeply hidden fear, but I was afraid that if I did succeed in writing a great first book, then people would expect more and better. And I was afraid I might not be able to deliver. I did not want to become a one hit wonder. I did not want to succeed without knowing how I did it or be unable to replicate it. 

Fear of other people’s Judgement

I was also afraid of what people would think. In Ireland, one of the insults that can be said about you is that you ‘have notions’. Ideas beyond your station. That you are getting above yourself. I let fear of judgement from other people stop me. Even though I was doing creative writing as part of my degree I could still keep it private. I did not tell many people at all. I have spoken before in another blog post about how wanting to write fantasy was one of the reasons why I did not tell people I wanted to write because fantasy is often seen as a frivolous genre to write in.

Fear of lack of knowledge

Fear of not knowing enough is a common writing fear. I think this is not helped by insecure writers who are afraid of losing readers if more people start writing. Often, the advice is to give up now, you will never earn a living from it. It’s so hard to find an agent, get a publishing deal etc. There are more and more courses about how to write. And a course can definitely help. But if you have been writing already yourself on your own you will get a lot more benefit from doing a course than if you have done no writing.

Fighting back against the fear

I started to collect quotes on pinterest, but only the helpful ones. If I didn’t like them or they didn’t feel relevant to me I did not put them into my collection. I listened to various podcasts such as Writing Excuses and The Creative Penn.

Eventually, through exposure to positive, supportive voices, I began to sit down and start trying. Even though they were digital and not said to me personally it still helped.

When I started, I realised how much I enjoyed it. I started by just writing down different ideas. It was a struggle to write consistently and I was not developing any of my ideas. But I still felt better after I had been writing.

I could now recognise that the need to write made it worth battling through my fears. Journaling helped me to understand what my fears were. Writing them down on the page took a lot of the strength out of them.

Exposure Therapy

I was reading Stephen King’s On Writing around this time. He shares that every time he got a rejection in the post he would stick it on a nail on the wall. He got so many rejections that the nail fell off the wall with the weight of the paper. So I decided that one of the reasons I did not feel like a writer was because I had not been rejected yet. I have given myself the challenge of getting 150 rejections. The quickest way to get this many rejections is by submitting short stories to magazines. I enjoy writing short stories and the assignments that I had submitted during my degree were all short stories.

So I started to submit. And I learned a lot about how to present the story for submission. What the different submission guidelines are for the different magazines. When it comes to fantasy there is a wide choice of speculative fiction magazines. And a lot of them will pay if they choose your story.

The first magazine I submitted to is known for its very fast turnaround time so I was not waiting long. They also publish high quality writers so the chances of me ever being accepted were not high. But I was not expecting to be accepted. Getting rejected was disappointed but also freeing. I had faced one of my fears and I was still alive.

My husband did not know that I was submitting, so I did not have to face my fear of being judged at the same time as facing my fear of rejection. I only have one published story so far and I am still a long way away from my goal of 150. Last year my goal was to submit to 6 different magazines because I wanted to spend time working on a novel. I am comfortable with short stories so I need to move onto the next thing that I am uncomfortable with.

Action Steps

Identify your fears – write them down. Can you identify where they came from? Or how old they are? Is it a fear your 10 year old self had because of a comment by a teacher when you were writing a story for the very first time? Is your fear still relevant now?

Find encouraging voices – podcasts, quotes, author biographies that will help you to see that other writers also struggle.

Now what action can you take to challenge these fears – writing down an idea for a story? Trying out a new writing style? Or even just giving yourself time to sit down and write? This is known as exposure therapy and is used to help people overcome fears and move past them.

Which is bigger? Your fear or your need to write?

0 Comments on “How to overcome your fears around writing