The Fearful Writer
Updated: Oct 21, 2021
I'm not of the mind that being afraid, that being fearful is inherently a bad thing. Why should it be? Fear is a natural manifestation of the human condition and a lot of the time it can be used as fuel. Like all things, navigating and dancing with fear is a balancing act.
If you're too afraid, you suffocate your creativity and by proxy yourself. If you're not afraid, it might mean that you're confident in your abilities and have done a fair amount of self work. Here's the thing though, you can do the work, put it into daily practice, and still be afraid. So, let's talk about fear in the vein of being a writer, because writing and all the things that come with it can be overwhelming.
Let's specifically talk about what a writer is. A writer is anyone who writes. It doesn't matter if you write everyday, once a month, or primarily in a journal. You don't need an MBA, a published novel, or hell, even a written novel to be a writer. That crown is something that you can place on your head if you simply dare to write. This is where the fear can arise.
I've talked to writers who knew they wanted to write from the moment they crafted their first legible sentence and others who wrote a few paragraphs, and then deleted them, accompanied by a flurry of self-depreciating thoughts. Personally, I'm not the former or the latter. I'm someone who hated writing at first, but loved to read and all of those emotions that came from devouring book after book, created a curiosity in me. That curiosity, coupled with an imagination and encouragement from good teachers, and a supportive mom, pushed me to write.
As a child, unless it was the FCAT (Florida Comprehension Assessment Test) writing prompts, which I loathed, writing wasn't scary. No one, but maybe a teacher, was holding me to the kinds of standards that young adults and older adults place upon other creatives. It was easier back then, but as I got older, that shifted. I became fearful of writing.
The catalyst happened in middle school. I was in my eighth grade English class and my teacher (her name escapes me) started talking about finding your writing voice. She defined it as "our personal touch shining through our words, little bits of our personality brought together by tone, diction, and punctuation." This wasn't what made me fearful, it was the elaboration that followed. She stated that writing voice was not sounding like your favorite authors, nor was it copying style or someone else's story. I instantly felt insecure.
A lot of my writing was inspired by Tolkien, Rowling, Shakespeare, Morrison, and Dickinson. I didn't recognize my personality or any parts of my journey in the work I created. It was just imitations of what I'd watched, read, or listened to. I think the stigma placed on FanFiction writers, which I'd written a lot of, also didn't help my sentiments. Needless to say, I didn't feel like a real writer. I felt like an imposter and a fraud.
That notion birthed other fears. I feared that I couldn't write anything good, that no one would want to read my story, that I wasn't original, and that my words didn't matter. I bring this up, because these fears that I had as early as age twelve, aren't all that different from fears that writers three and four times this age have. With that in mind, I want to examine the above fears mentioned:
You're not a real writer.
As I said before, if you write (regardless of the medium you choose) you're a writer.
2. You can't write anything good.
Art is interpretative. No matter how "good" something is said to be, there will always be people who don't like it. There will also be people who do like it.
Utilize tools to make your writing better. Have people constructively proofread, edit, and critique your work. Spend time with other writers who encourage AND challenge you.
Study craft, if it's feasible take writing classes, and READ.
3. No one wants to read your story.
There are 7.9 billion people on this Earth. If you create quality work, someone will want to read it, trust me.
If you show up for your story and that includes allowing it to be teachable, people will start to show up for you.
4. Your stories aren't original.
Most stories aren't original. There's only so many variations of vampires, werewolves, dragons, wizards, and heavily used tropes that people can create.
Your unique perspectives and the worlds that you weave based off of your personal experiences is what can make a story (familiar or foreign) original.
Read like-subject matter to pinpoint ways to vary your narratives.
It is okay to be inspired by other creatives, just don't plagiarize and do not market external ideas as your own.
5. Your words don't matter.
Your words will always matter, because you matter.
Someone out there may identify with the deepest and most intricate parts of your mind, whether you voice those truths in the form of fiction or nonfiction.
You are a real writer, once you write. You can write good writing, if you remain teachable. People will want to read your story, if you dare to write. Your stories can be original, because your personal journey is unique to you. Your words do matter, because you are walking history.
It took me many years to realize these things. However, I am still growing and occasionally, I still feel fear, but I have learned to repurpose it. I've turned it into a superpower and its allowed me to identify the "why" behind the fear when it does crop up. We don't have to let it rule us. We can navigate fear and experience creation in a way that's boundless.
So, how do we do it? How do we get there? The answer is easier than it may seem.
The greatest way to combat fear as a writer is to ask for help. You can do this directly and indirectly. The direct method involves approaching someone for feedback, camaraderie, or education. The indirect method involves either creating a space and/or seeking out spaces that serve your creative medium (such as joining a writing group or creating a group for burgeoning writers).
Help can come in many forms. Sometimes it's in the form of family, friends, loved ones, and acquaintances on social media championing you. Those modes are definitely important, but in the writing world, the greatest support comes from within. It can come from writing circles, book coaches, editors, good teachers, well thought out craft videos, and other writers. Then there is YOU. If you're feeding your mind, body, and spirit in any or a variation of the ways listed above then you are doing the work.
The Fearful Writer is human and valid, but not all-encompassing, unless you allow it to be. You're someone with ideas and if you're willing to take the first step of writing, which is just to write, then your words matter. There are tons of genres, niches, and readers just begging for a good story. Why not yours?