Nearly everyone I meet thinks it’s awesome that I’m a published author. A lot of them also have a great idea for a book or dream of writing a book someday. I’m all for people pursuing their dreams of writing. Whenever someone tells me they have a great plot or character idea, I encourage them to write it.
Unfortunately, a lot of people seem intimidated by the idea of actually writing their ideas down. I totally understand. Few people realize how often I have to fight through fear to write a story (although a lot more people now know). There are so many things to fear when it comes to writing, but I’m living proof that your fear doesn’t have to hold you back.
Here are five fears I face on a regular basis.
1. Fear of Failure
This one is a huge obstacle for a lot of people. Yes, your story idea might be a complete flop, but you’ll never know if you don’t write it. If one idea fails, you can always write another. Or take the initial idea in a new direction. The possibilities are endless, so turn off your internal naysayer and write your story anyway. You never know when that idea could turn out to be the “next big thing.”
2. Fear of Success
A lot of people seem to think fearing success is strange, but I’ve been surprised over the years by how many people have this fear. We all want to be successful. It’s ingrained in our nature. But the fear of success comes in when you consider the next step. If readers love your first book, that applies a lot of pressure to write a second book that’s just as good or better. Since creative types (including authors) tend to be an insecure bunch, the pressure to perform can be paralyzing.
Instead of thinking of your next book as a follow-up to the first, view it as a new project. With every new project, you have a new opportunity to wow your readers. If they loved your first book but not your second, that’s okay. Personal preference, mood while reading, and innumerable other factors affect how a story will hit a reader at any given time. And just because they didn’t like your second book doesn’t mean they won’t love your third.
3. Fear of Looking Like a Fool
This one hits nearly every time I write. I’ll think I have a great idea and start writing. Then all of a sudden, WHAM! I start wondering what I was thinking writing that plot or a character with those traits. What if I’m getting it wrong? What if readers think it’s a stupid idea? What if this story makes me look like a complete fool?
Well, so what if it does? The only way to learn is to make mistakes. We all experience growing pains as writers, and taking risks with our ego is one of them. After writing and publishing as long as I have, I’ve learned a very important lesson. The stories I’m most afraid to show others are usually the ones readers love the most.
4. Fear of Offending Someone
This one is tough to overcome if you have even a hint of timidity in your personality. It’s taken me a long time to realize that what I write will likely always offend someone somewhere. I don’t set out to be offensive, but not everyone is going to agree with everything I say or enjoy everything I write. We’re all different and what one person finds inspiring, another might find insulting. Publishing is one of the most subjective places on the planet, but we can’t let our fear hold us back.
Dig deep to find the courage to write what you want to write. It can be terrifying to put your first work out there with the knowledge that you may get slammed by reader comments. But I can guarantee that the more you face this fear and write your idea anyway, the easier it gets to quit worrying about what might offend someone somewhere. That’s not to say you should purposely be offensive. That’s just mean. But if you have a controversial topic weighing on your mind and you’re dying to share your thoughts on it, go for it. We shouldn’t shy away from controversy if the subject is important to us.
5. Fear of Not Writing Fast Enough
When you see authors boasting of writing 10,000 words a day, publishing a new novel every month, or writing like a hyperactive squirrel on a dozen energy drinks it’s easy to get discouraged. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be excited you wrote one sentence in a single day and then see another writer who wrote three chapters in two hours. Nothing can bring you down faster than feeling inadequate.
But you don’t have to feel that way. We’re all different, and some people write super fast while others write super slow. Most of us fall somewhere in between most days. Dry spells happen, and so do days when the words flow like Niagara Falls. The important thing to remember is that you write at whatever speed you write. There is no rule saying, “You must write X amount of words each day to be an author.” You write at the speed that works for you, and eventually you’ll have a novel.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I can offer is to be persistent. Is writing easy? No way! It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Even if one of my books sells only a handful of copies, that means my story reached a handful of people. That’s infinitely more than it would have reached if I’d never written it at all. Yes, selling tens of thousands of copies is every writer’s dream, but most books will never be bestsellers. We write because we love sharing our stories with others, however many or few that may be. We write because we have something to say. We write because the characters and ideas in our minds would drive us crazy if we didn’t get them out somehow.
If you have an idea you think would make a great novel, short story, or somewhere in between, take a risk and write it. If you hate the final product, no one ever has to see it. I think every author has at least one manuscript lying around that will never see the light of day. I have a few of them cluttering up my hard drive right now. But you might love the story more when it’s finished than you did when you started writing it. When that happens, it’s magical. That’s what makes writing worth the effort — seeing a completed story that came from your imagination. Having the opportunity to share what’s in your imagination with others. Knowing readers might love the story as much as you do.
Be warned, however, that if you overcome your fears and start writing, you may never stop. This is an addicting form of expression that can easily become as essential to you as breathing.