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 blast strikes all writers. Creativity rides an 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 in your brain, part of your body’s alarm system. Located at the root of your brain, the amygdala does everything it can—automatically—to 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 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.
Is it Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a term for the belief that you are not as competent as others think you are. You fear that at any moment someone will point you out as a phony.
Besides self-doubt, some of the common signs of imposter syndrome include:
- An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors
- Berating your performance
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Sabotaging your own success
You may set challenging goals like a high word count per day and feel disappointed when you fall short. Or you may over-prepare doing endless research to make sure nobody finds out you are a fraud.
Think of it this way: if you feel like an imposter, you have some degree of success. Focus on your accomplishments.
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.; like other writers, editors, agents, and readers.
On the one hand, bad reactions happen. I have writer friends who have received devastating comments from editors who didn’t understand their genre or terse rejection letters from agents. They found others and published their books with success.
Change the Fear
Self-doubt often comes from deep-seated beliefs. Repeated small steps work to build trust in yourself. Practice build confidence confidently.
- Share your feelings. Tell a friend or writing buddy. Irrational thoughts fester when you keep them to yourself.
- Focus on others. When you help and support others with similar feelings, you will build confidence in your feelings.
- Assess your skills. Write down your accomplishments. You will surprise yourself when your knowledge and expertise don’t match your fearful self-assessment.
- Take baby steps. Positive actions accumulate over time. Reward yourself for taking action. I did it once, and it didn’t work, won’t get you out of the fear.
- Stop comparing. The more you write, the better your writing becomes. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Compare this year’s work with last year. Acknowledge your growth.
- Stop fighting the feelings. When you acknowledge the feelings, you can work on steps to meliorate their power.
Find Other Writers
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. Searching for a group can take time. My fabulous writers’ group took a year to form.
Avoid groups with:
- An overbearing “leader”
- Without group guidelines
- A group the doesn’t follow the stated guidelines or allows members to dominate 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.
Use social media to find other writers. Facebook has groups for writers and writers in specific genres. Most group moderators provide clear guidelines.
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 podcast. This is a great talk to bookmark so you can listen when those fears pop up.
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.
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.
The Mystery Writers Studio is a great place to hang out with other writers.