Q: I’m afraid of writing. How can I push back?
A: Didn’t your mother tell you it’s not nice to push?
I realized the other day that I was doing it again: procrastinating. Day after day, this project appeared on my To-Do List. Day after day, it remained the only thing not crossed off.
And then I realized: Dammit, I’m afraid.
I’ve been doing this writing thing for a long time now. You’d think by now I’d recognize fear when it came calling. I do generally recognize it faster than before—that’s progress. (The piece I keep putting off isn’t due for another three weeks). But still, it chagrined me that Fear was able to slip on a trench coat and a fake mustache and slip right past my defenses. I tell myself I should know better by now.
Oh, one more thing. This project I was afraid to start? It’s a presentation I’m giving. About courage.
Afraid of writing? Join the club
Everybody feels fear around their writing from time to time. Whether it’s fear of starting to write, fear of your subject matter, fear of inadequacy…Fear, like the British royal family heading to a wedding, wears many hats. If only it would adopt their distinctive wave too, it would be so much easier to spot.
If you’ve got it in your head that you’re not creative, or you don’t deserve to spend the time on yourself, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote her book Big Magic especially for you. Seriously. Read it this minute.
One thing I often remind my coaching clients—and it’s something that helped me when I was so afraid of writing that I never did it—is:
No one needs to see it.
I emphasize this to take away the fear that someone will read your writing and say negative things about it. Also to stop you from saying negative things about it pre-emptively. While you’re creating, you can keep your writing safe and secure in your computer. Unless you print it out or email it somewhere, no one needs to see it.
Someone does need to see it eventually
First maybe a teacher. A writing group. We all improve with constructive feedback.
But don’t get so caught up in this semi-private feedback loop that you never open your work up to the public.
Trust your instinct, yes. But don’t trust your fear. If your writing group says it’s good, if your coach says it’s good—then push your little bird of a draft out of the nest and publish it. Start a blog. Put it up on Medium or HuffPo. This gets easier the more you do it. Validation awaits you—and validation feels so much better than fear.
If your writing is stuck in the closet, read Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work! I’m not usually a fan of exclamation points, but this subject deserves one.