The difference between an “aspiring” writer and a writer is that fear consumes an “aspiring” writer, but a writer has the courage to face that fear.
Becoming a writer doesn’t happen overnight nor is it a fixed state of being. Becoming a writer happens every time you decide to put a pen to paper. You get to decide how often that is. Of course, writing can be scary and these ten tIps represent more practical advice that can help you shed your fear of fiction and become the writer you have always wanted to be!
1) Embrace First Drafts
Divorce your fear of sucking really badly. There’s nothing morally or ethically wrong with writing something bad. I do it all the time. I once wrote a haiku so bad that when I read it out loud to myself, I cried. Yup, you can do that and still be a writer. If you embrace first drafts and accept that writing is the easiest thing in the world to correct over and over again, you’ll be on your way. Think about it, a surgeon doesn’t get a chance to say “oopsie!” when they’ve made a mistake. The consequences for writing am embarrassing poem, haiku or novel are way less serious than what a surgeon faces for possible mistakes. Once you embrace first drafts, you can rewrite to your hearts content.
2) Storytelling is the most natural form of communication
Telling a story, whether fiction or non-fiction is the most natural thing in the world. Human beings have been telling stories for ages and because of that, we have a lot of practice before we ever put fingers to keyboard. If you’re afraid of writing, think about this. You’ve probably already told hundreds if not thousands of stories. You’ve watched movies. You have read books. All of this has been quiet preparation for writing! You’re more prepared than you think.
3) You can learn to write better
Your skill as a writer isn’t fixed. In Stephen King’s On Writing, he claims that anyone can become a good writer but not everyone can become great. I wholeheartedly disagree. All the “great” writers have something in common. Even if some may have started writing early on in their lives, they went through a process of learning and educating themselves to write better. No baby is born knowing how to speak or write, yet most of us can. We have a strong capacity for learning, but to learn, you need to put that first word down.
4) Read Fiction (read whatever you want to write)
Reading is the best way to feel comfortable with writing. The more you read and the more you write, the less fearful you will become over time. You gain confidence by getting to the place where you believe “I could write something like this” or “I want to write something like this”. Your perspective broadens when you read which is why reading is so important!
5) Put your fears into context
This is a little tip that I’ve borrowed and rewritten from my experiences in therapy and this helps reduce anxious thinking and fear in other contexts. When you fear failure from writing, much of this fear is due to something called a “cognitive distortion” where you assume a worst case scenario with no evidence that the worst case scenario is going to happen. Long story short, if you’re fearful of writing, are you thinking of the worst case scenario? Chances are this worst case scenario isn’t what’s going to happen and you can prove it to yourself by playing out the most likely scenario in your head. For example, I may be afraid to write a haiku because it would be “so horrible” and embarrass me. The reality was I did write a horrible haiku but then nothing happened… I deleted the haiku and poof! It was gone. The worst case scenario didn’t get a chance to happen and this is most likely the case. Plus, what if the best case scenario happened? Why don’t we give that a chance for a change.
6) Make practice the goal
Our fears bubble to the surface when we set unrealistic goals. If you’ve never written a novel before why is your goal to be on the New York Times bestseller list? Faulty goal setting is a clever way of setting yourself up for failure where your faulty thinking is then used as external justification for why you never finish projects. A better goal for writers is to set a goal of showing up and writing. Don’t fuss about writing the next War & Peace. I’m reading it now, and it’s not that amazing anyway. Set the goal to show up every day and write. See how the habit becomes easier and before you know it, your fear evaporates.
7) Write with less pressure
I’ve touched on this in previous points but it’s important to create an environment where you aren’t facing negative pressure. As a professional writer, I can tell you that this is a total luxury, but if you aren’t a professional, it’s a luxury you may be able to afford. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to fuss over every word. Write without an editor in the back of your mind. This editor slows you down, is often too critical, and prevents you from doing the work that needs to be done.
8) Seek feedback
This is a tricky one for me since in my opinion, not all feedback is created equal. In a day and age where people gain social capital from “dragging” others, many believe that “constructive criticism” is tearing someone down but keeping a smile on your face. Seeking feedback from those closest to you can be excessively obsequious and writers can sense phony positivity about their work. The best feedback comes from publishing your work and allowing the public to decide where they fall. There are many ways to get published. Putting yourself out there will build confidence and reduce your fear of writing over time.
9) Identify as a successful writer
I won’t apologize for how “airy-fairy” this seems because this tip actually works. Stop seeing yourself as someone “aspiring” and lurking in the shadows. Don’t go overboard with this, but slowly build your confidence by becoming an author in both spirit and practice.
10) Make the process pleasurable
The final tip is a no brainer, but too many associate writing with pain. Yes, Ernest Hemingway allegedly said to “write drunk and edit sober” but he also shot himself, so clearly the man wasn’t infallible. Writing brings me the greatest joy out of anything in my life. Even if at times I think I “suck” at writing, you would be surprised at how easy that feeling is to temper when you’re enjoying what you’re doing. Even the worst person in bed still enjoys sex.
If you can put these ten unusual tips to practice, I think you’ll have a blast and get one step closer to shedding that pesky fear of failure and disappointment.
What are your biggest fears about writing? ✍🏽 Did I miss anything? Comment down below and let me know. Since I’m just starting out on this blog every comment helps me out. Put your thoughts down below and let’s chit chat. I’m excited to help! 👇🏼
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