3 Steps to Escape the Fear Trap and Put Your Writing Out There

Creative ideas flowing on computerDo you have a blog post you’ve written, but you can’t seem to press the “publish” button?

A query letter you can’t manage to send?

An article you keep putting off submitting to your dream magazine?

I’ve been hearing from a lot of writers lately about their trouble with executing on their plan to find paid markets for their writing.

They take a writing course, listen to podcasts, buy writing books…and at the end of it, I still hear this:

“I need to gain self-confidence so I can start putting it out there!”

We writers are happy when we’re sitting alone in our back room, creating.

But when it’s time for that writing to see the light of day and be read by others, it’s often another story.

We freeze in our tracks. I’ve talked to writers who are cashing Social Security checks, and still waiting for the paralysis to lift so they can finally embark on their dream of being a writer.

Clearly, we need to speed this up so you can get your writing out there!

Here’s a three-step process for that:

1. Know that you are not alone

The first thing to do if you’re stopped by fears is to realize you are not the only one going through this.

In fact, pretty much every writer deals with fears that their writing:

  • won’t be good enough
  • will piss someone off
  • will have mistakes
  • will be laughed at
  • will be ignored
  • will be rejected
  • won’t be ready on deadline
  • will need rewrites and edits that you won’t be able to pull off
  • will be wildly successful and bring more pressure to be brilliant next time

So stop thinking it’s just you. Trust me, it’s not.

Personally, when I write a first piece for a new client, I still feel massively afraid that I am going to screw it up and let them down.

It takes twice as long as normal to write it. But I do write it and turn it in. How?

2. Be accepting instead of afraid

Instead of fearing all those scary things I listed above, I’d like to encourage you to take a new outlook on them.

Accept that these things are sure to happen.

You will screw up. Someone will be angered. And you will find an audience, somewhere.

Accept it all as an inevitable part of life as a writer. This stuff just goes with the territory. You can hardly write a word without at least one of the things on that list happening to you.

Realize it will happen, and you will survive. You will live to write another day.

After one heinous error I committed as a staff writer, I was very down. I felt like my career was ruined!

My editor pointed out that in a week, another issue would come out, and this one would be largely forgotten. Memories are short, and people move on. And he was right.

There is no Universal Editor Network out there that will instantly notify every other editor not to hire you if one doesn’t like your writing.

If you make a mess, you will find other markets, and you will be fine. I speak as someone who has burned more than one editor bridge in my time. I continue to get writing gigs and have new client leads come my way.

3. Make a choice to act

Recently, I came across a powerful thought about the fear that freezes writers in their tracks and keeps them from building a living from their writing.

It’s that acting based on fear is a choice.

In his book Uncertainty, Jonathan Fields relates that surveys of highly successful CEOs revealed they were all wracked by doubts. The thing that made them successful was that they had developed ways of pushing on past those fears and acting anyway.

We can’t control our feelings. Our fears are often very deep-rooted. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to extract them from our psyche.

So stop waiting for that to happen.

Instead, find ways to trick yourself into moving forward despite the fears. It’s really a fake-it-’til-you-make-it situation.

Personally, when I’m stuck with anxiety about a piece of writing, I usually break things down into smaller pieces.

Today, I’ll just research sources to interview for that article I’m freaked out about. Tomorrow, I might email them. If they respond, I’ll set interviews for yet another day. One day, I’ll just research statistics that relate to my story. This next day, I’ll just read and highlight my notes. Or create an outline.

And so on, until suddenly I review my notes and realize I’m ready to write it.

You make take baby steps, or perhaps a giant leap will get you over the hump. I know a writer who made dozens of cold calls every week to start her business — just went crazy with it. That was what it took for her to get it rolling.

But however you approach it, choose not to sit in fear. Instead, act out of love for yourself and your writing talent.

Act out of the realization that life is short, and you don’t want to reach the end of it with regrets and thoughts unwritten.

This is the secret of gaining self-confidence as a writer: Each action you take will build your confidence that you can do more.

On the other hand, the longer you sit with your writing fears and let them paralyze you, the more those fears magnify and the harder it becomes to put it out there.

There’s only one way out of this syndrome. You’ve got to make a move, and then another and another.

There will never be a better time to get started than right now.

How do you push through your writing fears? Leave a comment and tell us how you’re putting your writing out there.

 

 

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46 comments on “3 Steps to Escape the Fear Trap and Put Your Writing Out There
  1. P.J Roscoe says:

    Thank you for putting up these fears – it echoed what I went through and still go through even though I have released two novels out into the world. My fear is that not enough people will want to read it and all my hard work will result in nothing more than false dreams. But, even though sales are slow, the fact that people ARE buying my books and enjoying them – is a wonderful feeling and I cling onto that with both hands.
    Blessings x
    P.J Roscoe recently posted…The best prologueMy Profile

  2. Whew! I’m *finally* getting around to catching up on blogs (been a busy week), and I stumbled on this post at the perfect time.

    I have a lot of social anxiety, so marketing is one of those chores that makes me break out in a cold sweat. But, in order to keep myself out of the content mill pit, I *have* to market. So I’ve developed some coping mechanisms.

    One thing that has really helped me deal with that fear is to set solid (and easy) goals for a task. I set a timer, or decide I’m going to write x number of emails, etc. — and then take a stress break. A five minute walk, quick game of fetch with the dog, or a few minutes of soothing music, and I’m ready to go again.

    That’s why this line: “Personally, when I’m stuck with anxiety about a piece of writing, I usually break things down into smaller pieces.” really stuck out for me. I’m convinced, no matter the size of the overall task that’s scaring you, that it can be broken down into far less terrifying bits. It’s also all about knowing your limits and taking those sanity breaks when you need to.

    Anyway, great post! 🙂
    Angie Mansfield recently posted…How to Create a Stress Relief Kit for Your DeskMy Profile

  3. Holly Bowne says:

    What a GREAT post!!

    I seem to have the most fear arise when I consider applying for writing jobs I come across. It’s like I’m subconsciously (consciously!) looking for a reason I’m not qualified to apply for certain writing positions because the thought of attempting to do whatever the job description states sounds so overwhelming to me.

    Well, I’ve reached a point where I need to put up or shut up. If the choice is go look for a regular ol’ corporate job, or dive into this freelancing deal with everything I’ve got. I’ve gotta dive!

    I read your post on the perfect day. Today, I put tushy to chair and applied for every single job I came across for which I was even remotely (I’m talking Antarctica vs. North Pole remotely) qualified. Jobs I would normally be terrified to apply to (and probably even more terrified if they contact me). But honestly, it felt great! Thanks for sharing this awesome, inspiring post.

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s great, Holly.

      The next step is when you stop applying to job ads, and go out and find your own clients. That’s when everything really starts to move in a good direction as a freelancer — when you stop competing with 200 other resumes for the same gig.

  4. Daryl says:

    Great thoughts Carol!

    I think all of these were important things that I realised when I made the decision to start putting in effort in freelance writing.

    It was particularly Oni who inspired me – a teenager in Nigeria who managed to launch a VERY successful blog! Here was someone who had little access to the same resources I do, younger than me, and who frankly didn’t have the greatest grasp of the English language when he began who became one of the top freelance writers in the business!

    Of course, your blog also showed that yes, it IS possible to make a decent living off freelance writing, and you didn’t need a PhD in English to do it either!

    Of course, making a choice to act is THE most important thing that you can do to launch a freelance writing career. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve exposed to the freelance writing world who would make great writers but have simply neglected to do anything but spin their wheels and tell me how they might “soon” start working on a freelance career.
    Daryl recently posted…Marketing Psychology 101: 5 Ways to Reduce Risk to your CustomersMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Daryl, there’s a lot of that going around. It’s sad when we let fears stop us from living the life we really want. Hope this post and conversation helps some writers to move forward!

  5. Fi says:

    Carol,

    Your words couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, I wrote about fear on Sunday

    I’ve taken a week of work to finish my website and the e-book I want to launch along with it. I told my blog readers that I was doing it because there’s nothing like readers who have followed your journey to spur you on and make you feel that you owe it to them to do what you said you would.

    With all my years of writing and I still hesitate to push the publish / send button. The thing is – fear won’t kill us, life will go on. No-one will remember because no-one will care as much as we do. Think of the single most embarrassing moment in your life and realise that we survived.

    Hitting send for this comment…now!
    Fi recently posted…The things we fear…My Profile

  6. For years, I wrote nonfiction. I was scared to write fiction. Then, a writer who I had worked with when I was an editor said three simple words to me. “Just do it.” Those three words changed my life.

    Deborah
    Deborah Christensen recently posted…Plowing Together – A Community of Idea Gleaners – BostonMy Profile

  7. The very first time I decided to try writing, I was paralyzed with doubt and fear. I waited for weeks before I even tried. Then I just got disgusted with myself and jumped in with both feet. Guess what? It went fine, better than I expected. I still get anxious and stuck and all of that, but I realized that if I failed, it wasn’t the end of the world. You have to try and then try again. It also helps to read posts like this! Thanks for the pep talk, Carol!
    Sheila Bergquist recently posted…Dealing With Stains and OdorsMy Profile

  8. Tiffany says:

    I have been going through this for months with my blog, but today I’ve finally posted my first blog post since February. I’m relieved to read this reminder from you today. Fear is something so universal and yet so hard to push past. It can be overwhelming at times. But lately I’ve found that the longer I take to do something, the longer it takes me to get it over with and move on to other things. And I ask myself, why didn’t I just do that sooner? I love the saying “anticipation is often worse than realization.” Things rarely turn out as bad as I think they will, and then I get to move on to other things and feel good that I’ve accomplished something. 🙂
    Tiffany recently posted…4 Ways to kill your marketing strategyMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah, there’s a relevant thought for this post for sure! Exactly so.

      I have made mistakes too, where I thought it was the end of everything for me as a writer. And…it wasn’t.

      As one editor pointed out to me, people do expect that you’re human. And humans make mistakes.

  9. Anita says:

    “You may take baby steps, or perhaps a giant leap will get you over the hump.”

    The baby steps feel safer, but I’d like to get to the point where I more frequently choose the giant leap. It helps to remind myself that it takes a greater risk to gain the greater reward.
    Anita recently posted…eight more days to celebrate poetry monthMy Profile

  10. Lady says:

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve been reading your articles and true enough, you are inspiring many people who are interested in writing. Reading your articles gives me reinforcement to continue and helps me overcome those fears ( all mentioned), sad to say 🙁

    Thank you for the information, and I hope I can be a good blogger and eventually find writing gigs.

  11. Thank you so much for this,

    I recently decided to write seriously and have been reading Contributor’s Guidelines. What scares me the most is when I see , what qualifies you to write this piece? I have been published before but it’s intimidating not having certain qualifications and writing experience but I guess the worst that can happen is they say no or not answer at all.

    Janeen
    Janeen Johnson recently posted…Julie , My Love !My Profile

  12. Dara says:

    Carol, great article and a fun read (cuz it’s so darn relatable!). Given all you had to say about writer’s paralysis and fear, what I’d love to know is… How long did it take you to write THIS piece?

    Smiles,
    Dara

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t know — didn’t keep track! But I try to write them in an hour or less. I’m usually leaving notes and outlines ahead in my WordPress editorial calendar, and then when it’s time to write it’s sort of already structured and ready to go.

      Once I read this piece, about acting on fear being a choice, I pretty much knew what I was going to say here. 😉 Writing for my blog is easy, in general…writing for clients gives me a much bigger complex!

  13. Tom Bentley says:

    Carol, substantive (and tasty) stuff as usual in the post. For me, it’s the replacing of a bad habit (not aiming for big markets, hesitating to commit to serious work) with a better habit (send out a query to the bigger market, note you didn’t die, send another; take just a little more time with the work, see the rewards…).

    I’m much better now at saying, “Well, that editor didn’t like that query. Meh, maybe some other writer beat me to it, or it’s out of their editorial calendar or it’s not quite right for that magazine. I’ll send it to someone else, but make sure it’s on target.” Move on and move forward.
    Tom Bentley recently posted…Anatomy of a Failed Book PromotionMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Rabbi Yisroel Salanter said, “The loudest sound in the universe is the sound of someone breaking a negative habit and replacing it with a positive one.”

      Not easy…but we gotta do it!

  14. Rachel says:

    I just went through this right now.

    I’m trying to upgrade my freelance work to a higher level, and finally found a blogging job I that I’d be great at. All I had to do was write a post, and send it in.

    And yet, even though I knew not many people could do the job as well as I could (because of my experience and knowledge in the field), and I was sure I could write a killer of a post, I STILL delayed forever doing it.

    It got to the point where I was so sick of myself and my excuses about not doing it, but that when I went to start writing it, I would get sidetracked on research.

    Finally I told myself that I won’t be a complete loser even if it’s not accepted, and even more importantly, I’d be stuck in my current job for life if I don’t get over this. So I just made myself sit down and write just the headline. When I got the headline down pat, I told myself, just the lede.

    And from there it went on. Each day I do a little bit, and today I’m about halfway through – and I already feel my motor revving to start on it.

    BTW- Just like to thank you Carol for the lead to this job – someone commented on a post of yours that he’s looking for writers, but hasn’t been able to find anyone to write the way he wants.
    Never know what you’ll find when you read the comments…
    Rachel recently posted…Why Screwing Up Is Good for Your KidsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow, you got the lead from the comments to one of my blog posts! That is A W E S O M E! I love finding gigs for other freelancers more than butter. 😉

      You know that I have that first-piece complex myself. Just have to slog through it. Love your strategy of breaking it down…works for me.

  15. Thank you for the reminder that I’m not the only writer out here with these fears. I’ve discovered a trick that helps me get over my writing/marketing fears. If I can’t manage to hit the send button, I will literally go watch 15 minutes of CNN. There is some scary stuff going on in our world. When I return to my desk, sending out that pitch, blog post, or even this very comment, just doesn’t compare.
    Nicole Robinson recently posted…5 Ways Parents Can Banish College Savings AnxietyMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Fascinating tip! Thanks for adding it.

      I put this in the category of “perspective setters.” They’re so valuable and I’m always seeking out opportunities to reframe my own problems to see how insignificant they really are.

      When I used to play rock n’ roll, I had terrific stage fright. Before going on, what I was usually thinking was, “Remember, no matter how bad you suck on stage tonight, 1 billion Chinese could care less.”

      We are such a tiny pindot on the earth…why not go for it?

  16. Monique says:

    Carol.
    This was an amazing post…and right on time.

    I will push forward because honestly, I am now getting upset with myself. In my (full-time)professional world I am on top of things and getting things done. But here I am with my (part-time) freelance business (my big dream job) and I am stagnant. Really???

    My fear has paralyzed me and caused me to procrastinate and over-think very, very minute details.

    I am done!

    Carol. Thank you
    Monique recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

  17. Willi Morris says:

    I’ve seen some great posts on fear, Carol. This is another great one.

    I live with anxiety as an everyday part of my life. (Linked my personal post again.)

    Some tips: deep breathing, imagining the worst case scenario (which usually isn’t that bad) and imagining the most likely outcome.

    Also, since we are a community if writers – write down those fears! If you are so inclined, share them. Post them on a personal blog, and you might get some great comments you wouldn’t expect.

    I’ve learned the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is when something or someone is actually threatening you. Anxiety is just perceived fear. It’s an illusion of fear. When I embrace that, I feel SO much better!
    Willi Morris recently posted…Living With Anxiety: When It’s Okay to Put Up the “Closed” Sign For A WhileMy Profile

  18. Erica says:

    My fear usually manifests in the very beginning, before I’ve even put a word on the page. Recently I’ve developed a personal checklist to find out what’s bugging me (like a baseball player going up to bat, only mine is shorter):

    1. How am I feeling physically? If my body is agitated or running on empty, I can’t think and my stress levels skyrocket.

    2. Is something bothering me emotionally? If I physically feel fine, then I need to evaluate my thought patterns and find out what else could be blocking me.

    3. If everything is generally fine, then I break up what I’m trying to accomplish into smaller tasks, schedule regular breaks and, when necessary, write myself a one-page pep talk. “You can do this. You’ve done _____, you can do this. I believe in you, sweetie.”
    Erica recently posted…How this Little Ducky Went Freelance: Part 2My Profile

  19. jamie says:

    Hi Carol – this is a topic we can all identify with.

    The fear of putting your writing “out there” can be quite scary. My philosophy is, if you have done your best then submit it, press publish, email it… and don’t worry about the consequences.

    Of course you can “think” about the consequences. Like, maybe this will be accepted, or if not – maybe I’ll get some constructive feedback or encouragement. Think that every other writer before you has gone through the same process.

    And don’t worry about perfection – progress should be the goal. I mean look what you wrote here Carol “There is no Universal Editor Network out there that will instantly ntoify every other editor…”
    Maybe it was deliberate for humour, or a typo – but who gives a crap, 99.9% of this post is awesome, useful, inspiring and helpful content – that’s what to focus on when you send our your work.

    You can only do your best and give it to the world. Don’t “hide your light under a bushel” as my dad says.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Whoops — well off to fix that! But as you say — mistakes WILL happen when you write.

      It’s so much better to write and publish a lot and have the occasional error than it is to never press ‘send.’

  20. It took me a long time to finally sharing my passion with my family and friends. I’ve always been find getting in touch with people that I don’t know and sending pieces but as soon as I’ve met someone, I start to worry how they’ll think. I released my eBooks just over a year ago after having some of them written and ready to go on my computer for years but didn’t tell my friends. It was only when a friend told me he’d found one of my books and that he liked it that I started wondering why I was so scared. Now, my husband gets to read the majority of stuff that I write — and I know that the negative critique is actually there to help me and not because he thinks something is rubbish.
    Alexandria Ingham recently posted…Why You Shouldn’t Hire Someone to Do Your AssignmentsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      You point up something that’s essential in the world of writing, Alexandria — the ability to deal with editing and critique. In those songwriting workshops I was just talking about, I learned people were here to make my song better, and maybe get it published or recorded by a big artist.

      If you can’t commit to getting feedback and to constantly improving your writing, it’s hard to make any progress. Glad you’re into the groove on that now!

  21. Ryan Urie says:

    I find that the fear is worst when I feel like I’m having to go it alone. I joined a local writing/critique group that meets every two weeks and it gives me a way to put my work “out there” with people I know and trust before sharing it with the world. The support and encouragement these friends give me is also priceless when it comes to combating fear.
    Ryan Urie recently posted…You should writ…My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Writer groups can be a great safe first place to put work out there, Ryan! Back when I was a songwriter I used to go to a critique group ever week, on Hollywood Boulevard.

      Many of the techniques I talk about today I learned way back then, in that group. If a songwriter said they were afraid someone would laugh at their song, we would do it for them — they’d play it, and we’d laugh. And then they’d laugh — because they’d see that even if the worst happens…you survive.

  22. Feeling this post as if you’d read my mind, Carol!

    My most effective solution ever is to say, “I’m just going to do this for 15 minutes and then I’ll stop if I want to.” An hour or two later, I’m usually still working. I think of it like going to the dentist: the time I spend quietly freaking out in the waiting room is worse than the actual treatment.
    Sophie Lizard recently posted…The Jedi’s Guide to Conquering Your Freelance Blogging FearsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I love your approach, Sophie! Most of us can stand about anything if we know it’ll only be for 15 minutes.

      And like your dentist analogy. And like the dentist, it’s survivable.

  23. This is the very stuff that stopped me from writing for ten years. I called myself “the writer who does not write.” I lost confidence at the end of college as the reality of having to ask for money for my work loomed. I freaked out, got an admin job instead of a writing job, then worked my way back in via jobs in PR and then editing, and finally hiding behind anonymity on the content mills. It took me ages to comment on this blog due to fear of putting my name on my comments. Now what? Am I finally ready to take the plunge? Thank you for sharing about the very real fear that everyone has and reminding us that it is indeed everyone (not just me)!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ten years is such a long time away from what you want to be doing, Lindsay. Hope you’re ready to dive in!

      As Dear Abby used to say, how old will you be in ten years if you’re NOT doing it? Just the same…only sad that you’re not living the life you want.

      • Lindsay Scheerer says:

        I know, I have been a sad individual. Time to change that. Confidence can make or break you. It’s good having writers like you for inspiration. 🙂

        • Carol Tice says:

          I recommend starting small. Could you write a 300-word play review or restaurant review for a local paper? That sort of thing. Or publish a blog post? Find somewhere that doesn’t feel so scary where you can put something out. The self-confidence it builds is really magical.

          I actually have a photo that I’m going to do a post about sometime soon. Recently rediscovered it — I’ve got my oldest in a stroller and am at the mini-mart…standing there reading my byline in the free paper. Seeing my byline was like crack! I had to have more…and it all rolled from there. I had to learn more, do more, get published again. Try it!

  24. Neil says:

    “Ok self, time to make the move. No!! You cannot just sit there and believe osmosis will set in and make the move for you. What do you mean you are content to let the world pass you by? Maybe you are, but I’m not. My bills will not get paid and my sons will not get help in their college bill, just because you are afraid to punch the “send” key. Now either move aside and give me the reigns or get the job done yourself.” Conversation between me and myself.

    Too often it becomes too easy to simply decide that tomorrow will be the perfect time to begin. Today will be my day to research the markets and decide where to commence my query and LOI send-offs. Sad thing is that this condition has lost me a few opportunities in the past. No confidence in what the Good Lord has blessed me with. Sometimes we have to shut off our minds and go with our guts.

    “Yes you!! Start believing in yourself.”

  25. Carol
    This writer’s fear of rejection very much reminds me of the fears and anxieties people have in their teens and early twenties about courting the opposite sex – particularly men, as they’re the ones who generally do the asking.

    You’re petrified of making your move, through that very same fear of rejection.

    What if they laugh at me when I ask? What if I screw up the first date? What if my nerves get the better of me?

    So you put it off and put it off until some unknown time in the future when you think you’ll somehow have that self-confidence.

    Then one day you look back and wonder why on earth you made such heavy weather out of the whole thing.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted…Blog vs news? The 3-point checklist to help you chooseMy Profile

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "3 Steps to Escape the Fear Trap and Put Your Writing Out There"
  1. […] whether by ignoring that almost-polished project in order to work on a shiny new idea, talking oneself out of querying agents or publishers, finding reasons why not to put that butt in the chair, reacting to bad press, or, worst […]

  2. […] Oddly enough, when I got on the internet today, I found this article waiting for me.  I often post links that may be interesting, but this one I actually recommend.  One of the items on the “what writers fear” list is “will piss someone off.”  I actually thought I was pretty much alone in this concern.  I felt like people either were so nice they wouldn’t raise ire, or they actually welcomed the confrontation.  The advice on how to deal with that fear (and the others) was good enough I thought I’d try it.  Here’s the article:   3 Steps to Escape the Fear Trap and Put Your Writing Out There. […]