Life, Personal Development, Writerly

Battling Yourself: The Fear of Writing

This is probably the most honest blog post I’ve ever written about being a writer, stemming from emotion rather than reason, my own insecurities coming to the forefront this past week. It’s something I’m recently struggling with, it’s something I know other writers and creative types struggle with, and so I wanted to put it out there, raw and (mostly) unedited. This entry is cross-posted with my other site.

It’s 2:45am, and I can’t sleep, even though my dog is curled up next to me, snoring, dreaming. Words and ideas for blog posts and stories are starting to invade my thoughts, but slowly…too slowly. Suddenly, for the first time in months, I feel like I’m forcing myself to write, wonder if I even want to put these thoughts down, tired at the idea of reaching for that laptop or pen and paper.

Suddenly, for the first time in months, I’m afraid to write.

I think that writers are naturally sensitive with their work; truly, each sentence, each carefully selected word, comes from a part of yourself, and every time you put a thought down on paper, it’s like giving up a piece of yourself, leaving you more vulnerable as you show it to the world. Through your writing, you’re saying, “this is what and how I write because this is who I am,” and it’s up to the readers to love it or hate, to determine if it’s good, worthwhile, and you can’t help but wonder if that’s actually an extension of yourself.

It’s a dreary, frightening thought that I’m not convinced is 100% accurate. As a reader, too, I like to think that we’re all able to separate the words from the person; however, as a writer, that self-consciousness, awareness, fear, exists — a small seed of doubt that is planted and can grow if fed with too much criticism, fostering self-doubt.

And self-doubt is always the writer’s greatest enemy.

This past week, I’ve struggled with my writing — both blog posts and stories (I won’t even mention the novel…that’s been my Achilles’ heel for months and a topic I’ll cover soon). I’ve written posts for twenty(or)something, I’ve met with my writing group and used these challenges and prompts to come up with snippets of a story, the beginnings of what could be something. Only, I feel a bit ashamed of the posts I wrote, believing they’re not my best; and that creativity that has inspired me, motivated me these past few months? I feel like it has dried to a slow trickle. Even Annie, who is usually scrambling for attention and has so much to say, has stopped talking.

Or maybe I’ve stopped listening…

I write, and I feel like a fraud. Suddenly, I question myself: who am I to call myself a writer? Who am I to encourage others to find inspiration, to motivate themselves, to foster the writer inside of them when I can barely string a few words together to make a coherent sentence? My credentials and experience seem juvenile when compared with published authors; my portfolio seems woefully small.

Am I a writer?

Or am I just an impostor? Playing a good game of make-believe, fooling everyone, including myself?

Deep down, I know the answer. Deep down, I know that every piece of myself screams “writer.” I feel the word itself living within me, pulsating through my veins, even as these words are forced from my fingers where they once spilled forth easily, naturally.

But that self-doubt keeps me frozen, keeps those stories locked away, small pieces of inspiration barely slipping through the bars of a self-made cage.

It’s the writer’s greatest enemy.

And it’s time to do battle against it.

What battles do you face as a writer and/or blogger? How do you contend with self-doubt and these often irrational insecurities? How does this often unfounded fear hinder yourself and your personal and/or career development?
Part II: Battling Yourself: Fighting the Fear of Writing, coming soon.

Note: After expressing these thoughts recently to a friend, I was told that there is something called impostor syndrome, which is a very real, very crippling manifestation of these thoughts. While I do believe a lot of my own feelings are due to a temporary case of self-doubt, I’m very aware that this exists and wanted it to be acknowledged.

4 thoughts on “Battling Yourself: The Fear of Writing”

  1. What you are describing sounds like performance anxiety, something that can plague anyone, but can be especially prevalent in anyone who works before or with an “audience” — teachers and musicians, artists, actors, performers and writers. For someone like you who is already prone to free-form anxiety disorders, the performance aspect can be especially troublesome. Beta blockers can help quell some of the more bothersome physical symptoms and can help to break some of the circular thinking that makes the problem worse.

    As a musician, I have found that the 6 Golden Rules of David Leisner, an esteemed musician and composer, are helpful, not just within the context of music making, but also in any creative endeavor where performance anxiety (no matter what it is called: stage fright or writer’s block) can impede one’s progress.

    I humbly offer this to you and gently suggest that you consider allowing yourself to be in the experience of writing (see rule number 4) rather than in the audience …

    David’s rules mention music and playing – you can substitute any endeavor for those, I’ve found.

    THE 6 GOLDEN RULES

    1. You have practiced to the best of your ability. Trust your automatic pilot to do most of your work for you.

    2. Do not judge what just happened or will happen. Only motivate and observe.

    3. Do not second-guess anyone’s reaction to your work, as
    your perception will probably be inaccurate. Please yourself only.

    4. Be in the music, in the moment. Be on stage, not in the audience. Be in the giving mode, not the receiving one.

    5. Single out one aspect of your playing that is the top priority among things you need to be reminded of at this time.

    6. Enjoy! Let your emotions for the music be present. Let your excitement for the music be present.

  2. Benjamin: It’s funny you say that, as there’s a Bill Cosby quote that says “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” I’m not sure why that has always stuck with me, possibly because I didn’t expected something so profound, but I’ve found this to be true, especially with writing. These insecurities come in cycles and, like I said with Crystal, I think that every artist has those feelings of self-doubt at one point or another. I think that comes with the trade, which can be so personal. I think the key is to learn how to push through that, and learning to follow your heart and write for yourself first might be vital to the process. Thanks for mentioning the 6 Golden Rules; I’d never heard of that before, and I would love to use it in a follow-up post. Thanks again!

  3. I’ve been totally feeling this lately. I’ve kind of dropped everything but the blogging because I feel fraudish. It’s just something writers go through. I think the minute you stop having those doubts you become a bad writer. It’s those doubts that help us realize that it’s a choice, I think (hope).

  4. Kim: I’m glad to hear that you’re still blogging — I think it’s so important to keep up with something you love, even though you second-guess yourself. I really like what you have to say: it definitely is something that all writers go through, but I never considered that maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe when you push through it, fight against it, you realize that you really are a writer, that it really is something you love.

    Thanks for your comment and your insight!

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