Writing Advice ~ Overcoming Fear

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Overcoming fear

So, a few months back I went to a 1-day Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership event. It was a motivational class for people who wanted to learn more about owning their own business. But I figured it probably applied to writing, too, since working on a book is usually a solitary event, no set hours, no boss looking over your shoulder and telling you to write more.

One of the first things he talked about is why people don’t following their dreams: simple fear. Fear of opposition, yes. Fear of failure, sure. But also fear of success, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of other people’s opinions. As you already probably know, fear will paralyze you. You won’t write. Maybe you’ll feel guilty about that & beat yourself up, but still you won’t write.

Here’s what Dave suggested: Keep moving forward even if it’s only in bite-sized chunks. Here’s what I say: If you keep making the decision to write, to show up every day and work, even if it’s only a sentence or a paragraph at a time, eventually the fear will lessen and will probably subside altogether. You’ll find yourself writing for longer and longer stretches. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself looking forward to sitting down and working. Eventually, you may even miss hanging out with the characters even if they’re only real in your head.

He also talked about looking at options and the worst-case scenario. So what’s the worst thing that can happen if you spend an hour working on your book (you had fun, you learned something, you wasted your time)? Okay, so what options do you have if you think your writing stinks (hire an editor, take a writing class, join a writing group for feedback)? What’s the worst thing that could happen once your book is done (you don’t find an agent, you do find an agent, critics hate it, critics love it & you have to come up with something just as brilliant the next time around)? What options do you have if you can’t get it published (self-publish, put it in a drawer & work on another to hone your craft, give it as a gift to your friends/family). Dave’s point was that if you take the time to make a list of your fears, walk through what could (not will) happen & have a list of options available so you don’t feel trapped/stuck, you can nearly get rid of all fear.

Hope this helps you. Happy writing!

23 Responses to "Writing Advice ~ Overcoming Fear"
  1. Racheal McGillivary says:

    Great article! This is actually me! I am this way when I write, but I have done this method, and slowly worked my way into writing my first novel, and it was such a relief. But now, I am terrified of writing the next one, because, yes, it has to be better! I feel stressed, and scared, but I still haven’t stopped. I am determined!

    • Hi Racheal! Thanks! Slow always works great for me, too. I love this: “I feel stressed, and scared, but I still haven’t stopped. I am determined!” Not the stressed & scared part, but that you haven’t stopped and you’re determined. 🙂

  2. Oh this blog sure hits home! I’m dealing with a lot of fear right now because I basically didn’t write anything for three years after my car accident. About two years into my recovery I started wondering if I’d lost whatever it takes to write, and that just kind of snowballed. Based on recent feedback, I KNOW that I haven’t, but I still struggle against that little voice in the back of my head. It’s getting harder to hear though. And if it doesn’t shut up completely soon, I may have to resort to using duct tape. But neither fear, or the voice, is going to stop me from doing what I love. And I do love writing.

    Now I’m about to work on that list you mentioned. 🙂

    • Hi Kristy! Good for you, darlin’. I’m sorry to hear you were in a car accident, but I can tell you from experience that writing is like riding a bike, you never lose what it takes to do it. You might be rusty, but you never lose it. I barely wrote a thing for nearly a year after my second child was born and once I started writing again, it came back quickly. Have faith, sister. And write that list! 🙂

  3. Jade says:

    I can really relate to the fear, since finishing my degree which was partly in creative writing, I found it hard to stay motivated, but now I just keep at it. Even if I write just 500 words a day I know that I’ll complete this novel, currently at 60,000 words so I’m getting there. It’s even better when I read it back and think to myself hey this is actually pretty good. haha

    Great blog post!

    • Hi Jade! Thanks! I know that, sadly, a lot of people get their degree & then don’t keep writing. Good for you, truly, that you’re keeping at it, even if it’s only 500 words a day. I love this: “It’s even better when I read it back and think to myself hey this is actually pretty good.” Amen to that! 🙂

  4. Thank you for this… fear of the unknown is always daunting. I find that fear holds me back more than I ever realized, and I’m learning to share bits of my writing, be honest with it, and to have more fun… will continue to think about the worst that could happen, because I’m sure that is not as bad as the self doubt!

    • Hi Courtney! Your comment “fear of the unknown is always daunting & share bits of my writing” reminded me of something Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” And I wholeheartedly agree with you, have more fun! 🙂

  5. As much as I like to write, it’s often an apprehensive experience when I sit down to work on something “serious” for whatever reason, so I like to read stuff about fear and how it relates to writing. Good post 🙂

    • Hi Mike! *waves* Sometimes it’s the same for me, apprehensive, especially when I’m going to work on something “serious” like a final draft. I always have to come back to that advice: keep moving forward. 🙂

  6. Good post Shelli. Looks like the bottom line is, don’t bury your head in the sand. If something isn’t right, take positive measures to correct that.

    I think most of us feel a twinge of fear from time to time. We must overcome.

  7. Alice Huskisson says:

    Fabulous blog article… thanks! I’ve been slacking a bit, mainly due to … FEAR! You’ve inspired me – I’d best crack on :).

    Alice. X

  8. David Sanford says:

    Thanks for this helpful article on overcoming fear, which definitely resonates with me having helped successful individuals publish their first books more than 100 times in the past decade.

    Along the way I have worked with some of the most interesting and successful people in the world. You may be an entertainer taking home $35,000 per hour. You may be a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. You may be a Wall Street corporate merger guru. Still, you have to understand, quickly recognize, and know how to defeat the top 5 professional fears. They are:
    1. The fear of silence
    2. The fear of sharing
    3. The fear of selling
    4. The twin fears of rejection and failure
    5. The fear of success

    Not surprisingly, most (not all) successful individuals initially assume they are the exception to the rule. “Fear? Who me? No way.”

    “No fear” isn’t just a Millennial motto for the adventurous. It’s a way of life. I know all this, yet yesterday I got hit with 1 of the 5 professional fears and responded 180 degrees opposite of what I know to do in such situations.

    I still believe “No fear” is a way of life, but it’s an imperfect way. Every time we give into fear, we need to humbly acknowledge it, remind ourselves what to do next time, and then move toward that “next time” as quickly as possible.

    –David Sanford

    • Hi David!

      Thanks so much for sharing the top 5 professional fears & for sharing that even successful people still have to deal with them. I’m reading the book, Daring Greatly, & in it Brene Brown talks about the fear of vulnerability as being a major cause of people not reaching for the life they want. You’re so right that the fear doesn’t go away, but that you need to move through it. Courage isn’t fearlessness; it’s acknowledging the fear and moving forward anyway. And I love what you say about moving toward “next time” as quickly as possible; that’s such good advice so that people don’t get stuck in the past but instead move forward. 🙂

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