By: Marilyn L. Davis
Fears, Readers, and Too Many Choices
“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
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 and compared to other bloggers.
It’s rather like ice cream. If you only eat “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.
When Readers Like the Brand
Our readers either like our writing, 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.
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 concerns, I wonder if you’ve tried to isolate your fears when it comes to writing, publishing, or submitting? Many people are afraid they won’t be successful in their recovery; I wonder if you’re worried you won’t be successful as a writer? Here are some common fears and a few methods for overcoming them.
1. Fear of Failure
I wrote a slight tongue in cheek post titled, What if No One This? OMG, What If They Do!
Comments let me know that the title alone sums up the misgivings of many writers when they hit the publish button.
Self-doubt fuels the “What Ifs,” and writers tend to obsess over:
- Will the readers like the post?
- What if they are critical in their comments?
- If there are no comments, does that mean I wrote poorly?
- What if they judge it as inferior from the 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.
Continuing to write, make and correct mistakes, and learning to revise and edit will make you a better writer, one that isn’t afraid to publish. Just think about this for a minute:
“Oddly, 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.
2. Fear of Success
Then there’s the other side of the coin. If we’d had one success, we can set up illusions of how each subsequent post should be.
- What if they do read it and don’t leave comments this time?
- Does this mean that every subsequent post has to be as well-received?
- What if the next post doesn’t go viral?
- Can the writing meet the expectations of the readers?
- Is this writing as interesting, informative, or entertaining as the last?
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 name rather than risk something that doesn’t measure up to an earlier post.
3. 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 editor-in-chief at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate.”
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 challenging. 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.
4. Afraid of Not Meeting 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 I’ve marked my calendar for an activity, and it works for writing and publishing, too.
5. Afraid the Well’s 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 to do it, and the notion of Writer’s Block seems like an excuse. I can’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, 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:
- What should I write about next?
- When will I have the time to develop the topic?
- What will improve our site?
6. Forget the Pets and Projects, Work on Your Post!
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.
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.
7. Fear of Not Reaching the Goal
Writing and publishing shouldn’t just be about celebrating significant accomplishments. Sure, it’s fantastic if:
- A post went viral
- The first-time writer reaches 50,000 hits in a day
- An unknown author ranks on The New York Times Best Seller’s list
Most of us aren’t that good, to begin with, nor do we have the kind of exposure necessary to be number one. But we can get followers if we keep improving. And those readers encourage us to publish more.
Write One Letter, One Sentence, One Paragraph
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 created that day doesn’t meet the 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.
Make Mistakes and Learn from Them
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. Check out our monthly contributors on the home page and know that they overcame their fears, and you can, too.
Maybe what’s missing from our site is your submission. Ready to stop procrastinating and give readers a new voice?
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing