Wednesday, October 29, 2014


This post has been reprised and updated from one that first appeared Oct. 17, 2011.

Having suffered from insomnia in the past and now facing a new journey of life alone after the loss of my husband, I know fear can raise its ugly head during the wee hours when you are between awake and doze. You are most vulnerable then and negative things keep running through your mind in a continuous loop.

As writers, we all experience this to some degree at various stages of our work. First it might be “I can’t come up with an idea.” Then, after a great start where the story flows effortlessly, there is that sudden stop and “Oh no! Where do I go next? What if I can’t finish the story?” The fear seems real.

After you finish the story and polish it to a high sheen, then fear sets in again: “What if I can’t get it published? What if nobody likes it?” Any small word of critique becomes that F.E.A.R.

OK, say your book gets published and after the happy dancing and celebrating calms down, then next phase of fear sets in. “What if I’m a one-shot wonder? That was just a fluke. I’ll never be able to do that again.”

I’ve been there, done that—all of it. Fear is destructive and counter-productive. We all need to confront that Fear and talk it down. You know you are doing the best job you possibly can, and you WILL finish that WIP, and readers WILL like it (especially if you hire an independent editor to help you)!

Think positively, take the next step, and persevere. Don’t let fear rule your writing life. And check out this article by Katherine Swarts about overcoming fear.

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, and a non-fiction book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women, have just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.


  1. Fear is the killer of dreams. Self-doubt is his second-hand man.

  2. Author Hugh Howey spoke at a conference I attended recently, and he said he'd write even if it cost him money. He likened it to family members who gardened, knit, built stuff because it gave them pleasure. Granted, the desire to be published and paid for one's work is there, but if you love what you do, if NOT writing would be like NOT breathing, a lot of the fear goes away.

    1. I don't know how that URL got added to my comment. Sorry.

  3. Ah, yes, the smell of fear ... dogs and publishers pick it up ... except publishers don't chase after you.

  4. Great comments ahead of me. Since I self-publish, there is no fear of someone not wanting my book. My fear came with the third book in my series because I was afraid it wouldn't be any good. The judgment is always with the readers, but I'm glad that one is over. Maybe it was pressure more than fear, but it felt just as immediate. Great column, Heidi.

  5. Great reprisal, Heidi. Facing down those fears can be daunting, but it's part of learning our craft. Fearful as I may be sometimes, I can't imagine doing anything else. From early childhood I wanted to be a writer, and I've reached that goal. Finding myself on the bestseller list in the NYT would be icing on the cake, but I don't care whether that happens. I am what I want to be. :-)

  6. Thank you all for adding your comments and experiences to facing down that fear!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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