• Conquer Your Fear of Writing . . . By Writing

    Posted Posted by Justine Duhr in Strategies     Comments 21 comments

    Fear of WritingThere’s a lot of talk out there about how to write better by mastering the essential elements of craft like plot, dialogue, and descriptive detail. These conversations are important. We should never stop learning.

    But what about the crucial step that must come first? Before writing better, faster, stronger, there is being able to write at all.

    WriteByNighter Lipehadah I. wrote in with this problem:

    “I want to write, but don’t even know what to write, i don’t know which kind of novel will interest my audience, how to start or what to write about.”

    I’m going to give it to you straight, Lipehadah. What I hear in your email is a whole lot of fear: fear of the unknown, fear of the reception of your work, fear of writing itself. The desire to write is there but the fear, the what-ifs, are overshadowing it.

    What if you choose weak subject matter or plot devices or characters? What if once you write the novel no one likes it? Worse than that, what if once you write the novel *you* don’t like it?

    These are very real questions, very common questions for first-time writers especially, and as luck would have it just the kind of questions that fear feeds off of, growing stronger as you dot each question mark that keeps you from writing.

    Here’s the thing: writing is scary and it’s hard. It takes guts to share your inner life, to put your deepest thoughts, feelings and visions on the page for all to see. It takes work to mold that inner life into a shape that speaks, not only to you, but also to the world at large.

    Here’s what brave people do with things that are scary and hard: we face them, and eventually, we master them. It won’t be easy, of course, and obstacles will certainly pop up along the way, but you’ll handle them. You’ll know you can because you will have already handled your fear, which is in many ways the greatest obstacle of all.

    So be brave, Lipehadah. Keep that fear of writing at bay by proving it wrong. Prove it wrong by writing. When those pesky questions pull at you—and they will—write them down on a piece of scrap paper, then promptly crumple them up and throw them away. Remember, you don’t need them, but your fear does.

    I do not recommend delaying. There will never be the perfect time to start writing.

    I take that back; the perfect time is now. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and begin. Right now.

    As for where to begin, this tried-and-true first line will never steer you wrong: “Once upon a time . . .”

    How about you, WriteByNighters? What about writing scares you most? What methods do you use to keep your fear of writing at bay? Let me know in the comments below.

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    21 Comments to “Conquer Your Fear of Writing . . . By Writing”

    • Justine:

      I enjoyed reading this bog very much and have had some of those same fears, as I’m sure most writers have had from time to time. I definitely related to your post and then got up and sat at my desk and started back in on the editing of my upcoming debut novel.

      I would like permission to repost your blog on my blog site next week. I post a blog on writing murder mysteries and is posted each Wednesday. The site is: jamesjmurray.wordpress.com

      Thanks – and let me know if permission is possible.

      James (jim) Murray

      • Hi Jim,

        Thanks so much for your kind words about the post. I’m glad you liked it and *thrilled* that it inspired you to work on your novel. Every moment you devote to those pages is a moment closer to completion, and all of those small moments do add up!

        As for your blog, we don’t allow reposting but please feel free to link from your blog to the post here on WBN’s site. We’d really appreciate that.

        Thanks again, Jim. Happy writing!

    • I think my biggest fear is that whatever I write won’t be good enough. Keeping that inner critic at bay is one of the hardest things to do and I’m sure many writers have that problem. The knack is probably to simply let go of the fear, write what you want and be happy that you’ve done it. All easier said than done.

      • You hit the nail on the head, Jivan. Silencing the internal editor is one of the most difficult challenges in the fight against fear, and also one of the most rewarding. Shutting him/her up is doable but it takes practice.

        Try this the next time your internal editor refuses to zip his/her lip:

        Keep a piece of paper next to you while you’re writing. Every time your internal editor speaks to you, stop and record on the paper what he/she says. This will allow you to exorcise the negative thoughts rather than harp on them.

        Give it a shot and let me know how it goes, okay?

    • The only way to write is to begin, and the only way to do it exceedingly well is to apply the 10,000 hour rule. There is no short cut. Even if you have the raw talent, you have to sharpen your skills through the actual practice of writing. You have given great advice, Justin. As usual.

      • Thanks, Joyce. You’re right: there’s no way through it but to do it. Butt in the chair, people, butt in the chair!

    • Writing is my escape from all the frustrations I’m facing with failing health. I’m 74 years old and have been struggling to finish my book before my life is over. My advice to the young is to start now. The more you write, the more you will learn, and the quicker you will get that novel finished. Good luck.

      • Absolutely, Nell. What you describe is the physics of writing. Writing begets writing; pages yield more pages. Writing can’t tell time. It’s never too early or too late. The time is now. Devote yourself to it and you *will* finish your book. Onwards!

      • Hi . I just want to ask you how did you start writing for the first time and what you do you write about .
        Thank you .

        • I honestly can’t remember! It was so long ago. I wish I had a better answer for you . . . alas.

          What about you, Nell? You, Taki?

          • I used to write just thoughts . and then i decided to write a short story . it was the story that i have sent to you via Email . it was a love story . now i am trying to write two short stories the fist is about philosophy and the second is a fiction on .

            • Fantastic. Keep it up, Taki. The more you write, the more manageable writing will feel.

    • The novice, inexperienced, or non-careerist writer works with a great vantage in his/her favor: you are unknown and therefore no one knows–much less cares about–what you are writing. I realize this sounds like a lonely place, but it is also liberating. I followed this path for five years before deciding to submit my work anywhere. I wrote everyday for long stretches, sometimes getting up in the middle of the night because ideas, words, sentences and whole paragraphs came to me with such insistence that I couldn’t ignore them. Don’t ignore what your mind brings to the fore. Listen to yourself. Pay attention to your conscious, and even subconscious, thoughts. That’s what I learned.

      So what should you write about? I simply found that I could write about whatever I want. No boundaries. No excuses. No holding back. Of course, if you follow this path over a long period, you should be prepared to do two things: first, once you’ve breached the boundaries, you’ll have to find them again by rewriting and rewriting and editing until you can quote your own work verbatim; secondly, once you’ve honed your writing, you’ll have to decide whether to keep the manuscript locked away in a desk drawer or not, which is just another boundary that you control. The decision to submit or not is, potentially, a scary prospect. But it’s also a lovely prospect, and one that I wouldn’t dare miss out on.

      • Thank you so much, Martin, for your thoughtful response. I appreciate especially your emphasis on the writing process being in the writer’s hands. This can absolutely be liberating, as you suggest, but can also simultaneously work against you: “It’s all up to me!” versus “It’s all up to *me*? (Gulp.)” These conflicting feelings are totally natural, a fact which unfortunately doesn’t make them any more comfortable.

        Listen to your instincts, yes, and above all, be brave!

    • I really appreciate this, it is really helpful, what i want to add is that fear from the unknown may destroy the will of writing, it has been said that Only the unknown frightens men. But once a man has faced the unknown, that terror becomes the known.
      thank you so much .

      • That’s right, Taki. Nothing to fear but fear itself . . . although it rarely feels this way!

    • […] we gave some tips on how to conquer your fear of writing. (Answer: By writing!) But writing itself is only half the battle–maybe even less than half. […]

    • I find having a solid outline helps me keep the inner-critic at bay. Also, I rarely look back at what I’ve written. I find that when I do look back, I instantly begin editing and before I realize it my thoughts turn negative and instead of moving forward I’m trapped inside of what I’ve already written, convinced it’s not good enough. But with a strong outline I know my story beats and I can blaze forward and leave the editing and self-recrimination for later during the rewriting phase.

      So, that’s what helps me. Oh, and booze, just enough to lower my inhibitions.

      • It’s interesting, Casey: I’ve met writers like you who do really well with outlines and just as many who feel trapped by them. Writing is such an individual experience, so there’s no one method that will work for everyone. For that reason, I always recommend that you do what works for you. Listen to advice, sure, but in the end, your solution will be yours and yours alone.

        Re: “trapped inside of what I’ve already written,” really well put!

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