(Note: This post was originally published on my previous blog back in 2008.)
Many of the reasons writers give for not writing are chiefly motivated by one element: Fear.
Oh, writers will say it is one of a multitude of other reasons — busy schedules, lack of inspiration, discouragement, a lack of good ideas, etc.
However, in many cases, the reason can be pared down to the simple concept of fear. No matter how busy a writer’s life becomes, if a writer truly wants to write, he or she will make time for it.
Why, then, do so many writers procrastinate and put off the actual process of writing?
I find myself doing this on a regular basis. I check my e-mails. I surf the internet. I clean up around the house, or think of a task I need to do “real quickly” before writing, and before I know it, the time to write has slipped away and I’m kicking myself for failing, once more, to actually do any writing.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. So the question stands: Why does writing so often get shoved to the back-burner?
Often, the core problem is fear. This fear can manifest itself in several ways:
–Intimidation of the blank page –Fear of producing something that is not “good enough” –Fear that your idea itself might not be “good enough” –Intimidation by the amount of effort the writing will require –Fear of criticism from others –Fear of self-criticism -Fear of failure (of attempting to write something and not succeeding).
This fear, if allowed to continue, can lead to countless excuses for not writing: I just don’t feel inspired; I don’t have any good ideas at the moment; I don’t have time; I have other things I need to do.
The truth is, nothing will ever get written unless someone actually puts in the effort to write it.
I believe that there are many people in the world who could be great writers. They have good ideas, they have a talent for language, they have a unique and creative perspective. However, they never will be good writers, because they simply never force themselves to actually write anything. And yes, at times, that’s what it takes — force.
Contrary to what many people think, most great writers don’t write in fits of frenzied inspiration where the ideas and language come out perfectly on the page. They write word by word, painstakingly forcing their thoughts to the page, then editing them, rewriting, until the finished product appears seamlessly before the reader as if it had taken no effort whatsoever to write.
But if writers allow fear to keep them from ever putting anything down on the page… well, then nothing will ever get written.
So, here are a few Tips for Overcoming the “Fear” of Writing:
1. Force yourself to put something on the blank page It doesn’t matter what you write initially; you can free-write, brainstorm, make a list — the point is to put some words on the page so that the blank page doesn’t seem so intimidating. Once there are words on the page, the project has begun and you have some material to work with. Until then, well, it’s nothing but a blank page.
2. Silence your internal editor Put some real effort into shutting out any internal criticism when writing a first draft. Any time that voice pops in to say “That’s a dumb idea,” or “That sounds lame,” or “This is rubbish; you’ll never turn this into anything decent,” quickly stuff a sock in its mouth and keep on writing. The internal editor becomes immensely important during revision, but on the first draft the main objective is to get the material written down. There will be plenty of time for self-criticism later.
3. Lower Your Expectations I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself intimidated into near mental paralysis by the expectations I’ve created for myself. If I’m expecting this story to be “the” story, the one which will make it big, which will be widely acclaimed and beautiful and perfect and win me world-wide fame, then most likely nothing I write will seem good enough. Instead, I tell myself “This is just another story; The fame and awards will come with the next one I write.” In that way, I allow myself the freedom to be creative and to write to my fullest without the anxiety and pressure which comes from expecting the end product to be “perfect.”
4. Write About What You Know Sometimes fear can come from a concern with not being accurate or believable. This is easily fixed — write about the things you know best. Don’t attempt to write on a topic about which you know very little (or nothing). Instead, pull from your own life, your own experience, your own knowledge, and then expand it or enhance it with research if necessary. Writing always comes more easily (and reads better as a finished product) if the subject is something that is both familiar and meaningful to the writer.
I hope these tips help you overcome your fear and get your writing out into the world!