Monday, October 12, 2015

3 Reasons to Write What Scares You

Fear often freezes us, keeps us from breaking free and stepping into new spaces and opportunities.

Have a fear of heights? You avoid traveling long distances, and you definitely avoid bridges and planes.

Have a fear of public speaking? You avoid sharing your ideas and thoughts, which means you also avoid the possibility of achieving success through bringing your ideas and thoughts to fruition.


Have a fear of writing what scares you? You avoid writing in those spaces that might enable you to learn about yourself as a person and as a writer and growing from that new knowledge.

What does "write what scares you" even mean?

  • It could mean writing about those things that have brought pain into your life. Perhaps you have experienced a difficult divorce, and the main character in your latest WIP is experiencing the same thing. Having to balance your creativity and writing with your emotions can be problematic.
  • It could mean writing about those things that don’t directly affect you, but that still bring you pain. For example, my novel Into the Web features a serial killer who kidnaps, rapes, and kills young girls. It’s not the easiest subject to write about, and as an empath, I often find myself taking over the emotions of others—to include characters. It was difficult to write the book, but because this is the direction the book had to go, I as writer had to go with it.
  • It could mean writing about those things—themes, genres, character types, etc.—you’ve never written about. As writers, we can get comfortable in what we write, in how we write. That comfortability can hinder our creativity and any future stories to be told.


Although the thought of writing what scares us can keep us frozen in place, we can conquer the fear by writing through it. Here are three benefits that can come from writing what scares you:

Benefit #1: You can conquer a fear. This seems obvious, but often, this obvious benefit isn’t enough to get us to write what scares us. If we focus on the other side of the fear, a finished story, we may have a better chance of working through the fear—and killing that fear for good.

Benefit #2: You can grow as a person. When we write stories, we’re not just writing stories. Come again? Sometimes, we are untangling personal ideas and thoughts through our fiction, and in the act of writing, we can gain knowledge that can help us understand and fix problems in our lives.

Benefit #3: You can grow as a writer. Most writers want to be prolific, they want to be known for having written a strong body of fiction that educates, entertains, and/or excites readers now and in the future. We can become that prolific writer when we move into uncharted territory and delve into new subject matter, new genres, new media forms, new characters that enable us to create stories that expand not just the breadth of our writing, but also the depth of our writing.


Don’t let the dark shadows of fear hinder your writing because writing what scares you can actually be a great thing.

Do you write about what scares you? If so, how has your writing benefited from it?



Creative Passionista Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.

11 comments :

  1. Fear is the number one cause of writer's block. You have to power through until you reach the light at the end of the dark, scary tunnel.

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    1. That is definitely the key thing--POWER THROUGH. It's hard, but oh so necessary.

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  2. Fear is the number one cause of writer's block. You have to power through until you reach the light at the end of the dark, scary tunnel.

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  3. You are so right about using writing to make sense of things in our lives. I think most artistic expression is cathartic like that. It's what propels us to create stories and paintings and music.

    I do have a fear of confrontation, stemming from childhood experiences, and I know that has been a problem for me in my writing. I have to force myself to let my characters really get into a fight or an argument.

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    1. Maryann, I, too, have that same fear. Haven't been able to shake it yet, and I always have to push through it in storytelling.

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  4. The only thing that scares me, Shonell, is being serious and acting like an adult. That might explain why no one takes me or my writing seriously.

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    1. Ha! I have to admit, many times, I am the same way.

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  5. I was just discussing this with a friend - something from childhood that crept into a murder mystery I'm writing. I hope to purge the image or put it into a less scary frame with this writing!

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    1. Seems like this piece was right on time, Dani!

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  6. Writing what scares us helps to articulate our fears, examine them, put them in perspective, and perhaps even find ways to deal with them through our characters. Not only is this cathartic, it's educational. Should we once again encounter a similar real-life situation, we might react differently from what we did the first time because we have dealt with it through another "person."

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  7. The thought of being blind scares me, so I wrote a protagonist that was blind. It didn't alleviate my fear one bit.

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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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