If you’re a writer, be afraid. Be very afraid.
That old line from the movie The Fly seems to fit the current state of advice to writers.
Just a few minutes ago, a Google search for “writers fears” turned up 82,600,000 results in just 81 seconds. Topping Google’s page 1 were articles with titles like:
“10 Way to Harness fear and Fuel Your writing” Writer’s Digest
“Purging Your Writing Fears.” The Trite Practice
“The 7 Deadly Fears of Writing.” Men With Pens
The message in these and many other writers’ resources is clear: writing and fear go hand in hand. If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, you must face fears, you will be beset by fears, you must have the courage to face your fears, you must overcome your fears, don’t let your fears stop you!
These absolutely well-meaning articles, books and posts are designed, I’m sure, to reassure and empower new writers, writers in the making and even seasoned wordsmiths. Because it’s true, starting new endeavors can be scary – and creative work pulls up a lot of insecurities, some personal and some imposed by our culture.
In this scenario, writers are told it’s natural to fear:
Having no ideas
Having too many ideas
And the list goes on. It seems that the message to writers is that fear, paralyzing fear, mist be your constant companion on this writing journey, to be thwarted, conquered, crushed, or transmuted at every turn. There’s no way out.
We’re told that fear isn’t even always fear. Other things can masquerade as fear, so if you don’t think you’re afraid, you really are anyway – you just don’t know it, or you’re in denial.
While that’s certainly true in some cases – watching a silly TV show instead of spending an hour pulling words out of your head, for example – in others it’s simply not. If life situations are calling you from writing right now, maybe it’s because you have a life with situations that need to be addressed, not that you’re running from your writing.
Writers tend to be a self-reflective lot, living as we do in our heads much of the time. To judge from the proliferation of reassurance, encouragement and support out there, we seem to need a lot of hand-holding.
And the fearmongers are profiting from making you believe that. The number of coaches, courses and guidebooks on overcoming fears, writers blocks and crises of confidence is staggering. It’s easy to fall into the trap of the hypochondriac: that’s not me! Or is itt? I’m not scared! But should I be?
You don’t need that kind of insecurity undermining your work.
I was a coach and writing teacher for a lot of years – and I’m not here to dismiss those creative fears. They are very real.
But writers are no more vulnerable to them than anyone beginning a new endeavor or creative work. It takes courage to stand for your ideas, whatever they are. And if you do, you are not the fragile flower that all this advice makes you seem to be.
If you’re worried about what stops you from getting your work in front of readers, there are over 82,000,000 resources ready to help. Use them to find ways to overcome hesitation, identity crises and lack of confidence.
But don’t let anyone make you believe that writing must come with a built-in Pandora’s box of terrors – and that a part of writing must necessarily include beating back freezing fear at every turn.
And especially – don’t let anyone profit from making you feel fear. You’re a writer. You wrestle ideas down and pin ‘em to the page. You make magic with a keystroke. What you really have to fear is the helpful, disempowering message that because you are a writer, you are stalked by fear.
What do you think – am I right? Or not?