Every writer deals with fear. It’s a normal part of the life of a writer. It’s a normal part of life–period. What’s important is that we move through our fears and learn how to deal with them when they rear their ugly heads. Fear doesn’t have to be a hindrance to our work.
Here are five ways I fight fear in my writing work:
1. Do the work.
Just write. Sit down and do the work that must be done. Usually my biggest writing fear is the one most easily solved by action. I think, I can’t do it. I can’t do this work. I’ll never finish. But then I sit down and write. Sometimes it’s setting a timer for thirty minutes or just focusing on one scene. Other times it’s spending a few minutes writing done the writing tasks I’m struggling with and making a plan of attack. Action is often the best answer to fear.
2. Acknowledge the fear.
Fear is not always bad. Aside from fear being a natrual human instinct to protect us from danger, fear can also help us uncover underlying issues. Fear often wears a mask. It’s a charade seeking to protect us from something else, or subconsciously reminding us of another time in our lives and fear is acting as a protector.
When you’re feeling fearful or anxious in your writing (or life), take a step back ask ourself, What is this fear about? What it’s use? What is fear pointing out? How can I ask fear to step aside? What are you actually afraid of?
Fear can be compass pointing to a deeper issue that likely has less to do with our writing and more to do with our peronsal history and experiences. If you’re struggling with fear, I’d encourage you to spend some time journaling with these questions and, if you can, talk about it with a therapist/counselor.
3. Find other writers.
Writing is a solitary act, but it doesn’t have to be completely alone. Surround yourself with other writers, whether that’s on social media, writer groups in your community, or a critique partner. Having a writing community will encourage you, know you’re not the only way shifting through messy first drafts or endless rounds of revisions. You’ll have people to cheer you on and you’ll get to cheer them on in return. You’ll be sparks igniting each other’s creative stores and endurance.
4. Gather your tool box.
Build your own tool box for fighting fear. When you have those old, unwelcome fears rise, then you’ll be ready to fight back. You’ll be less derailed by fear and more ready to walk through it.
Here are a few suggestions for your tool box: go for a walk, take a bath, journal through your fears, change where you write, set a timer for 30 minutes and just write, or go analog. I’m a firm believer that analog writing unlocks closed doors and windows in our brains.
Or just take a break–sleep, read, make a good meal–feed your soul. Share what you’re fearing with someone. Often speaking our fears outloud weakens them.
Read a book on creativity–I’d suggest Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, or Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters or Make Good Art.
Make your own tool box. If need be, get a literal box and put tiny notes to fight fear inside of it and put it on your desk. When you’re feeling the nagging fear, pull one out and use it.
5. Create a mantra.
Words have power, they’re like magic spells. What we say over and over to ourselves is what we beging to believe about ourselves and our work. If you say over and over, “I can’t do this. This is too hard. I’m no good. I’ll never finish” you will begin to believe that creating and, perhaps more importantly, finishing your project is impossible. It’s not true. But you’ll feel like it’s true, because that’s what you’ve told yourself over and over.
Stop!–Create your writing mantra. What are the words you need to hear when the work is hard and fear infiltrates?
For me, I often get bogged down in the things I don’t yet know and how long the work is taking. My current writing mantra is, “This is hard, but that’s okay. I’m doing the work.” I’m acknowledging the struggle, but I’m also going to continue to do the work.
Fear is a natural part of life. It’s unavoidable and it’s not always bad. We can learn to work with and fight fear, so that we can invest in our creativity work and live unbound by its clutches.