Every now and again on this blog, I feel pulled to venture into inspirational waters (perhaps even philosophical) and today is one of those days.
Why? Because the whole idea of “worry,” mostly about what others think, has come up several times in conversations with friends and family members, and to be honest, this past year, I got over it.
What is worry?
If I go there, to the land of “worry,” it can engulf me. I worry about what people think or if I’m “good” enough or “talented” enough. Thoughts about the future and what might happen eat at me.
Last fall (as some of you who’ve been on this journey with me know) was a “worrisome” time in my life. My beloved husband spent three months in the hospital undergoing multiple surgeries, organ failure, and surviving on life-support.
The times I found myself most upset was when I was worrying. What I ultimately realized was that all of my upset and worry was about stuff that hadn’t even happened. I would make up huge scenarios of “what if” and then get all upset about the story I had just made up.
And that, in a nutshell, is my definition of worry: getting upset and emotional about a story I made up.
At any given moment, he/we were fine. Sure, he was sick, but he was also alive and surviving.
Why get upset about a fantastical story you tell yourself? Planning for the worst case scenario, especially if it hasn’t even happened, doesn’t help. It upsets. It firmly plants you in your fears, and it feels terrible.
I’ve found that removing worry from my personal life was surprisingly much easier than removing it from my creative life.
Why get past worry, especially when it comes to your writing?
I find that worry can be especially insidious when it comes to my creativity and sharing my work.
Have you ever not written a story or poem or kept it secret in your journal (even though you thought it was pretty great) because the fear what people might say stopped you?
Yeah, I think we all have.
One of the scariest moments of my life was when I pressed publish on my very first blog post ever on a personal blog I had started at WordPress.
I was terrified. Guess what happened? I got some super positive feedback, and some people gave me some helpful suggestions (I’d rather think of them like that than as critiques).
I survived. Now, I share my writing all the time.
I get that worry about what people might think or say, can freeze you up and stop your creativity in its tracks. It can stop you from sharing your gifts and being true to yourself.
But let’s think about this. If you are called to write, it’s who you are. It brings you joy. You need to write.
So I ask you, is not sharing your writing because of fear worth it?
Sharing my writing can still be scary, but I’m a stronger writer for it. I’ve owned that part of me. I’m a writer. I can say it (and write it) without feeling like a fraud.
If you aren’t being who you are because you’re worried about what people might think or say, you’re giving a fantasy, a story that hasn’t even happened yet, an awful lot of power.
Getting past your worry and fear of criticism is so important to you becoming the best writer you can become.
Six Strategies to Move Past your Worry and Fear of Criticism
1) Realize that your worry and fear are often based on imagined stories.
I have no idea what people think or why they do things. For example, a few weeks ago, a member of WTW deleted their account. They’d posted several pieces, and I’d given feedback. For a moment, I panicked. “Oh no, did I give them negative feedback? What did I say? I must have offended them.” I worried that it was my fault. But I realized, quite quickly, that I had instantly made it all about me.
The truth? I have absolutely no idea why they deleted their account. They didn’t tell me or provide any feedback, so I don’t know.
End of story. No more worrying or upset.
2) Accept the idea, that somebody, somewhere will probably not like what you write. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that you can’t write or that you shouldn’t write.
Can you think of a story or genre of writing that you don’t particularly care to read?
I can. I’m not a huge fan of hardcore science fiction nor do I care for anything by the great English author Charles Dickens. But, this doesn’t mean I have anything against hardcore sci-fi writers or even Mr. Dickens.
Similarly, not everyone will like what you write, and it’s often not about you.
In fact, I just got another rejection yesterday from an agent. She liked my novel but “not enough.” Okay, movin’ on.
3) Differentiate between criticism and helpful feedback.
On this site, I try super hard to be as helpful as possible in terms of feedback. I want to help you improve which means sometimes pointing out areas in a piece that aren’t working or that I have questions about.
That’s how we learn. If a reader is confused by a piece of your story, take a look at that section. It doesn’t mean that it’s terrible, or you’re an awful human being. It means that one reader found one section of a piece you wrote a confusing. You get to decide if it needs revising. You’re the writer. If you like it as you wrote it, then keep it. See if somebody else finds it confusing. Get some more feedback. Sharpen your skills.
However, if someone were to just write “this sucks.” That’s straight-up criticism. It can hurt. To me, the best way to deal with this negativity is to remember that creating, what you’re doing, is much harder work than criticizing, and critics generally don’t create.
Embrace the feedback. Ignore the criticism (see #6).
4) Own that you are a creative risk-taker! Say it. Out loud, right now. “I’m a writer. I take risks.”
Sharing your writing is risky, but if you’re a writer, sharing it and getting it out there is part of the deal. Embrace that and be proud that you are brave enough to do something that you’re passionate about.
5) Stay in the moment.
This moment, right now, is the only moment that we’ve got. Stay there.
This is a difficult lesson to learn but holy cow, when my husband was sick, it saved my sanity. The past is over and cannot be changed. The future hasn’t even happened yet, so who knows what that will bring.
The only thing I can control is this very second, what words I will write next on this post. I can choose to be positive and loving right now, or I can choose to be upset and worried about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. To me, it’s a simple choice, though it’s not always easy to remember or put into practice.
6) Let it go – both your worry and any upset you have over criticism.
I get that this is sometimes easier said than done.
If you need to rage about it, do so. Grab your journal and a pen and get it all out on the page. Yell. Scream. List all the worst things that could possibly happen. Call the critic names. Whatever you need to do.
Then, shut your journal and move on. Let it go.
As a creative person, this is a tough lesson to learn, but this is often the healthiest response that will allow you to continue with our creative pursuits.
Worrying about what others think and getting past that, especially when it comes to our creative endeavors is one of the greatest challenges we have as creative people. But I’d rather be happy and create than to stop creating because I’m afraid.
I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below. How do you get beyond the worry and fear of putting yourself out there? Or does it stop you in your tracks and impact your creativity?
Thank you for reading and sharing your ideas and writing.
Finally, remember to own your creativity.