girl at computer with pencil in mouth two drops of ink marilyn l davis anxious aspiring author

Dear Anxious Aspiring Author

By: Marilyn L. Davis


Dear Anxious Aspiring Author marilyn l davis two drops of ink

We’re All Anxious When We Write

“Any writing exposes writers to judgment about the quality of their work and their thought. Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

I enjoy seeing what words writers use in their profile on Twitter. There’s the usual:

“Aspiring Writer”
“Future Best Selling Author”
“Novel Pending”
“Wanna Be Writer”

Aspiring is to long for, wishing, trying to, and striving.

Many of them even give us a word count for their WIP (work in progress). Clearly, if they are writing, then they are a writer.

I’m tempted to send them a direct message stating that if they’ve written, they’ve gone beyond aspiring to working writer, and good for them. 

Have You Submitted Anywhere?

Could it be that they’ve written but never submitted – possibly due to anxiety about rejection? What are some of the typical reasons for this type of anxiety? 

  • The perceptions that the readers on a particular site may not understand the writing style, tone, or voice
  • Fear that the grammar, syntax, or wording won’t make it past the editor.
  • Remembering past rejections and staying trapped in those negative feelings. 
  • Spending too much time editing while writing and feel discouraged.
  • Can’t finish a post by the deadline. 

Rejection Isn’t Just About Terrible Writing

Other writers sent a guest post and got rejected, not because the writing was terrible, but because it wasn’t appropriate for the site.

For instance, we’re not a decorating, cooking, fashion site, so any post that puts emphasis on those topics just wouldn’t be germane for a literary blog. When I get those, if the writing is worthwhile, I tend to use the sandwich method of rejecting. I’ll let the writer know that the writing was sound; however, it wasn’t what we were looking for, and then offer them some sites that might be more in line with their topic. This way, the rejection is placed or sandwiched between, encouragement for their writing, and telling them to try elsewhere.

It also leaves the door open for the writer to submit a post about how they improved their writing, their writing or blogging process or how they set their writing apart – regardless of the topic.

Proofed, Polished Then Put Away

Realistically, if they’ve written it, run it through Grammarly, Hemingway, Paperrater, or any of the online grammar checkers, shown it to trusted friends, revised, edited, and proofread the piece, what is holding them back from submitting – either as a guest post, or a query for a book?

girl at computer with pencil in mouth two drops of ink marilyn l davis anxious aspiring author


In my recovery circles, we talk about fears – a lot. Some of our definitions for fear hold true for the writer who doesn’t submit as well:


  • “I know they won’t like my submission.”
  • “I’ve never been published so why should they consider my post?”
  • “That topic is exhausted.”
  • “My vocabulary isn’t strong enough to publish there.”

Unfortunately, those writers who think that way are succumbing to their irrational fears. They expect to be rejected, so they never submit.

We also talk about:


  • “They’ve got so many writers that they don’t need me.”
  • “They seem to only have seasoned writers.”
  • “They’ve got writers with PhD after their name– no way can I submit.”

Each of those sentences has some evidence that is true, and some are simply false. When fear grips us, we tend to only focus on the negative, so this writer comes away with, “They don’t need me, they’ve got seasoned writers, and PhD’s.”

Yes, We Do Need You – the Working Writer

While it’s true that Two Drops of Ink does have seasoned writers with Ph.D’s, if that were the only criteria for writing here, it would turn into “Dissecting Dissertations, Dialogues, and Diatribes on the Improper Use of the Semi-colon” or some other name that you could only access if you knew, or cared to search, on Google Scholar. That is not what we’re looking for in submissions. 

Two Drops of Ink is a literary blog devoted to literature and writing. We publish short stories, poetry, essays, literary criticism, blogging and writing advice. Click To Tweet

That said, there are snippets of prose, poetry, and new ways of looking at problem-solving for writing and blogs that appear on social media written by 13-year-olds. I know this because my granddaughter is one of them.

I recently connected on Twitter with a 17-year-old Irish author – with four books published and two more on the way to the printer. Nothing aspiring about that; she’s a genuine working writer, yet even she labels herself as aspiring.

If You Write, You’re a Writer

Next time you want to label yourself a newbie, an aspiring, or a rookie writer, reconsider. While you’re reframing your concept, think about these: 

  • “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” — Richard Bach
  • “I think new writers are too worried that it has all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you.”― Asha Dornfest

Overcome the Fear? The Next Hurdle is Submitting

Let’s all try adopting a Working Writer and see if that doesn’t put our fears to rest. Now that I’ve encouraged you to label yourself a writer, the next step is submitting for publication. Consider sending us a poem, prose, memoir, grammar how-to, or problem-solving for bloggers and writers.

Then when you’re published, you can add, “I’m a published working writer” to descriptions of yourself.



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  1. This is awesome! I always try to express how important it is for writers to TAKE THEMSELVES SERIOUSLY. A lot of the time, people just don’t have enough respect for themselves to present themselves in a professional manner.

    I actually just wrote an article about the importance of authors having professional websites. Doing so is another step for “aspiring authors” to present themselves as professional artists.

    Check it out if you have a moment and let me know what you think!

    • Hi, Alex. Your article points out many of the reasons to have a professional site. Fear, lack of understanding about today’s readers, and time constraints are three things that I think hold aspiring writers back from creating their websites.

      As you know, we’re vulnerable when we put our posts ‘out there’ for people to read and judge.

      I think that’s why guest posting is still favorable when a writer doesn’t have a website. A guest post lets them get exposure without all of the inherent risks of maintaining a site.

      On that note, I’d welcome a guest post from you. She smiles.

  2. Marilyn, Glad to know I’m not alone in my writer’s angst. Like Michelle, it took me a long time to own the title of writer (even though writing was something I had been doing since childhood.)
    Now that I have overcome that fear, I am working on the one that still grabs out for me each time I prepare to hit the “send” button. 🙂

  3. Marilyn – It took me awhile to accept a term that indicated I was a writer. Even after publication of a short story in an anthology. But rather than use the term writer, I chose author. So my question for all of you is what the difference between those two terms? Or can they be used interchangeably?

    • Hi Mary Jo, Good question! I’m afraid I’m no expert on writing titles. I personally am of the opinion that someone who writes (who indeed must write) is a writer. Published (yet) or not.
      I have always understood an author to be a writer who has published a book (or is published in a
      book). Under “my” definition, then you would indeed be an author. I’m curious to see what others have to say. And if I may I ask, what led you to choose the title of author?

    • Hi, Maryjo. Debating the terms:

      1. To be an author, the idea of your writing must be your own
      2. An author must get their work published.
      2. An author must have a specific skill set but writer’s skill is suited to the job required.
      3. You become an author when your books are published, but if your writings never publish, you remain a writer.

      Someone who writes an autobiography is both the writer and the author. Someone who writes a biography is the writer of a published book, and would probably be called an author.

      Working writer, with a book in progress suits me, for me.

  4. Marilyn,
    I think owning the title of writer was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I just didn’t feel like I was official enough to call myself a writer. I wrote for our local paper and in the little bio at the end of my piece the editor put “Michelle is a writer, teacher, mother, and wife.” Writer was first on his list. For some reason that stood out and having an actual writer call me a writer made me embrace the title. Or try to anyway. Over time, I have learned to call myself a writer. It feels good. Nice to be past that particular fear hurdle…now onto the next one…because if you are challenging yourself there is always a next one. 🙂

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