I think we’ve all heard of writer’s block or experienced writer’s block at least once in our lives. It’s quite a common challenge to overcome because, as I’ve been told, ideas aren’t always a free-flowing waterfall, and sometimes you have all the ideas but aren’t sure how to get them onto the page. But as I was thinking about writer’s block, I started to wonder … is there such a thing as writer’s fear??
I’ve always found the idea of phobias quite fascinating, especially the more unusual ones. Arachnophobia though, which could easily be considered the most common phobia of all, in my mind, is just good common sense. Spiders are terrifying and creepy – it’s just logic to be scared of them. However, phobias like bibliophobia (fear of books), cacophobia (fear of ugliness) and hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear of long words – this one is quite rude in my mind …) have just been so interesting to me, so I started to wonder if there was a fear of writing.
The fear of public writing is called graphophobia. While I know this isn’t precisely the ‘fear’ equivalent to writer’s block, I thought it could be a fun starting point.
While writer’s block is definitely common, I think another common problem that can crop up in writing is fear, and it could be fear of all sorts of things. You could be afraid because:
- You don’t know where to start
- You worry about being rejected
- You fear you can’t finish a story/piece
- You’re worried people will judge you
- You think your writing skills aren’t good enough
And so many more. Writing can be terrifying because you’re creating something that is so deeply personal. Writing, in my mind, is always a little reflection of your soul, depending on how much you reveal, but even if you don’t write something deeply personal, it is still a big part of you because you created it. So whenever you’re told something negative about your writing or face any significant challenges, it can often feel like the end of the world because it means so much to you.
I used to adore writing. From the time I knew enough words and my handwriting was steady enough, I would fill pages and pages with stories that I felt one day would finally come to light. As I got older, I still knew that I wanted to write. Of course, the reality of being a writer was more clear to me, but I didn’t let that stop me. I just kept writing.
Now, this is something very personal to me, but I felt that this space (ironically an open platform on the internet that anyone can access) was the safest place to share because if I’ve learnt anything over my two years of blogging, is that the blogging community is probably the friendliest and most supportive of all online communities.
I had finished two books after I turned 16, and I felt like I was on top of the world because, in my mind, one of the hardest parts about writing is actually finishing a long piece. My family ended up sending the one manuscript to one or two publishers, and sadly they were rejections. As much as you might think this would stop me from writing forever, I know that rejection is just part of what being a writer means, although it did knock me back for a little while. Then I got sucked into the joys of grade 12 and final exams. It was after high school, during my gap year when I think my fear of writing really took over me.
For those of you who have been following Tall Blonde Tales since the beginning, I’m not sure if you’ll remember the short course I did at Oxford where a part of my studies was creative writing. I loved the programme so much and truly felt like I was going to tackle my existing fears and respark my creative drive. Sadly… some of my experiences with my teacher left me feeling more fearful of writing than excited. It wasn’t a fun time, and since then, my fear of writing grew.
Since starting university, though, I would definitely say my fears have started to shrink. Blogging has been an excellent way for me to practice the discipline of writing, but it hasn’t helped me tackle my fears of creative writing as much as I thought… By joining the creative writing society at my university and having such a fantastic, supportive community, I’ve finally started coming out of my shell a little. Of course, the idea of getting back into it and starting up a new novel makes me want to crawl under my bed and cry, even though I have so many ideas buzzing around in my brain.
So the point of this long sob story is to really share that I think writer’s fear is just as real and probably even more debilitating than writer’s block. It can honestly eat away at you from the inside and stop you from doing something that you genuinely love, and that fills you with oodles of excitement. What’s more is it can be so challenging to deal with, but there are a few ways that you can help bring your confidence levels up and try to get over your fears.
- Embrace small victories. Instead of worrying that you’ll never finish a piece, rather think of it as a victory that you managed to write for 15 minutes or one page. All of those small victories add up, and if you try to focus on those instead of the overwhelming end goal, you’ll find you get there sooner than you think.
- Find a community you trust. Having a small group of people that you can write with, even if they are just short funny prompts, is a great way to help you conquer the blank page and respark your love of writing. What I’ve also loved so much about the creative writing society is even when people are giving constructive feedback, they still do it in a positive way, which is fantastic if you’re scared of rejection.
- Keep writing. If you’re worried about your writing quality, the only way to get better is to do more. Write every day, even if it has nothing to do with the project in mind. Also, read from authors you admire or who inspire you. Because soon, you’ll see what they do to keep readers engaged, and you’ll develop your own writing voice.
- Never give up. If you feel like a piece just isn’t working, rather walk away and then return to it. Or, if you’re feeling like you’ve been struggling and just cannot get it to work, put that piece on the back burner and move to another one. I know that you’re technically leaving a project behind, but you’re not giving up writing itself – instead, you’re refocusing your energy so that writing stays a positive activity. You may go back to those pieces and realise how to fix them or start one that could be a best-seller, but the trick is not to force yourself to stick and finish it so much that writing becomes something you hate because that will do more damage to your fears in the long run.
- Embrace rejection. I know that getting rejections from mentors can be the most bitter pill to swallow. I’ve been there. But I think the key is to embrace it, even if it takes you a while to come to terms with it. Write a list of all the reasons why they rejected it, or create a pile of rejection letters or something like that and use it as motivation. It can be a tough mental attitude to have, but at the end of the day, you need to consider every rejection a step towards improving and success. I’m actually going to start doing this where I write in a notebook all the negative comments or why something got rejected, but the trick to this is turning it into a positive, so I’m then going to write all the ways I can use this to improve and what I’ve learnt from the experience. The only way to move forward is to turn a negative into a positive.
Soooo I know this isn’t my typical type of post, but sitting in my room all day at home means there aren’t too many inspiring things happening right now. I would rather write honest posts about things that matter to me. Writer’s fear, at least for me, can be such a genuine problem, and it can keep it’s hold on you for so long, so that’s why I wanted to talk about this today.
For all of you out there who have experienced this, I understand, and I know it sucks. But just remember that you are amazing, and you can be a writer. It just might take a little longer than you hoped. The best part about being in communities like this is having people to support you, so embrace that, and no matter what, don’t stop writing!!
Lots of love,
Blondey on a Mission xxx