Every writer is afraid of something.
One of the most common fears among writers is that they will work hard on something, throw it out into the world … and everyone will absolutely hate it.
This fear is so strong that it prevents many aspiring creators from doing the work they were born to do.
You don’t have to let that happen to you, though.
The fear of being judged is actually completely normal. Have you ever sat back and asked yourself, “What is wrong with me?” whenever you start to worry about other people criticizing your writing? We all probably have at some point. But here’s a friendly reminder that wanting people to like your work is totally normal! No one wants to pour their heart and soul into a story and have even one person say, “I hate it.”
The problem with fear is that many of us aren’t taught, especially not growing up, how to overcome it and use it as a tool instead of letting it slam into us over and over and continuously knock us down. We let fear paralyze us. We assume being afraid means we aren’t capable of putting in the effort or getting the results we want.
Fear is a completely natural response to things out of our control, to elements far outside our comfort zones. Fear is the thing that prevents you from being eaten by a bear in the woods. It makes you run faster, climb higher, act on instinct instead of overthinking every move. Your flight response can also work in your favor when you’re sitting at your desk writing a story that, in all honesty, scares you more than the thought of running from a bear.
For me, one of the most fun things to do when I’m struggling during a writing session is to think about a story direction that terrifies me and immediately begin writing the story in that direction. The result is similar to what happens when you avoid sitting down to write, finally do it, and end up writing a few thousand words in one sitting without a hiccup. We’re often afraid to dive in. But once we do, we forget why we waited so long.
No one else has access to your private creative sandbox. Creative sandboxes are where first and unfinished drafts live, where ideas come to play and only you’re allowed to enter. Without this safe place for writers to map out their work, throw things against invisible walls, and try things “in private” they never would in public, we’d never end up publishing anything unique or thrilling or “life-changing.”
When you’re all alone in a room with an idea, quite literally anything can happen. That’s the beauty of this whole thing, you know. Technically, you’re totally in control. You choose who your characters are, what they say, who lives, who dies, who takes the reins and drives the plot for a while on a day you just don’t feel like being in charge.
So many writers get so caught up in worrying about “what other people will think when they see what I’m writing” that they forget they are in complete control of whether or not anyone ever sees what they are writing. Right now, at this moment, I am writing this blog post on my computer that only I have access to. Unless I hit the publish button, no one else will ever see it. If I wanted to, I could keep it completely to myself forever.
I can make as many mistakes as I need to in order to make this post what I want it to be, all the way up until I schedule it for publishing. All the way up until it goes out into the world and becomes something other people can enjoy or learn from or appreciate.
Right now, it is mine to do with what I please. I’m in my sandbox, and you’re not allowed inside. That’s when the best ideas, truly, come to life.
Write like you’re the only one who will ever read it. Because let’s be honest here: For all you know, you really are the only one who will ever read it. That’s not to say you will never be able to achieve the kind of success you have always dreamed of. But it’s my guess that at least half the things we write in our lifetimes will never make it past our own eyes. It’s called practice. It’s how we get better at what we do. It’s all the iceberg you don’t see above the water.
So this is the perfect time and place to tell the wildest story you might ever tell. All the places you think you shouldn’t take it? Take it there. Add in every twist, every piece of backstory, every part of that story you’re so hesitant about. Why? Because this is your story and your space and your time. If you want to delete it as soon as you write it, you have every right to do that. No one is going to stop you.
In the beginning, it’s common to feel discouraged because we don’t have big audiences and it seems like no one “cares” about what we’re doing. But this is the perfect time to experiment and go all in, and figure out what kind of writer you want to be. Some of the most significant growth happens before anyone even notices you’re growing into an amazing writer. This is your cocoon, and you’re going to emerge from it a better writer than you have ever been.
Someday, the whole world might be watching — or, a pretty decent piece of it.
Appreciate the “alone time” you have to work through all the rough parts of your creativity, to figure out who you are and what you want to stand for. This is a good time. Enjoy as much of it as you can.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.