These ways to overcome fear of writing will increase your writing productivity and improve your chances of getting published.
Before the tips, a quip:
“When I’m scared – and I’m always scared when I have to face an audience, when I have to read a review, when I publish a book…then, I think of my grandfather,” says Isabel Allende. “My grandfather was this strong, tough Basque who would never bend….What would he do? Well, he would go ahead, close his eyes, and drive forward. You do it and the spirit that is within you….is there.”
Allende’s quotation is from Writers Dreaming, compiled by Naomi Epel. Click the book cover for more information about successful writers who dream about writing, and read on for eight ways to overcome fear of writing…
8 Ways to Overcome Fear of Writing
1. Stop comparing yourself to other writers. To overcome writing fears, don’t compare your skills, ideas, or past writing clips to others – especially successful published writers. It doesn’t matter if Allende has written books that receive international acclaim…once, she was an unpublished writer, too. It doesn’t matter if other writers are winning positions at About.com; what does matter is that you are living up to your own writing abilities and goals and dreams.
2. Read about writing. A lot. The more you read about it, the more familiar it’ll become, and the less scary it’ll be. Read about writing rejections, book proposals that were slashed by the editors, articles that were written and killed. To get over your fear of submitting articles and getting rejected, read how successful writers dealt with their own demons. Get comfortable with rejection – it’s a normal part of a writer’s life.
3. Take risks to write more and better, to get published. What’s the BIGGEST writing risk you could take? Don’t do it yet. What’s the littlest writing risk you could take? Do it! To overcome fear of writing, make a list of small, medium, and large writing risks. Then, start tackling them one by one. Or two by two. Take Allende’s grandfather’s advice, and “close your eyes.” Submit that article to the magazine or book proposal to the publisher – and hit the send button. Or go to the post office. Just do it.
4. Find a writing mentor. A writing mentor doesn’t have to be someone you have coffee with every week or who reviews your writing before you send it out. A mentor can be dead, or living halfway around the world, or someone you’ve never met. A writing mentor is someone you admire, who is where you want to be. To overcome your fear of writing, find out how your mentor achieved his or her goals. You don’t have to emulate your mentor, but you should be inspired, encouraged, and emboldened by him or her. If you’re looking for a mentor, read How to Find the Right Writing Mentor.
5. Show your writing to people. The more times your articles, books, or poems are critiqued, the better a writer you’ll become. When I first started writing for Reader’s Digest, I dreaded my editor’s inevitable call with changes to my articles. Now, I see how I can improve my writing skills. To overcome your fear of writing, ask readers to be honest. Is your writing confusing? Disjointed? Boring? Suck it up, fellow scribes. The only way to be a successful writer and overcome your fears is to apply valid criticism of your work.
6. Find ways to get your writing “out there.” The more you write, the easier it gets. If you don’t think you have anything to say or you’re not ready to go public, do Morning Pages every day like Julia Cameron suggests. If you’re not sure you can land a magazine assignment or book contract, start a blog. Or, apply to Suite101 – they’re hiring writers. Start smaller than that even, with your local paper (like me!) or your community newsletter.
7. Post your favorite writing quips and tips where you can see them. To overcome writing fears, don’t see a great writing quip and say “Hey! That’s a great writing quip!” and then forget about it. Post some of the writing quotations from published authors that resonate with you on your computer, bathroom mirror, or bulletin board. The quip doesn’t even have to be from a writer. Find something that encourages and motivates you as a writer, and look at it every day.
8. Take a writing course. Learning to be a successful writer is mostly trial and error, but those trials and errors can be eased by a good writing course. Learning how to write from a teacher will help you submit strong articles or book proposals, cope with getting rejected (because it happens all the time), and overcome your fear of writing.
Remember Isabel Allende’s grandfather. When that strong, tough Basque was scared, he would “go ahead, close his eyes, and drive forward.” You can do it, too!
I welcome your thoughts on these ways to overcome fear of writing below…