Writing Fears: Procrastinating or Penalizing the Readers?

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“Don’t you ever get scared?” I ask.
“Of what?” She says,
“Of not being good enough.”
“You mean at writing?” L’il asks.
I nod. “What if I’m the only one who thinks I can do it and no one else does? What if I’m fooling myself?”
“Oh, Carrie.” She smiles. “Don’t you know that every writer feels that way? Fear is part of the job.” ― Candace Bushnell, author of Summer and the City

 

Fears, Readers, and Too Many Choices

Choices, and Too There is so much competition for readers, subscribers, and followers today that I think many writers simply don’t publish for fear of being judged.  For example, what if the only kind of ice cream you ever eat is “store-bought vanilla”? Then you’ll never realize how many varieties there are: natural, gelato, gluten-free, lactose-free, no sugar added and well, you’re probably getting the point. But many people do realize their choices of ice cream and it’s the same for blogs. Readers get selective and writers get scared.

Our readers will either like our style, tone, or topic or they’ll head as quickly as possible to another site. I think for many, it’s that knowledge which creates fear and prevents them from ever publishing anything, or even submitting a guest blog.

We are exposed when we write. It’s our choice of words, our unique phrasing, our slant on the topic, and for some writers, it’s easier to procrastinate rather than put their opinions out for public scrutiny and feel vulnerable.

However, If we are going to jump into the deep end of the pool and publish, we have got to overcome these fears.

Working with people in the addicted population for over twenty-five years, the subject of fear comes up almost daily. Just as I ask my clients to identify their fears, I wonder if you’ve tried to isolate your fears when it comes to writing, publishing, and submitting? Many people are afraid they won’t be successful in their recovery, I wonder if you’re afraid you won’t be successful as a writer? Here are some common fears and a few methods for overcoming them.

1. Fear of Failure or Success

I wrote a slightly tongue in cheek post titled, What if You Don’t Read This? OMG, What If You Do! I’ve been told in comments that that title alone sums up the misgivings of many writers when they hit the publish button. While we want readers to view our post, we may have doubts about how well we wrote a piece, and if it’s going to be received well by readers.

  1. What if they don’t like it?
  2. What if they are critical in their comments?
  3. What if no one leaves a comment?
  4. What if they judge it as inferior from our last post?

Rather than face rejection, many simply put off writing for fear of failing. However, I know that if you want to write, you will. And that is what is going to make you a better writer, one that isn’t afraid to publish. Just think about this for a minute:

“It is odd that we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game; yet in writing we rarely give ourselves the space for practice.” ~Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Each time we write, if we are making an effort to improve the craft of writing, we will get better. So, rather than procrastinate, just keep writing.

Then there’s the other side of the coin.

  1. What if they do read it and leave a glowing comment?
  2. Does this mean that every subsequent post has to be as well-received?
  3. What if the next post doesn’t go viral?
  4. Can the writing meet the expectations of the readers?

While we generally think of one-hit wonders in the music field, some authors fit this category as well. I don’t think there is anyone that likes the label, but many will live with the label rather than risk something that doesn’t measure up to an earlier post.

2. How Much Does a Real Writer Have to Write?

Not only does calling yourself a writer mean you’re going to have to write, but you might be concerned that you’ll look foolish to friends and family if you announce that you’re now a writer. After all, they’ve known you all your life as husband/wife, son/daughter, co-worker/boss, but never as a writer.

I’m still not entirely comfortable with calling myself a writer. I tend to think of all the greats that preceded me, and I pale in comparison, but I can feel comfortable with statements like, “I write for two blogs,” or “I’m the assistant editor at Two Drops of Ink.”

Although I do things that qualify me as a writer, it’s a daunting label; it requires commitment, determination, perseverance and time. I  have three of the qualities, but the time aspect still proves difficult. I’m like the majority of bloggers; I do not blog full-time, and I have a day job.

One thing that has helped me is that I committed to having a post for Two Drops of Ink each week, and two for From Addict 2 Advocate. Those obligations help me retain focus and expectations. I also think that too many people set up unrealistic expectations of themselves and their writing. Since I work at a 50-hour a week “other job,” I have to plan when I’m going to write. I cannot fall prey to excuses when I have a day off from my other responsibilities. Yes, it means I don’t socialize like I used to, or watch a movie on TV, or even read as much, but it’s honoring a commitment, and that’s important to me.

Are you using what time you have and take advantage of the opportunities to write? I still block out time on my calendar for writing and publishing. There are specific calendars for writers that might do the trick and keep you on track. I know I tend to pay attention if an activity is scheduled, and it works for writing and publishing, too.

3. Has the Well Gone Dry?

Am I tired some days when I sit down to write? Yes. Do I question whether I can postpone this task and get to it later? Yes. Do I wish it would write itself? Yes.

How many times have you said, “I don’t feel like doing that now.”  I think we’ve got this backward. I don’t have to feel like doing something in order to do it. I don’t know that I buy into the expression, Writer’s Block.

I’m reminded that I couldn’t use Counselor’s Block if I didn’t feel like working at my day job, so I question whether it’s valid for the creative process, either.

Maybe it’s just that we haven’t fully explored our idea, done enough research, we’ve got too many darlings vying for attention, or we can’t narrow our focus and produce a post. How many of you, like me, struggle with the direction of your writing? Last night, I had a long talk about my writing, with my friend and editor, Scott Biddulph. While many of my posts were satisfying to write, I questioned whether they added any value to our site. I wasn’t fishing for compliments, either, because I can certainly look at the numbers and recognize views. It was more an internal conflict:

  1. What should I write about next?
  2. When will I have the time to develop the topic?
  3. What will improve our site?

I’m a firm believer in goals, asking questions to arrive at conclusions, and trying to take the variables into account. Sometimes when I get answers to the questions, I can get on with the business of writing. But for some writers, there’s an interesting thing that happens. We set up the perfect writing environment. We have the coffee brewing, we’ve fed the animals, and we’ve finally decided our topic. Now, we look through all the files to see if we happen to have a great quote, image, or some interesting facts related to the topic.desk-4

Then we have to decide if we’ve got a title, or will it emerge from the writing? If you’re still reading, we’ve wasted about three minutes and only written filler. Too often, that first draft is not our best writing. So what do some people do? They trash it. Then they can feel inadequate. Instead of finding the bones of the piece, they go get coffee, take the animals back out, and wonder about yet another topic.

Rather than starting over, keep writing.

I think some of the best advice I’ve read is from Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. She admonishes us with:

“Don’t cross out. (That’s editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.) Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar…Lose control. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.”

I simply have to sit at the desk and write. When I’m finished with the task, then I can feel proud and productive because I didn’t put it off and give in to my fears about my writing. Certainly, if what I create that day doesn’t meet criteria for publishing, I don’t publish it, but revise, edit, or polish it the next day. I still feel productive about what I created, though. Not every post is stellar, to begin with; some are going to take revising, editing, reworking, and sitting for a day or two. That’s the nature of writing. Words flow onto the page, but they may not be cohesive. Don’t worry about that in your first drafts. Save the problem solving for the edits.

4. Fear of Not Reaching the Goal

football-1501700_640Writing and publishing shouldn’t just be about celebrating major accomplishments. It’s great that a post went viral. It’s astounding that a first-time writer reaches 50,000 hits in a day. It’s amazing when an unknown author ranks on The New York Times Best Seller’s list.

If your aspirations are to be the first, best, or only, then you may have unrealistic expectations of either your ability or the likelihood of getting that much exposure and notoriety when you begin your writing career.

So, what are your aspirations as a writer?

Do you have enough material for a novel? Each November, millions of writers participate in NaNoWriMo creating a novel in 30 days, and many meet the goal of 50,000 words. But what if you are passionate about novellas, short stories, memoirs, poetry, or nonfiction? Do you only have time for a blog or the personal essay?

Setting yourself up to fail with unrealistic expectations, succumbing to the fears of not being good enough, and not giving yourself permission to write badly (some days), means that you probably won’t overcome your fears and get better at writing, regardless of the length of your work, or the challenges of November.

Getting better at any task takes practice, making mistakes and learning from them, trying not to repeat the errors, and a fierce desire to improve. It’s the same with writing.

The good news though is that unlike a missed pass in football, we have the luxury of the edit. Who cares that in your first draft you overuse a word, your syntax was wrong, or you got so far off track that no one could follow the logic. We writers can edit, and for me, that removes many of the fears.

So the next time you write, think of an edit as a way to overcome your fears, whatever they may be, and when you’re finished, submit. Part of our mission at Two Drops of Ink is to provide a platform for all things literary.

  • We’ve recently added our Wall of Poets.
  • Our Contributor’s page showcases our other genre writers.
  • Want to try to tickle our funny bone? Then submitting for Hump Day Humor might just get us all grinning.
  • Already published? Then you might consider submitting your book for consideration on The Book Shelf.

Maybe what’s missing is you. Overcome your fears, after all, your readers are waiting.

Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing

 

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18 comments

    • Hi, Joan. You should consider writing a post about how recurring illnesses can get in the way of writing. I know our readers would enjoy that.

      Thank you for the reblog. I appreciate that.

      Like

    • Hi, Tammy. Criticism does hurt, but sometimes it helps. I have to take into account that there are others who write better than I do and if they correct something I’ve written or are less than enthusiastic, I need to take their criticism and see if it has merit.

      I also realize that there are trolls – waiting in the wings to pounce and don’t offer helpful criticism, just their own snarky comments.

      I’ve finally learned to distinguish. Thank goodness. She smiles.

      Hope you’ve visit us again, and consider submitting. We’re a helpful and supportive community here at Two Drops of Ink.

      Like

  1. Hi Marilyn, I’ve read this post over 8 times now. Every time I do so I pick up another lesson. I love how you have included links to other posts for reference to magnify your point. I wanted to reassure you and make sure you understood how much value you truly give of yourself to all of us. I certainly am a happy student. So I ask you. Please never stop teaching. That would be a sad day for me. Your writing is powerful in my book as all the content is here. Here is another little secret. All the stuff you post through out the day. I hit my like button. That means I checked it and saved the link to read later in the evening when I’m home. I like it so you know your student is paying attention. I may not comment all the time, but I am a user and abuser of all your words for the good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, John. Thank you for being such a loyal reader. I do the same thing, I’ll read a post several times and usually come away with yet another perspective or lesson. Glad I’m not the only one. There is so much valuable information out there and I find Klout.com has good information to share about my passions – addiction, creative writing and blogging, so it is a go to place for me each day and I’m pleased that some of those shares are helping you, too.

      Like

  2. Me: ABSOLUTELY I find value here!
    I am inspired by every word I read here.
    Having worked in my profession and ventures, in which I have been involved in and have accomplished. I know well enough to push through the uneasiness of how I feel because most of the time I don’t feel like it. I never feel like going to work, but I do because I like to eat. My strategy has always been finding those who are better than you and absorb all you can like a sponge. Right now, my sponge is soaked full of knowledge that I have gleaned from talent, right here!

    I devote one hour every morning to ME before my wife wakes. I use this time to put together all the clutter I have scribbled down to build my piece or use my time to tinker with my blog. It’s been a slow process. However, I manage to muddle through it because I know over time. I will complete what I set out to do. My small goals add up to progress over the long haul. Everything I start is always messy and hard, but to me, this is where the fun begins. It’s a challenge to see if I can do it. Personally, I’m not too worried about what others think of my writing. What I do know it will connect with somebody at some level. For me, the most important aspect of my writing is allowing people into my thoughts to share and inspire. Above all, I want my example to penetrate into my children’s thoughts to prove it can be done if you set your mind to it. Writing is my driving force for why I do it. I leave my words behind for all to see.
    So Thank you, Marilyn! JG

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marilyn,
    Well, as editor, I get the first view of every article that we post because I’m the guy that crosses the “T’s” and dots the “I’s” of each post. That said, I knew this post would do well because it goes to the heart of every writer’s beginning, and to their ultimate success. I’ve always had a rule in my life (to coin a phrase), “Fake it till you make it.” If you are out there reading this post and you’ve never hit the “publish” button, or, you’ve never sent a submission off to a magazine, a journal, or to a blog like Two Drops, then do it – fake it till you make it. Marilyn hits on the most important aspect of successful writing in that she makes the point that we must have thick skin, and we have to try, at the very least.

    As an editor, I love what I do because I love to “dream the writer’s dream” and help new and seasoned writers alike to reach their goals. I think we have a close-knit and unique family of writers, readers, and contributors here, and I want to thank great writers like Marilyn for taking the “publishing plunge.” Great post, Marilyn. Love ya, me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read Natalie’s book about 20 years ago. Maybe I need to go looking for my copy in the attic for some inspiration. I too work full-time and go through everything you talk about. Thanks for the wonderful article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Jayne. Thank you for reading and commenting. I would encourage you to find it. Although Natalie’s book is not a new one, I think that mentioning some of the books that have helped me, might give writers an opportunity to review other authors. I’m also a fan of: Annie Dillard. The Writing Life, Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, William Zinsser. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction, William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style.

      Writing is putting into words the landscape of the mind and emotions of the writer and I think all of us need three things to create pieces that translate from our minds to the readers.

      Books that teach structure – the story and the grammar, others that offer guidance on the more subtle nuances of telling truth, BIG truth and universal truths, then books that let us know we are not alone in this solitary pursuit.

      I hope that you’ll find some posts here that help you navigate the sometimes difficult choices we have to make when writing is not our full-time occupation. I think that’s just one of the reasons that I’m never without a notebook – old fashioned as that may seem to some. I can at least jot down five or six words to help me remember an incident, idea, or that most fleeting of all, inspiration, even at work.

      I’ll plug again. We are always looking for guest posts, if you ever want to submit.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Marilyn,
    You continue to instill that self-confidence for me and other followers of yours here. Since I found you on Google Plus, I have learned from you, Scot, Lydia and Michelle. I don’t fear failure, rather my goal is to continue to grow as a writer. Two Drops gives me that opportunity. Thanks for the great confidence booster and article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Chuck. I’m happy that my posts are giving you the encouragement to keep writing. I know it takes a deep breath, a firm resolve, tapping into our determination and then. . .we hit the publish button. And you have resolve, determination and ability, Chuck. I think about your experiences as a PJ and I’m awed.

      It’s rather like my mentor told me when I told him I wasn’t sure I could change in my early recovery. He reminded me that I changed my clothes, radio station in the car, and mind on a daily basis. Now I just had to apply change to my recovery. I got it.

      Now, when can we expect another memoir piece from you, friend? She smiles.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello Marilyn, I really enjoyed this post, and I am sure your editor friend was able to assure you that your posts DO add value to this site.

    You have picked up on a lot of my fears and I can say that for me, it’s one thing writing for readers of my own blogs but a completely different thing writing for writers, whether aspiring, professional or published. I don’t know why, it feels as if I would be taking on the mantle of an expert when I most definitely am not. I’d love to get my writing out to a wider audience but my own perfectionism holds me back.

    I have tried to write and not edit at the same time but have not been successful to date, although sometimes I manage it when I am doing a practice session in my journal.

    The fact that you work a 50hr week and write a few articles as well, astounds and inspires me. For years I yearned to be a writer but did very little of it. Now I have my blogs I write more than I used to in days past. I want to find the courage, time and motivation to move beyond this, and perhaps even submit here and I do want to be able to submit articles elsewhere regularly and not just as a one-trick pony!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, ladycee. I don’t think we have to be an “expert” if we are writing about writing. If that were the case, I probably wouldn’t publish anything. I believe that one of the reasons my posts resonate is that I don’t try to be an expert but write about my experiences as a “working writer”. I hope that is how the posts come across, simply my perspective. Sure, I may link back and validate a theory, but I sincerely hope that they are never condescending, preachy or trying to sound like the authority. (I generally quote the authorities though.)

      As a site, Two Drops of Ink is more than just writing about writing. Have you seen our Wall of Poets? Or we have several challenges that were either generated by an image (some memoir, others fiction), or the latest was from a poll where our readers voted and memoir and image prompt tied so we combined them for an image prompting memoir.

      I would hope that you submit to us. Scott is a dedicated and caring editor. I love to find the images and quotes if the writer wants, and you’ll get extra exposure for your site. How’s that for promotion and encouragement?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I like, the way you sound. I read your blog quite often. I have never thought you sounded preachy or condescending. I enjoy your topics about writing and love to read the memoirs. I work a lot as well and don’t find enough time to write. I like your ideas about posting once a week and using a calendar to set those goals.Thank you, for all your tips!

        P.s I also dig a blog that links to other post, full of knowledge. It’s like I’m on a treasure hunt!

        Liked by 1 person

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