Conquer Your Fear of Writing With These 5 Top Strategies

Let's talk about your fear of writing.

We've all been there.

When I was in my early twenties, I did too. I told people I wanted to write a book. There was just one problem. I wasn’t writing anything.

I believed I wasn’t ready to write, and I needed some anointed mentor to pull me aside and say, “Bryan, now is your time.”

I became jealous of the success of people around me and grew sick of my lack of progress.

So, I joined a fiction and non-fiction writing workshop in Dublin. On the second evening, the instructor said every student had to submit a short story.

I was afraid.

I hadn’t written a short story in years, but I didn’t want the class or the instructor to know this.

A writer in a writing class, who doesn’t write, is a fraud.

I went home, and I wrote. I wrote that night and the night after that. And I wrote until I finished my first short story. It was terrible – the instructor told me this later – but that didn’t matter.

Then, I created a plan for writing and publishing my book.

Fear of writing is a terrible thing, but you can easily conquer it.

Here are five common fears new writers face with strategies for overcoming each one of them.

1. I Don’t Know Where to Start 

Telling someone to “just start writing” is a tough commandment.

I know because that's what they told me.

For years, I couldn’t start. I’d open up my word processor and then switch to my internet browser for research.

I’d answer my email, or see if there was something I wanted to buy on Amazon. Afterward, I’d check my bank balance and feel depressed.

It went on like this until I disappeared down a rabbit hole of meaningless internet searches and doing anything but the most important work of every writer.

Then, I learned how to start by creating triggers for writing. These include:

  • brewing coffee
  • setting a timer for how long I want to write
  • disconnecting from the internet

My routine for becoming a writer involves doing this at the same time each evening or morning. As a reward, I browse the internet, watch a movie, or exercise. It’s ritual, and it means I need not think about the act of starting.

To the outsider, this ritual looks boring, but it helps me write. That’s more exciting than anything else I could do in my free time.

Strategy for Facing This Writing Fear:

Steven PressfieldIf you’re having trouble starting, remember: It’s your job to turn up and do the work. Steven Pressfield writes in the War of Art:

We’re facing dragons too. Fire-breathing griffins of the soul, whom we must outfight and outwit to reach the treasure of our self-in-potential and to release the maiden who is God’s plan and destiny for ourselves and the answer to why we were put on this planet.”

Once you’ve learned how to turn up and work on your own writing each day, consider it a victory to write for ten minutes without getting distracted.

The next day, aim for fifteen minutes. The day after, write for twenty minutes.

Let these small personal victories accumulate over time, and you will become the type of writer who never worries about writer's block.

2. I Will Be Rejected

The Power of Creativity (book 1)
One of the books I've written with this method

Many writers worry about the fear of failure and fear of rejection. Self-doubt is a pervasive problem for writers.

I’ve written and published several books on Amazon including The Power of Creativity and This Is Working.

I am nobody.

While writing the former, I was afraid others would say: “What right do you have to explain how to write about creativity?”

I also knew I’d spent hours researching proven creativity methods and techniques and studying how artists work. I’d read dozens of books by authors explaining how they work, and I knew enough to organize my thoughts into a book.

Even though I am nobody, I gave myself permission to write a book because writers must start somewhere.

Strategy for Facing this Writing fear:

Give yourself permission to write. It doesn't have to be a great article or book the first time around.

If this is difficult, remind yourself that everyone who wants to become a writer, must start somewhere, and now is your time.

Helen Keller wrote the Story of Her Life at aged 22.

Anne Frank wrote her autobiography when she was just 15.

Franz Kafka finished his first novel in his twenties.

These are extreme examples, but I’m an extreme person.

Are you?

3. I Can’t Finish

Finishing is harder than starting.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I spent years struggling to finish anything. I wrote dozens of short stories and abandoned them. I thought of articles I wanted to write for newspapers; I researched them and then I never finished them.

There wasn’t any one moment when I learned how to finish my work and become a writer. Instead, I got a job as a journalist writing for a newspaper. There, I had to finish my articles by a deadline because if I didn’t, the editor would fire me.

I know this because he called me into his office after I missed a deadline and told me.

I stopped polishing my articles until they were perfect and I finished them. On more than one occasion, my editor sent the articles to me, saying I’d left out an important paragraph or my introduction needed reworking.

This criticism made me want to quit.

On other occasions, the sub-editors of the paper reworked my article entirely. Having my work being taken apart like this was brutal, but at least I was getting paid to write.

I learned from their feedback, and I learned by finishing what I started.

Strategy for Facing This Writing Fear:

If you’re having trouble finishing your work, pick a target word-count for each writing day and stick to it. 500-words might be enough to make real progress on your book.

Set artificial writing deadlines and stick to them. Enter contests and submit your articles to magazines or to websites when these deadlines elapse.

Make a public commitment to a group of people you trust, e.g. a writing group.

Start a blog.

As you get into the habit of tackling the blank page and finishing your work, you will win more opportunities to gain critical feedback.

And a natural writing process will evolve over time.

Feedback will give you the confidence to keep writing, and a consistent writing process will turn you into a better writer.

You will become a better writer by finishing what you started.

4. They’ll Judge Me

I don’t like writing publishing posts like this. They’re hard work, and they’re more personal than a guide or a review. I almost deleted this post several times, before I hit publish.

What’s to enjoy about revealing a job didn’t work out, I was lazy, and my work failed?

Stephen King made me do it.

In On Writing, Stephen King says:

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

I could lock myself in a room and write about a caretaker of a hotel who goes insane and tries to kill his family (The Shining). Or, I could explain how to overcome the inertia of perfectionism.

Or I could write about rejection.

Strategy for Facing This Writing Fear:

Spend more time creating than consuming.

Show the world what you created. And then let them judge a piece of writing in all its ugly imperfections. Respond if you need to or move on.

To worry about negative judgments is an irrational fear for many new writers. One day, it might be an issue if you're publishing a best-seller.

But when you're starting off, your biggest problem is capturing the attention of readers.

And if you still find yourself procrastinating because of this fear, remember:

It’s better to be judged than to be ignored.

5. My Writing Skills Are Poor

Believing you need to acquire more skills is another irrational writing fear. It's also a precursor to procrastination.

Did J.K. Rowling know enough about writing fantasy or creative writing when she set down to write the first Harry Potter book in her twenties?

Did Malcolm Gladwell know what it took when he set down to write Blink in the early 2000s?

Sure they're talented, by they also improved their writing skills by doing.

The simple fact is turning up and writing consistently will help you acquire the skills you need to write and publish articles and books that readers want. After all, you can learn by doing.

Strategy for Facing This Writing Fear:

The good news is it's easier than ever to improve your writing skills. You can easily study how top writers and authors approach their craft by taking courses on learning platforms like Masterclass and CreativeLive.

Masterclass, in particular, has courses by writers like James Patterson, Malcolm Gladwell, and Margaret Atwood.

I also recommend hiring people to help you.

You could work with an editor who will help you find and fix writing mistakes in your manuscripts and early drafts. It's possible to learn a lot from editorial critiques.

The Final Word On Conquering Your Fear of Writing

Some days, a writing fear will come through. How you deal with these writing fears is what matters.

Take rejection.

I was rejected three times over the past week.

  • I contacted five authors I admire with interview requests. Four of them said no.
  • I asked several podcasting experts for their advice for a guest blog post I’m working on. Half of them didn’t reply.
  • I pitched guest posts at three big blogs, two of which said no.

These rejections are normal experiences for writers though.

To become a writer, rejection waits at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of your work. It goes where you go. Everybody who succeeds gets rejected.

By turning up and creating, you cut through your fear of writing. Even if some people reject your work, others will embrace it. The next blog you pitch may accept your ideas. You could win the next contest. Your next interview request may be granted.

If you want to write better, start today. Write now. Write like your life depends on it.

[Listen] How To Overcome Your Fear of Writing

Writing Fears FAQ

What is fear of writing?

Derived from the Greek word for writing (script) and fear (phobos), scriptophobia defines a fear of writing in public. Although many writers create alone, they worry about what happens if others read their work or it's published.

Why do I get nervous when I write?

It's normal to get nervous before anything new or outside of your comfort zone. If you're feeling nervous, you're probably new to the act of writing or working on a topic outside of your comfort zone. Both are good signs as it means you're challenging yourself.

How do I overcome my fear of writing?

Sink into your fearful emotions and start writing your article, story or book. You'll have an opportunity to fix problems in your creative writing projects later during the editing process. You can also work with an editor who will help you turn a messy draft into something readers enjoy. By writing and publishing more consistently, you'll overcome your fear of writing.

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