Your heart races, your hands shake, you want to run, scream, hide! Glancing behind you, you’re ready to face the growling beast that prowls toward you. But you see nothing – no beast, no scary slithering snake, no creepy spiders.
Instead, you see a draft of your current chapter or article and a writing friend, who’s waiting for you to hand it over.
Somehow, this can be as terrifying as having a spider plop onto your keyboard or notebook mid-sentence.
The crazy thing about fear is that our fear response is the same whether we’re facing an angry, hissing snake…or handing someone a piece of writing. Fear is fear, and our bodies don’t differentiate, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve ever been accused (or judged yourself) for being “dramatic” about it.
But why is sharing our writing so scary when we’re giving someone a piece of paper with little black marks on it or hitting publish on the computer? We’re not playing catch with a live hand grenade.
It’s scary because our writing is part of us. When we share it, we’re putting a piece of ourselves out into the world. What if people don’t like it or reject it? It can feel like they’re rejecting us.
Trust me. They’re not. But we can tell ourselves that all day, and it might not help. Below are eight steps that can help you work through your fear.
1) Figure out if you can pinpoint exactly what is terrifying you. Write it down on a post-it or piece of paper and stick it on the wall in front of you. Maybe you’re afraid that your grammar stinks or someone might laugh at it. Now, put that into perspective. Will anyone die if your dialogue could use some work? Will a kitten get hurt? Will life as you know it cease to exist? If the worst that will happen is that someone might point out a comma error or an inconsistency in one of your details, remember that’s a good thing.
That’s what you want so you can improve and develop your ideas and story further.
2) Take some sharing “baby steps.” Start sharing with somebody safe who you know will give you 95% super positive feedback and gush about how amazing you are, like your mom, your spouse, or your best friend who already thinks you’re brilliant.
3) Share a small piece. You don’t need to hand over the first half of your novel. Start with a short scene, or even the outline of a story or article. Start by discussing your ideas rather than a whole written piece.
4) Find a group of writing buddies where everyone shares. I’ve got a writing partner who I share writing with weekly, or we have idea sessions if we have no “words” to share. We both share and we both get feedback. Sometimes, we have lots of feedback for a chapter and sometimes very little, but when everyone shares and gets critiqued, it’s easier.
5) Write a question at the top of your piece that you’d like your readers to focus on. For example, you might ask if you’ve written enough details about the setting, or where you can add more character description. Or, you can ask more structural questions like where is it choppy or abrupt, so you know where to add more transitional phrases to help with the flow of the piece.
This is also helpful for your reader because then they have one or two elements to focus on instead of the entire piece, and it rescues you from the fear that they’re going to give you an overall negative response.
6) Face your fears, and they’ll shrink. Think about it. The first time you do something can be terrifying but the more you do it, the more routine it becomes.
When I wrote my first blog post years (and years) ago, my hands shook when I hit “publish.” I was in tears! I was sure my writing sucked, people would laugh at me. They would wonder what the heck I was doing or even thinking having a blog.
What actually happened? People read it and commented on it. They bought my books, gave me good reviews. Today, I have no problem writing a blog post and hitting “publish.” Now, it feels almost silly that it was so terrifying. But, if you were to ask me to perform in a play? I might vomit first…because I’ve never done it.
7) Give yourself a little love and stop judging yourself so harshly. Nobody is paying as much attention to you as you think they are. Trust me.
8) Open yourself up to learning. Writing a huge failure of a story can sometimes be more helpful in becoming a better writer than writing and sharing the perfect story.
If your goal is to grow as a writer, then you need to not only understand but embrace the idea that not everything you write will be amazingly wonderful, and that’s a great thing. It means you’re pushing yourself, taking risks, trying new techniques, playing with words – all the good stuff that will make you a better writer.
Put it into Action
Learning to write well is a process. It’s hard work but doing it together makes the process that much easier. This week, choose one small piece, maybe the opening paragraph to a story or a short poem. Figure out a question if you want specific feedback and write that at the top. Finally, face your fears and share it with a “safe” person, or post it in the comments below and I’ll give you some feedback.
Have a great week!