Fear as a Writer

How to Face Your Greatest Fear as a Writer

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

As a writer, fear can be an exceptionally debilitating issue. Whether a blogger, freelancer, or author, most of us are afraid of something in our line of work. But if we want to be successful, we need to learn how to tame those fears and move forward.

Unfortunately, everyone has a varying degree of anxiety when it comes to their work. Some people simply have the hardest time getting over something you might think of as mundane.

Speaking from experience, though, this fear will hold you back from achieving those aspirations and dreams about being a success.

Sure, I’m a successful freelance writer today. However, I could have been much further along in my goals if I would have had more faith in myself in the beginning.

Now, it feels like I’m playing catch-up.

What Do You Fear as a Writer?

Everyone is different when it comes to things that drive anxiety. But over the years, I’ve seen a lot of potentially good writers succumb to fear and give up. Some even surrendered before they even had a chance to see what they could do.

Out of everyone I’ve met, seen, and interacted with, there were several common elements among them. I’m sure there are more components out there, but these are the most frequent ones that I’ve experienced from myself as well as others.

Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is perhaps the most common fear I’ve seen in a writer. This is when you don’t feel that you’re worthy of success, or that you feel like an “impostor” when someone gives you praise.

That you’re not good enough to achieve the things you want.

The thing about impostor syndrome is that it has two extremes. You could be an extreme underachiever or an extreme overachiever.

In the first instance, writers will constantly berate themselves and have a tremendous lack of faith in their abilities. They often view compliments as fluff and don’t believe anyone could appreciate their work. As such, they don’t put in a lot of effort to put themselves out there.

The second usually results in someone pushing themselves extremely hard to prove they can handle the task. The downside to this, though, is the person never believes he or she did enough to accomplish the goals, even after going above and beyond what was needed.

For example, it took years for me to feel confident as a freelance writer. When someone would compliment my work, my response was always, “I try.” That’s because I didn’t feel as though the work was good enough.

Nowadays, I simply reply, “Thank you,” and understand that the work I provide is the best I can deliver.

Out of all the fears a writer can face, impostor syndrome is probably the hardest to overcome. It requires a great deal of objective personal insight and constant reminders of your abilities.

Negative Feedback

Regardless of the type of writing you’re doing, the fact is that you’ll always have negative feedback from some. This is because you can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time.

This also means that you need to develop a thick skin. If you’re too fragile, the slightest negative comment can send you into a spiral of emotions.

Now, you also need to understand that not all negative feedback is a personal attack. Some people will point out things that may help you improve your writing. No one is going to create the perfect piece of content every single time.

I once had a writer with an intense fear of negative feedback. After just one instance, she completely gave up freelancing because she couldn’t handle rejection. But rejection is a part of life.

All you can do is learn from the instance and make yourself a better writer, overall.

Even I, in all of my bad-assness on Textbroker, have had a rejection from a client. Even though it really upset me, as I was working on a perfect record at the time, I came to realize that not everything is going to go smoothly.

Rejections, revisions, and complaints are going to happen whether they are justified or not.

Trolls on Social Media

Speaking of negative comments, you probably won’t have any worse than from trolls on social media. Remember, you’re not going to please everyone. Some people are going to hate for no other reason than to hate.

You need to learn the difference between trolls and actual critiques.

For example, a true critique will break down what the person did not like about the work with more precision than a troll. Simply saying, “I hate it” isn’t a real critique.

Then, you’ll have those who want nothing more than to get under your skin. They thrive on chaos and drama and will say anything to get a reaction. And the more you interact, the more of a thrill they get.

I found that once you start ignoring those trolls, they get bored and often move on. Or, you can simply block them on most social platforms.

Expectations of Others

As a writer, do you fear not being able to live up to the expectations of others? This can actually feed directly into impostor syndrome as you don’t believe you’re good enough and worry about letting people down.

Especially if you do something great that may feel like a one-off experience.

As I said before, though, you can’t please everyone all the time. And focusing too much on trying to meet the expectations of others could stall your progress as a writer.

This can come in the form of not publishing that blog post because you don’t feel it’s good enough. Perhaps you fear publishing that novel you’ve been working on because you feel as though you hyped it up too much.

Trying to live up to the perceptions of others will only result in increased stress and anxiety.

Expectations of Yourself

Perhaps it’s not the expectations of others you fear, but that of yourself as a writer. I’ve seen a lot of people sabotage themselves over the years because they are not meeting what they perceive to be “success.”

A lot of these writers often set unrealistic goals for themselves. Or, they’ll compare themselves to other writers, bloggers, and freelancers who appear to be far more successful.

For instance, I’ve seen people start a blog and then talk about giving up after just four months. In reality, it can take six to eight months before anything you write today to really gain traction in Google.

Coincidentally, blogging is all about playing the long game.

I also know people who debate giving up being an author because their first books didn’t fly off the shelves. Or, they stopped working on a story on Wattpad because it was getting very few reads.

Setting too high of an expectation for yourself can lead to a dramatic fall. And if you’re just starting out, you can’t expect anything you write today to be the most amazing piece of literature in the world.

8 Ways a Writer Can Overcome Fear

Fear can be an overwhelming adversary. However, those things which give you anxiety can be overcome if you put in the effort to do so.

Now, depending on the level of anxiety, seeking professional help may be the best course of action. Nonetheless, these are the methods I use every day to keep my head in the game.

Yes, I still struggle with a few fears, myself. But I know I can overcome them as long as I keep pushing forward.

1. Building Self-Confidence

It can take a great deal of time to build up self-confidence. For some of us, it can take years to feel comfortable with our writing. Throughout the journey, though, you can learn a great deal about yourself.

One of the things that helped me the most was changing a few small habits. Take the one I mentioned earlier. When I started to make a conscious effort to accept praise and say, “thank you,” my perception of myself started to change.

Another aspect that greatly impacted my level of self-confidence was…

2. Accomplishing Realistic Goals

I talk a lot about creating goals that are realistic to your abilities and needs. But this often requires a bit of an objective point of view about yourself.

For example, I started with the goal of writing 1,000 words per day. That’s because I knew that I had to manage a full-time job and care for my kids at the same time. In other words, I wasn’t striving to write 10,000 words from the get-go.

I also didn’t expect to replace a full-time income on the first day.

Even the smallest goals can help boost how you view yourself as a writer and dash away some of the fear.

3. Relish in the Smallest Accomplishments

Any victory is still a victory. Even if you surpassed your writing goal by a single word, it still means you achieved what you set out to do. And these small wins can do a lot to boost your esteem and confidence.

Take pride in everything you accomplish, even if it seems insignificant to others. Besides, you’re not trying to please everyone else. Let them make their own goals and challenges.

4. Run a Tally of Victories

Writing down your victories when they happen gives you something to look back on. This helps you realize just what you have accomplished and what you’re capable of handling.

For example, I have my best months and weeks for word count set as goals in my spreadsheet. Then, I can look back at any point and see just how much I’ve done over my career.

I often look back at comments from readers and viewers about how I’ve helped them in some way. Even the reviews I have on A Freelancer’s Tale give me a bit of a boost when I’m feeling low.

The point is to keep track of your wins and use them as inspiration for yourself. They’ll act as reminders, especially on those days when you’re not feeling confident in your writing.

5. Focusing on Your Target Audience

One of the more important facets to deal with fear as a writer is to focus on your audience, not the haters. Remember, some people are simply going to hate everything.

Those who don’t appreciate your work, interact positively with your content, or try to shame you in some way are not the ones you have to worry about. It’s the people who buy your books, read your blog posts, or love the work you deliver that are your main concern.

Your target audience are the people who are going to help you succeed. And as long as you’re meeting their needs, what does it matter what anyone else thinks?

6. Constantly Learn New Methods

I’m always in a state of self-improvement. This often means that I take time to learn as much as I can to improve my writing down the road. Whether it’s SEO, novel-writing tactics, or refreshing my knowledge of a topic for a client, I spend a lot of time researching on Google.

The more you learn, the more valuable you become. Not to mention that knowledge can help dash away the fear of not being good enough as a writer.

7. Have Realistic Expectations

The most important thing about being a writer is having realistic expectations of yourself. Now, it’s OK to challenge yourself to go beyond your perceived limits. But you can’t expect to fly if you haven’t built the wings.

I knew when I started as a writer for Textbroker that I had no clue about AP Style writing. I accepted the label of being an “average” writer but then spent the next several years becoming more than I was.

It’s OK to daydream about being a best-selling author on Amazon. But don’t become distraught with your first book if it only sells 10 copies. It takes a great deal of work to hit some of those greater milestones. But the fact that you published the first book is but a step in that direction.

Keep walking the path.

8. Stop Putting Yourself Down

I see authors put themselves down all the time on Twitter. It’s sad, really. There’s so much negativity, probably because they had unrealistic expectations to meet.

In any case, constantly putting yourself down only reinforces the fear of not being good enough to be a writer. Even if you failed at something, learn why it went south so you can prepare for your next attempt.

If you view yourself negatively, how do you expect anyone to view you otherwise?

Don’t Let Fear Stop You as a Writer

I believe anyone can be a successful writer as long as they put in the effort to learn and grow. However, it’s not something that’s just going to happen overnight. It could take a lot of work to get you to your dreams and aspirations.

The last thing you should do is let fear control your goals as a writer. Sure, it can be scary to put yourself out there for other people to judge. But if you’re not prepared for that, then you won’t get very far.

Be realistic with yourself without involving negative emotions. It’s difficult, but it will help you unlock a lot of potential and open yourself up to a lot of possibilities.

Michael Brockbank
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