How to Face Down Writer Fear

Fear is probably the #1 factor preventing writers from seeing success in their careers. I’ve had many writers tell me they’re afraid of failing, afraid of rejection, afraid of bad reviews, afraid people will laugh at them, afraid readers will hate their book, afraid people will judge them or tell them they are selfishly wasting their time writing when they could be doing something more productive or meaningful.

There are probably more reasons to be afraid than there are to keep writing.

Let’s face it. Every single writer has and will have negative responses from their writing. There will always be people that dislike, maybe even hate, your work. That’s life. The sooner you can accept and expect it, the easier it will be to knock over your fear.

One of the toughest and most important attitudes writers need to master is summed up in the famous words of Franklin Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Words have power. They evoke emotion—even boredom. While some will criticize you for what you write—or for just writing instead of doing something else—others will be inspired, uplifted, and entertained by your work, your themes, and your messages.

So long as you seriously study the craft of writing, apply what you learn and put in the hours of practice … so long as you are teachable and listen to constructive criticism and work to improve your weak areas … so long as you put in the dedication to write your best book, you will see a measure of success. You will get to that finish line of publishing the book of your dreams.

When? I don’t have a crystal ball. But I can tell you that you need to keep your eye on the work and not the calendar.

Don’t let fear draw your focus away from your goals. Fear loves to stick its head out of the ground every time we embark on something new. Even if it’s something we’ve always wanted to do, fear will tell us time and again why we can’t, or why we shouldn’t.

For many of us, fear creates mental roadblocks, but we must remember to look beyond our fears. Don’t allow fear to control you.

When we work from a place of fear, it infects every aspect of our life. You may be afraid that if you co-opt time for writing, other areas of your life may suffer. Your family may end up hating you. Your partner will leave you. Your chores will pile up. You’ll have a nervous breakdown.

Maybe you don’t think you have any fear when it comes to writing. If not, more power to you! You’ll perhaps find this pathway to self-publishing easier than others. And maybe you’ll think of helpful tips to share with those in this course that are struggling with fear.

Imposter Syndrome

I think my biggest fear is related to imposter syndrome. I’m so surprised how many uber-successful creatives I know face down this fear all the time. Want to know something surprising? Many of the most successful creatives face down imposter syndrome regularly.

What is it? You feel like you’re a fake. That you’re just pretending you have talent. And sooner or later your deception will be exposed, and you’ll be humiliated and revealed to be incompetent. All that pretense will cause the world to laugh at you.

There’s a fine line between having confidence and pride in your abilities, talents, and accomplishments and being delusional! Some of us worry we are deceiving ourselves in thinking we are good writers, our books are worthy of being best sellers, and that we deserve the acclaim and recognition we long for.

All I can say to that is remind yourself your voice matters. Your unique creativity is a solid and important contribution to the world. Yes, you can always keep learning and improving, but the more you view yourself as a professional, adept, and authentic author,  the less you’ll be haunted by imposter syndrome.

Lifestyle Pictures/Alamy/Warner Bros

I have to bring in the fear litany from one of my favorite novels: Dune. “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Honestly, this works to dispel the fear. Print it out. Recite this when you are facing down your monstrous fear. It’s brilliant!

Be Proactive about Your Fear

Fear getting bad reviews? Hire a professional writing coach and editor to help you see the flaws in your writing or your structure. Make the improvements so you’ll gain confidence in your skill. Connect with other authors and trade critiques.

This is something I hope you will all do here, on the forum. I found a great critique partner on a writing forum. Post what you’re writing about and query people in our group. It’s not essential that other writers write in your genre. In fact, the best feedback I’ve gotten over the years is from readers who offered to read my novels that did not read—and sometimes did not like—my genre.

Want good sales? Be sure you design a great cover or pay a professional to do so. Oh, and the book description better be excellent, with your keywords and keyword phrases sprinkled in (no worries if you are clueless about that—we will cover it thoroughly in this course).

Want to get lots of great, influential book reviews? You’ll need to do your homework and learn how to find and query top reviewers and make a list of those people so when your draft is ready to send out, you’ll be set.

Ask yourself how you’ll feel twenty years from today if you failed to go after your dreams due to fear. Can you live with that?

How do you combat fear? Accept that it’s always going to be there to some degree. But it doesn’t have to slow or stop you.

Featured Photo by Filippo Ruffini on Unsplash

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  1. Many of my coaching clients struggle with imposter syndrome. We work on moving past the “shoulds” – those expectations others place on us and then we accept as the direction we should go. Fear is indeed the motivator, but truth displaces the fear.

  2. An excellent article, loaded with important points, especially the reference to looking back 20 years! Self-doubt is a killer, so in the words of someone back in the ’70s ‘Just do it’.

  3. A beautiful, well written post on fear. Thank you.
    Yes, fear is always there. I wrote a letter to my fear in the style of Liz Gilbert. It doesn’t stop the fear being there but helps to just accept it as a companion along the way. “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway”, my children will say to me, using my own words against me!

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