Thursday, October 3, 2019

Fears That Usurp Writing

Let’s just get that word out of the way now because it and all its ugly friends—worry, doubt, and anxiety to name a few—often play a role in how or why we write (or don’t).

We all at some point have fears, and it seems that we creative types have them in constant, overpowering waves.

As I moved into my twenties and began to write in earnest, fear was my constant companion. Every year, there is a plethora of stories published. How was I going to compete? How was I different from or better than those who were already published? Those two questions swirled inside my head all the time. Who did I think I was to think that I was good enough for other people to want to read my work? It didn’t help that some editors recommended that I “write blacker.” The fear of writing expanded to me wondering if and how I could pander to the publishing world my blackness for the sake of being published.

When you let fear in, it becomes a squatter. It comes not to visit and have some tea, a little chitchat, then leave. No, its goal is to find a nice, comfortable spot in your mind and live there forever and keep you from moving forward in your writing endeavor.

Even people who have the strongest confidence suffer from fear from time to time, so we can’t get away from it. We can, however, fight it.

If we know what our fears are, then we can find ways to kill those fears every day. And ultimately, in the killing of those fears, some of them will die and stay dead.

When I have the fear that I’m not good enough, I go back and I read passages of my first mystery Death at the Double Inkwell because my favorite writing experiences come from that novel. I also go back and read stories I wrote that other people enjoyed reading. I think about my MFA fiction professor, who always had such positive, motivating things to say about my work. I still have the last page of my revised thesis (a novel) where he wrote, “Shon, this is really great.” That short statement meant so much to me, and it still warms my heart and makes me think, Hmm, maybe I am a good writer after all. I try to combat the fear with fact because really that’s the only way you can kill a fear: obliterate it with facts.

What fears keep you from writing? What facts do you have to kill the fears?

If you journal, you might consider thinking further on this topic and journal on the following questions/suggestions:

  • What negative thoughts do you have when you try to write?
  • Where do these negative thoughts come from? Where do they originate?
  • How true are these thoughts? Fear typically is not true; it’s something we’ve conjured up in such a way that it looks real. It can even develop a physical identity because we have made it so real. Try to get outside of your negative thoughts and that place where fear exists and truly examine each of your fears, each of those negative thoughts that try to kill your writing. How real are they?
  • Write positive truths to negate each of those negative thoughts.
  • Repeat those positive truths aloud.

It will be important to keep those positive truths nearby so that you can recite them every day, several times a day if necessary until you kill those fears.

This post is an excerpt from the book, Make Your Writing Bloom.

PS... There are other great articles on BRP regarding fear. Check them out here.

Shonell Bacon is an author, editor, and educator with 20 years of experience in helping all levels of writers become better writers. When not editing, Shonell is writing (mysteries, literary, non-fiction) and crafting digital products for people who love planning and organizing their lives. You can learn more about Shonell and her work at her website, ChickLitGurrl.


  1. Great post Shon. I love your suggestions for the journaling. It does help to confront the fears with words, either on paper or out loud. I also chuckled at, "It comes not to visit and have some tea, a little chitchat, then leave."

    Like you, I had a college professor who gave me the encouragement and push to get beyond my fears. I was lucky to be able to audit a graduate creative writing class and his words of praise for my work erased any disappointment that I couldn't get credit for the class.

    1. Thank you, Maryann. Having those support systems to help you get out of your head and those negative thoughts, to me, is very important in our writing journey.

  2. Hi Shonell. Excellent post. My greatest fear is always that I'll waste so much time writing a novel and then no one will publish it...and I don't want the time lost and expense of self-pubbing. Every time I finish a book, I think again about quitting...but then I don't. :D

    1. I am SO glad that you don't quit, Pat! :)

      That's also one of my fears, too.

  3. What a great post, Shonell! I will share it. It seems my fear INCREASES with each book and each article I write. Because I'm getting older? I have no idea, but there it is. Maybe it's due, in part, to the "anxiety in general" that seems to hang over today's world...

    1. I think your point about the "anxiety in general" is probably true, Ann. I know anxiety plagues me, and I have to constantly fight it because it will stop me from writing.

  4. Love this post, Shon! Like Ann, I wonder if age plays a part in the increasing fear that comes for an extended stay each time I sit down to write. Add that to life's other challenges and anxieties, and the results are sometimes overwhelming. Your suggestions make excellent sense. While not intending to rest on past laurels, I do need to allow previous accolades to reinforce present ability in order to continue working. Thank you for this encouragement; it means more than I can say.

  5. I agree with the others: Great Post. I think my problem is that I didn't start to write until my late 50s, so there was a lot of learning and catching up to do. Not sure it's in a creative person's DNA to ever feel like she's ever good enough. I was a commercial artist early on, and I always thought I could do better then too. Will I ever think I'm good enough? Probably not, but as I said in a previous comment, that's what keeps me striving and hopefully improving.

    1. I definitely agree about the DNA of a creative person, Polly. I think the subjectivity of creative endeavors makes it so easy for us to question if what we do is good... or even worth being published for public consumption.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook