Monday, October 17, 2011



I’ve been suffering from extreme insomnia recently and 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 Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

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  1. I like that acronym. Mind if I use it elsewhere, with proper acknowledgement of course.

  2. Lack of sleep can literally drive you insane. I'm so sorry to hear you are suffering from it, Heidi. The worst part of my recent ankle fracture experience was the inability to get restful sleep. It really chips away at you.

  3. I'm reminded of another acronym that often applies to writers: Has Unfulfilled Nutritional Gap Enacting Ravenousness.

  4. Really helpful post, Heidi. It has been a while since I have experienced this to the extreme, but I used to be plagued by it. One thing that has helped is a tip I got from a directer. The first time I was cast in a major role, I was terrified that I would freeze on opening night. The director told us all to practice some deep breathing backstage before coming out. He also suggested that we concentrate on positive thoughts to keep the negativity of the fear at bay. It works, and I have since started using the same technique to chase off all those negative thoughts about my writing and the business and all the other stuff that can weigh on us.

  5. I'm reading The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and agree with him that systematically listing the things I am grateful for is a great way to hurdle over fear barriers. As long as I remember to do it... fear of forgetting is my big plague at this stage of my life! Good post, Heidi.

  6. Unrealistic fear is my worst enemy, especially when I talk to anyone in person regarding writing.

    I talked to an author the other day and it turned into a case of, "Open mouth, insert Italian shoe store." Thank God he thought it was funny. I have never been so embarrassed in my life.

  7. Great comments, everyone, thanks! Martin, I'm not the originator of that acronym--I don't recall where I first heard it. Positive thoughts DO work--whatever you tell yourself the most is what you end up believing!

  8. Interstin! I`ve never thought about this! Thanks!

  9. Interesting! information! thanks a for sharing!

  10. Sometimes when I'm stuck, I write in a different genre from the one I'm in: essay, poetry, short article or revise a novel. It seems to get the juices going.

    Sleep tight Heidi.

  11. You said it well for all us writers Thanks

  12. Very true! Got to look forward, not behind you.


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