So you’re afraid. You’re afraid of people reading your work. You’re afraid people hating it. You’re afraid of getting rejected. You’re afraid of being successful. You’re afraid of not being successful. You’re afraid of your mother-in-law finding out you write dinosaur porn. You’re afraid of getting a bad review. You’re afraid of your book selling badly. You’re afraid your book will be a wild success because then there’ll be pressure on your next release. You’re afraid of not hitting a list. You’re afraid your hero is a douche-bag and everyone will hate him. You’re trying something new and you’re afraid it’ll never sell. You hate your book and you’re afraid you’ll never finish it. Etc. Ad nauseam.
Everyone gets scared and fear can be a good thing. Fear can be healthy. It can challenge and push you. It can also be a sign you’re doing something different and exciting, and you need to keep going.
But it’s also nature’s way of telling you that you’re in danger and you have to stop what the eff you’re doing and run the other way to escape the angry triceratops heading in your direction. Which is great if you happen to be in the vicinity of an angry triceratops. But not particularly useful if you aren’t. And that’s when fear can be misleading. It can tell you to stop doing something you actually shouldn’t be stopping doing.
Fear can stifle you, especially when it comes to writing. Like when you find yourself not wanting to submit to a publisher because you’re too afraid of rejection. Or when you find yourself writing stories you think the editors want as opposed to the stories you want to write. When you start making your characters act out of character in an effort to make them likable and sympathetic. When writing becomes hard because you’re too afraid of doing something wrong. When even the thought of writing is a chore you can’t bear to contemplate.
I’ve done all of the above due to fear. I once let writing become this horrible task I had to force myself to do instead of the joy and passion it had always been. My stories turned into small, rigid things with no life and no soul because I was too scared to let myself go. Because I was too scared of doing something wrong. Scared of getting yet another rejection.
If this sounds familiar to you then welcome to the club. It sucks. So what do you do when fear paralyzes you and your writing?
- Accept that fear is a normal part of putting yourself out there and it’s okay to be afraid. Every writer is afraid of something in this business and if you’re not afraid then you’re either way too over-confident or you’re lying to yourself.
- This one’s extra important. Decide what’s stronger: your fear or your need write?
- Pretend that no one will EVER read the story you’re writing right now. It’s just for you, no one else. Tell yourself you’re not going to submit it or let anyone else read it so it doesn’t matter if you write crap.
- Write the story you’re passionate about. The one that’s been knocking around for ages in your head. The one you’re afraid is too left-field or isn’t on trend. Find the joy of writing again and go to town with it, because after all, no one’s going to read it, right?
- Have a trusted friend or critique partner talk you down from the ledge. Sharing your fears and having someone to hold your hand makes them all seem a little less scary.
However you tackle your fears, you’ll have to find a way to deal with them because a writer’s career is full of fear and if you want to make publishing your profession, you’ll have to manage it. Otherwise it’ll eat you alive.
I almost let fear kill my career before it had even begun. But the book I wrote in a conscious effort to kick it to the curb, the book that no one was ever supposed to see, was my first sale. So I guess my last tip is this:
Do not, whatever you do, let fear stop you from becoming the writer you were always meant to be.