When Writer Fear Strikes

woman's head in hands with frustration

You Are Not Alone

Every writer goes through fear at some point. That pit-in-the-stomach, I’m-not-good-enough, my-story-sucks, no-one-will-ever-read-this fear blasts strike all writers. Creativity rides the emotional rollercoaster. Creativity is risk taking. Yes, successful, multi-book authors have the same fears.

Self-Doubt Is The Number One Writer Fear

Blame it on your amygdala, part of your body’s alarm system. Located at the root of your brain the amygdala does everything it can—automatically—keep you safe. If there is risk, the amygdala sends out signals to keep your body safe. Creativity is risk. Fear will happen.

You’ll get fear-lessening signals of every kind.

  • My writing sucks.
  • That just-out-of-college and read 10 books editor who rewrote everything was right. My writing sucks.
  • My Mom/Sister/Uncle/Spouse/Best Friend hates it. No one will like it. I should quit now.

You’re a writer. You know what the fears are. They don’t go away. So, if you are a beginning writer, know that these fears are going to pop up. The key is to recognize the fears and calm them down.

Best-selling author Caroline Leavitt says in a recent interview on The Writer,

So you can’t listen to what people say. There will always be people telling you “you can’t do this,” or “I don’t like this.” There are so many writers who have gotten 80,000 rejections and then suddenly they sell a book and it’s a huge critical and commercial success. So you never know. Just keep writing.

Self-doubt manifests as self-censorship, so one of the best ways to calm that fear is to keep writing until you find your voice. That unique voice that makes a reader love what you write.
So, keep writing. Don’t get thrown off track. Focus on your current project and your long-term writing goals.

Fear of Rejection

One major element of writer fear is rejection. Just about anyone can trigger rejection fear. You can find yourself in a shutdown of getting your work out, even for help from professionals like editors. So, you can end up not sharing your work, even bits of it, with other people.

  • Other writers
  • Readers
  • Editors
  • Agents

On the one hand, bad reactions happen. I have writer friends who have received devastating comments from editors who didn’t understand their genre and terse rejection letters from agents. They found others and published their books with success.

One of the best ways to start combating this fear, is to join a local writer’s group. To start, find a mutually supportive group with fewer than ten people and make certain they are sympatico. Avoid groups with

  • An overbearing “leader”
  • Without group guidelines
  • A group the doesn’t follow the stated guidelines or allows members to captivate time

Don’t hesitate to leave if the group doesn’t fit.

The people in the group are also writers with the same fears. Every writer has fears.

Tweet: Every writer has fears.
Other writers understand your fears. You’ll discover that other writers are one of your best fear conquering connections.

So Many Fears

As if self-doubt and fear of rejection weren’t enough, writer and writing coach Jurgen Wolff has identified seven basic writer fears in his book Your Writing Coach:

  • Rejection
  • Inadequacy
  • Success
  • Exposing Yourself
  • Only One Book
  • Too Old to Write
  • Fear of Research

And, I’m sure you, as a writer, can add your personal list.

With so many fears lurking in your writer mind, it’s easy to succumb. Writers who succeed keep writing.

The Determination Antidote

Know that doubts are going to creep in. They never go away. But you can work to minimize the fear. The best antidote to writer fear is determination.

Author and writing coach Joanna Penn calls working on your work the “palette cleanser.” Get the taste of those fears out and work to find your writer voice by continuing to write. She talks about The Successful Author Mindset in a recent podcast. This is a great talk to bookmark so you can listen when those fears pop up.

Non-fiction author David Amerland has found his voice several times as he writes. He’s gone from marketing, to the semantic web, to SEO for business owners. And recently, inadvertently, found the spark for his new book The Sniper Mind: Eliminate Fear, Deal with Uncertainty, and Make Better Decisions while researching something else.

If that quote spurs you to determination, he has posted an entire page of fear conquering quotes. You can bookmark this page, too, for quick fear-fighting inspiration.

Get To It

The one action all of these successful writers recommend is to keep writing. I tell my writing clients the same thing.

Keep writing!
Zara Altair

Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Argolicus thinks he has retired, but he and his tutor, Nikolaos, are drawn into puzzles, politics, and murder.
She consults with a select group of writers as The Story Bodyguard.

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