A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Book Baby blog that struck pretty close to home. It was titled How to Conquer Your Fear of Putting Your Writing Out There and was based on an article written by Leo Babauta. Both articles centered around five tips for dealing with and overcoming fear.
Fear comes in many forms. Fear of failure. Fear of ridicule. Fear of looking silly or foolish. Fear of success (yes, really). I’ve wrestled with fear on many levels for most of my life.
So I read these two articles with interest.
Because I fear I’m not the only one who deals with fear, I then decided to share the five tips for dealing with fear with you.
Five things to remember
1. An audience of one. J. R. R. Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings for his son, Christopher. Everything about that story was written with Christopher in mind. When Tolkien faced a plotting decision, he asked, “What would Christopher like?” We all know how that turned out.
Whatever you write, whether blog post, novel, nonfiction book, or freelance article, imagine yourself talking face-to-face with one person. Has a reader of your blog asked a question? Answer that question as though you and your reader were face-to-face.
Has a fan of your novel wondered why you wrote what you wrote? Tell them and tailor your answer for that reader.
I like the idea of sitting down with a friend and telling about the amazing thing that happened to me that morning or the day before or the week before. That story will resonate with a lot more than one reader, but you have told it to one person and have thereby removed the burden of relating to all the rest.
2. An audience of a few. Don’t fret over having just a few readers at the start. You can improve skills and build audience at the same time, post by post or story by story.
Think of it like wading into the ocean one step at a time, gradually getting into deeper and deeper water. Few people fear water that’s ankle-deep. No one wants to jump into the deep end the first time they go swimming.
3. Pooh-pooh perfection. There is no such thing. It simply does not exist. Not on a Big Picture scale; not on a small scale. What’s more, the thing that looks imperfect to one can be exactly what someone else is looking for.
Not everything you write will be a masterpiece. Some stories or posts will be excellent, but others will be near misses. Sad to say, some will be barely mediocre. Don’t worry about that. Aim for those high moments, but don’t despair over the others.
4. Let learning motivate you. Another way to look at this is don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
I like Thomas A. Edison’s response to someone who asked him about his 2,000 failed attempts at creating a battery. Edison’s response was, quite simply, that he’d found 2,000 ways not to make a battery.
The takeaway? Every author finds a way to write a novel by working through all the ways not to write that novel. The sooner you get started finding the ways not to write a novel, the sooner you’ll find the way that works.
Beware! You will most likely have to go through the process with all or most of your novels! And you blog posts, freelance articles, et cetera., et cetera., et cetera.
5. Help others. The best way to learn something new is to teach what you already know to someone else. I know. I’ve been doing it for years. Some of the best lessons I ever learned were learned when I was looking for the answer to someone else’s question.
The icing on the cake is that these lessons are also usually the ones that stick with you best.
Are these five tips guaranteed to conquer your fears? No. But practice them daily and they are likely to help you work through your fears or overcome them.
Not matter what it is you fear.