Are you terrified of letting other people read your work?
Especially when you’ve let yourself write “whatever” just to get over being afraid of it?
The bigger your audience gets, the more important it is to establish your own style. And I have a simple trick to help you ease slowly into this new territory.
I just write as if no one’s ever going to read what I publish.
That doesn’t mean I don’t proofread or that what I put out there isn’t the best it can be. I don’t like publishing when it’s anything less.
But it does mean I don’t hold myself back in terms of personal style. It took me a long time to find my voice — the small “quirks,” if you want to call them that, in my writing that differentiate it from other blogs and articles out there.
If you’re having trouble getting comfortable, the solution is (maybe) a lot simpler than you think.
Just write like no one’s reading. As if you’re journaling to no one — except without most of the personal details and spelling errors, obviously.
I purposely force myself into denial about how many people follow this blog before I start writing a new post. Not too long ago, there were 20 people who at least knew I was posting, and that’s a lot less anxiety-inducing than, well, a lot more than 20.
You have to learn to write shamelessly. To try the joke, see if it lands. Include the pun, no matter how cringe-worthy. Stick with the analogy. Embrace the metaphor. Sometimes, finding your voice means daring to experiment — over and over again — until you finally fall into a rhythm.
There’s no set point in when this happens. Gradually, you just find it easier to make stream-of-consciousness actually mean something. Sort of.
I wrote this entire post without hitting backspace once. Are there some things I’m not sure I like? Of course. There always will be. But even I’m still figuring out how to stretch my style across mediums. I don’t want all my posts to sound the same, but the foundation still has to be there. I still have to trust that, deep down, I’m making the right choices. Saying what I feel is most important. Writing as if I’m sending a letter to a friend, and maybe not much more.
There are moments when considering your audience matters more than your overall level of comfort. But you’re obviously here because you’re trying to learn how to get more comfortable. So start now. Start writing something conversationally, casually, without worrying about whether your jokes land or your subtle references stray from the narrative or you’re repeating yourself too much.
You have to start somewhere.
Start here, and you’ll work your way up to publishing better and better work — with a little bit more confidence each time — gradually.
You have to establish your comfort zone before you can stretch it. You might not be there yet, and that’s okay.
Regardless of how all this turns out, you’ll enjoy yourself a little bit more in the process. It will feel a little bit more familiar — and that might be exactly what you need right now. Go for it. Write shamelessly.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.