Do 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.