Road blocks are a given on any journey. Early in my grammar blogging adventure, I found a forum that at first glance looked like a good place to interact with fellow language lovers, offer some advice and boost my website traffic in the process. (Not that that last one really matters. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) I jumped in, signed up and answered my first question. Or at least I thought I did. In no time someone had commented on my answer, “snarkily” I might add. So I checked out who wrote it. A one-word name, Araucaria. He listed his credentials as a post graduate linguist (true meaning, unemployed). He should have said, post graduate linguist spending all my time mastering the grammar forum while trying to sound erudite while wearing an elbow patched tweed jacket. Okay, I made that last part up, but you get my drift. Academia!
I immediately decided to close my profile, never to return to that snobby, elitist site again.
I might as well blow up my blog, write off that writing career I had so fondly dreamed about, and, launch the laptop out the window. I obviously wasn’t smart enough to write, much less help anyone else. All those fears started bombarding my psyche: fear of rejection, fear of not being smart enough, fear of criticism, fear of not living up to expectations. How many more fears would erode my already fragile self-esteem. I needed to flee, do whatever I could to avoid the impending panic attack.
Oh wait. What’s that? A familiar tome catches my eye. William Zinsser’s book, Writing to Learn. I started to read and soon realized how serendipitous the moment was.
Zinsser wrote this book as a way to confront his fears. He feared the subjects that he didn’t have an aptitude for. Boy, I could relate. To this day, I fear science. It was my worst subject in school. One line in his preface struck home.
“We write to find out what we know and what we want to say.” ~William Zinsser~
Have you ever taken a test where you confidently answered the multiple choice and true/false questions but then froze at the essay question? How were you going to put into your own words the material you supposedly studied? Writing forces us to organize our random thoughts and put into words what we think we know. It’s a humbling experience, and it’s hard work. Writing on that forum made me realize that I was running away from the very thing I wanted my readers to do: improve their grammar.
If you want to improve at anything, you have to face your fear of criticism. You have to hear what you’re doing wrong so you can make it right. How many times have you seen bloggers post on social media asking for feedback on their latest post? Do you think they’re really asking for constructive criticism? Not likely. What they’re really asking is that you read it and leave a “great post” comment. They are kidding themselves if they think they’re facing that fear. They need to find a real “editor” who will tell them the truth. As writers, we have to face a fear of criticism. Your editor and your proofreader will start by picking apart your masterpiece. Fix this, re-write this, get rid of this.
Then comes the ever critical reader, so happy to give you the “one star.” They happily write a one sentence review on Amazon: “not worth the time to read, I didn’t like it.” Didn’t like it??? It’s obvious that you couldn’t write your way out of a paper bag!
Running a close second is the fear of failure. What if I blog for a year only to have five people on my subscription list? What if I never land a paid writing gig? Does that mean my dream was just a fantasy? And then there’s the fear of the unknown, the ultimate cause of anxiety in anyone’s life. This can paralyze any writer, and, because we aren’t familiar with a subject, we won’t take that writing assignment.
If you fear taking a writing assignment because you don’t think you know enough, remember what William Zinser said, “We write to find out what we know.” Today we don’t have to leave our office to conduct any research. It’s all at our fingertips, so researching is easier than ever. Now, I’m not telling you to write about quantum physics if you don’t know the difference between an electron and a proton, but I am asking that you stretch your abilities.
My mantra. You don’t have to know everything to be an expert. You just have to know where to find the answers.
If I post a blog every week for a year with no readers, have I failed? Absolutely not. Jeff Goins, a published author, and blog teacher had numerous blogs that failed, but he kept at it. Today, he’s a published author and a successful blogger.
After a year, I have written over 25,000 words, created a website, learned how to use Canva and Scrivener, taken two writing courses and read numerous books on fine tuning my craft. I completed all these with the simple desire to blog.
Finally, we all need to address the elephant on the blog. The fear of criticism. Face it. If you want to be a writer, and you fear criticism, it’s time to quit. Yup. Quit right now. Just as I was going to do with that website. Or, you can do what I’m going to do. I will listen to criticism, evaluate it and then act if it will help me be a better writer. What I realized about that comment from the forum, was that it didn’t help me or the questioner. It added nothing to the discussion. Action? Ignore it. (Or write a blog about it.)
Remember, you have a choice.
You can react, act, or ignore any criticism you receive. You can also quit, but if you stick to the first three choices you’ll decrease your anxiety and be ready to take on that criticism. You’ll be in control. I would also quit participating in any website that has an unemployed linguist as a major contributor.
Feature Photo Credit: The Nurture Foundation
Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
More on Grammar More posts about Writing Advice Our site is accepting submissions. Read our submission guidelines and climb aboard the Two Drops of Ink literary train – it’s on the move! Looking for a summer read? Check out The Book Shelf Poetry has found a new surge of interest. Read some great poetry on our site. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook