Fear Factor for Writers

Imagine: a group of writers are facing their greatest fears in front of millions of viewers. No, it wouldn’t involve eating blended organs or being buried in bugs. The challenges would be much worse. Perhaps on Day One, everyone would have to come up with a story and write 20,000 words by sundown.  Day Two could involve the ruthless slashing of adverbs and adjectives in Day One’s writing, leaving few survivors and avoiding structural collapse. Day Three would be the worst of all: sending this writing into the world for all to see, alone and unguarded.

I’ve been dealing with these gremlins a lot lately and especially the challenge of Day Three.

Writing, once we are inspired and involved, is easy. Sharing is scary. Our thoughts are out there for the world to see and judge. What if it’s not good enough? What if it makes me or my loved ones vulnerable? What if it’s offensive to someone? The list can become quite lengthy and in the end, it has very little to do with anything other than fear. It’s like sending our children off to school and hoping they’ll make friends despite the fact they may occasionally pick their noses.

Writers are brave souls by nature. We go places in the dark without a map and take chances so we really need to get over this insecurity. If our children come home with a black eye occasionally – and they will – we can deal with it.

Stephen King said it very well in his book, On Writing:

“I have spent a good many years since–too many, I think–being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.”

Writing is a journey into imagination. We share our unique view of the world through poetry or prose. Not everyone is going to appreciate the images we capture but there are always those who will be grateful to us for taking them along on the trip.

If we are deeply concerned about being accepted by all, we should not become writers. Be brave stepping into the light of publicity. We’ve traveled where no one has gone before and that’s something to celebrate!

Please leave me your thoughts in the comments so we can compare notes! 🙂


Fear Factor for Writers — 8 Comments

  1. What a relief to read that my sometimes paranoid fear of publishing is normal.Well normal for writers.
    I rememberBob Dylan saying decades ago that if you write from the heart and then you “put it out there. They’ll crucify you”
    This was such a delighful read for me thank you. I have so often convinced myself that my work will be received as total rubbish. Yet l cannot stop writing. Take care and thanks again.

  2. Dim, you are in lots of company with that fear – and I was also glad to see that Stephen King went through the same thing. Misery loves company LOL. But really, we are a brave group putting our hearts and souls out there for all to see. I love your writing so I’m glad to hear you can’t stop!

  3. I think it is so easy to start writing to meet someone else’s expectations and it can be a trap I think–a trap we all deal with–I am so glad to see someone writing about the issue of fear that underlies our efforts–

  4. Audrey, I spent years writing commercially and always to someone else’s expectations. Writing creatively is a completely different thing and can’t be to anyone else’s expectations. You hit it soundly with the trap idea. I find that it really hampers my writing and the result is insincere. However, publishing that which lays us bare is indeed frightening and I find myself wrestling with all kinds of fears. One that always worries me is following something that has been successful and the comparisons that are inevitable. I’m trying to be more ruthless with editing and more confident in publishing – and more disciplined with writing in general. It’s not always easy.

  5. I could “maybe” survive day one. I could definitely survive day two. Day three however … I’d be stuffing my content safely into my shirt, and zipping up my jacket so no one could harm it, lol.

    I don’t think this paranoia applies to only fiction and poetry. I tend to shy away from fiction (although one of my current projects is almost entirely fiction – which is why it’s been so stinkin’ hard to write it), and poetry … well … I suck in appreciation of poetry, w/ exception to Kipling, who writes lines I can remember, and in a blonde-friendly fashion.

    I suppose we can look at it this way, everyone has a story, but not everyone is pushed to write it down. Not everyone plays the words of the graphs out over and over in their head, constantly rearranging them into a better expression, and building it from word-to-word, sentence-to-sentence, graph-to-graph, and so on.

    Alexandra said something that’s about the best description of a writer I’ve ever heard … “Writers are brave souls by nature. We go places in the dark, and take chances … ”

    Let that aspect be the dominant one. If our work is rejected, most of us will be determined to try again, and do it better.

    Writers simply can’t not write, when for many of us it’s a natural, or even a divine, compulsion.

    Loved the article, Alexandra.

    My apologies for being so wordy in the comment, but you struck a chord. 🙂


  6. Please don’t apologize for the lengthy comment. It’s great! Day One and Day Three are my greatest challenges and the latter takes the prize by far. As we write, we craft and nurture every word and then we set them free into the world to fend for themselves. It’s exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I’m with Stephen King on this one – keep on writing anyway and damn the torpedoes. I have noticed that writers seem to have a mystique about them that tends to create an impression of aloof confidence. If they only knew! And even though I wish no such thing on others, I’m thrilled to discover that I’m not the only one wrestling with these doubts! No, we must write. It’s definitely a compulsion. Thank you for the interesting answer, femmeflashpoint. I especially like your reference to graphs. 🙂

  7. P.S. Alexandra, I love the pic you included with this. It’s totally spot on. My father was a U.S. Marine, and an incredible athlete. When I was a little girl, even though I had no doubt that he would catch me every time, each time he tossed me in the air, it let the butterflies loose by the millions in my tummy, lol. I would go back and forth from gushing giggles to squealing like a piglette (misspell intentional), each time I was tossed into the air.

    The pic is accurate for your article, and it brought back some great memories of my dad.

    Thanks much. 🙂


  8. My dad did the same with similar results so it seemed fitting. I’m glad it brought back those good memories and maybe that’s one of the reasons we keep doing what we do. 🙂

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