How to conquer your fear of putting your writing out there

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How to get over your fear of publishingThe biggest hurdle to publishing isn’t cost, or distribution, or lack of an author platform. It’s FEAR.

How many people have that spark of inspiration but smother it before they even put the first word on paper? How many more work almost all the way to the finish line only to hold back at the last minute?

Fear of judgement. Fear of failure. Maybe even fear of success. So many fears creep up when we’re about to put our writing out there into the world.

Thankfully, there are ways to conquer these fear. Well, “conquer” might be too strong a word. Let’s say “manage.” Many successful writers have developed skills that help them manage their anxieties around publishing.

Leo Babauta, in an article called “How to Put Your Writing in Public,” has written about his process for moving through these common fears.

Check out the full article for all the details and context. But I’ll summarize below:

1. Write for one person. There’s no use writing with an imaginary audience of thousands in mind. That’d get confusing pretty quickly. Instead, write as if you’re having a conversation with a single person (a friend, a family member, a specific reader, etc.).

2. Start with a small audience. This advice is particularly helpful if you’re blogging or publishing new content regularly. If you start with a small readership, you’ll be more comfortable and can build your skills quietly. As your audience grows, so will your confidence.

3. Forget about perfection. There’s no such thing as perfect. One man’s trash is another man’s masterpiece. As Leo says, “if you accept that there will be some things you do that are good, and others that are less than good, and that’s part of being a human … you can embrace a wider range of possibilities. You don’t have to hit a home run with every swing.”

4. Be motivated by learning. Be prepared to make mistakes. Then learn from them. Improve. Repeat.

5. Be motivated by helping. If you know that what you have to say can help someone, it’s riskier NOT to publish. Your writing is needed out there in the world.

Leo summarizes his advice with this:

Writing is transformative. It changes you, and the reader. You get feedback from the reader and learn from them. You get accountability and you have to reflect on what you’re learning. You become greater from the attempt to overcome the fear.

How have you overcome your fear of publishing? Is there a mindset, a trick, or challenge that works for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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[Fish and boat picture from Shutterstock.]

 

Chris Robley
is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

10 COMMENTS

  1. I do have fears about finishing any of my writings. As stated, fear of success AND failure are my insecurities. I am closer to finishing one of my stories than I have ever been to completing something I created from my imagination, and I cannot seem to find the “right” ways to continue, let alone finish. My life has been filled with incomplete tasks for much the same reasons. I use the excuse that I don’t get enough response, no comments on either of my blogs, nor my website. Is there no interest in what I write? Am I not good enough? Does anybody care?

    See; insecure as all get out.

    Thanks for bringing this article to light!
    — John

    • I DEFINITELY don’t equate a lack of response with a lack of talent. We live in an age where everyone is creating, everyone is brilliant, everyone wants to get attention for their work (all positives, in my opinion), but it makes things pretty lonely and stressful for someone that is just starting to try to build an audience. It’s REALLY difficult to get people to pay attention, let alone engage with your work. Take the music world, for instance. At CD Baby, we often get more than 300 new albums submitted for distribution every day. Per day! 300 new musicians wanting their music to get heard. It’s beautiful, and overwhelming, and the only way you’ll find that first or second or tenth or hundredth true fan is to just keep at it!

      @ChrisRobley

  2. Great article. Thanks for the advice. I’m about to launch my book. I got so keyed up that I got the shingles. Of course being 85 doesn’t help. But what the hell, to create something like a book is an accomplishment in itself.

  3. Chris, the comment you made: “Be motivated by helping…” My book is about mothers and fathers who have become alienated, rejected, estranged by their adult child…as have I. My book is unique…written from my heart. Thank you so much for telling me that people truly need to read what I have written…the written words will help them…in many ways…I needed to hear that. I’m going to print YOUR words where I’ll see them…and see them…and see them. With love, Lisa

  4. I love new years. Like fresh snow, especially if I’m looking at it from inside somewhere, drinking a hot cup of something! Thanks for your encouragement to self-publish, Chris. I’ve held a book in me for 12 years now. I know someone’s waiting to read it.

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