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Confronting Five Common Writing Fears

If there is one thing October is known for, it's the spooky, scary, and spoopy-ness of Halloween.

Cinemas and the gaming space of YouTube feature more horror titles than usual. Haunted house attractions open their doors to the most daring souls. Spirit Halloween takes over vacant storefronts while most other retailers are displaying their Christmas wares next to entire aisles devoted to fun-size candy. "Thriller" and "Monster Mash" play on every radio station. Those of us who plan costumes months in advance are up to our elbows in crafting supplies and have a shopping list a mile long.

It's a season that inspires creativity amid the frights and fun, encouraging us to indulge our curious side and face our fears.

This time of year, those fears tend to include chainsaw-wielding madmen, vampires, werewolves, haunted dolls and ventriloquist dummies, exorcisms, ghosts craving revenge, the undead, and bloody surgeons practicing without a proper medical degree.

But what about the other eleven months? The likelihood of encountering a ghoul in the night seems to go down drastically outside of October (unless you're Buffy or a Winchester).

There are plenty of fears that exist outside of Halloween, many of which haunt writers and other creative souls, lurking in the recesses of our minds and interfering with our projects.

In the spirit of Halloween, let's talk about some common writing fears and a few ways to conquer them.

Fear Of Writer's Block

Perhaps the most commonly known fear among writers is Writer's Block. We dread the feeling of getting stuck with only a blank page or screen to keep us company.

Writer's block refers to creative stagnation. It can look like not being able to come up with new ideas, hitting a wall, or just not being able to get the words in your mind onto the page. And it's something writers of any genre or experience face.

Part of confronting writer's block is identifying the causes. Sometimes it can be external pressures, like fears of judgment and trying to make our story perfect. We get burned out from working on the same thing for so long or are drained by our non-writing lives. The inspiration might be eluding us, the muses giving us the silent treatment.

Here's the thing: writing is like water. If you want the water flowing from the tap, you need to turn the faucet on. The same goes for words. If you want the words to flow, that faucet needs to be turned on.

So how do we unclog the hypothetical pipeline?

Some writers find it beneficial to turn to a different project, even if that's just freewriting or brainstorming. Others might bounce ideas off friends and family, seek feedback, and take it from there. You may also find it helpful to put the project in a drawer and come back later with fresh eyes. Try writing in a new spot like a different room in the house or take a "field trip" to a local coffee shop or the library.

There are plenty of ways to work through writer's block. It just might take a bit of trial and error to determine which approach best suits your style.

The important thing to keep in mind is that writer's block happens to everyone. But it's often only a temporary impasse.

Fear Of Inaccuracy

The fear of inaccuracy is one that writers of any genre can face, and it's one I'm especially familiar with as someone who writes historical romance.

Whether it's a real-life setting that we're bringing to life on the page or a character is an expert in a subject matter we ourselves are not, we want to keep the facts straight. After all, one of the surest ways to throw an engaged reader off balance is the feeling that something isn't quite right.

This leads us to devote hours to research until we've fallen so far down a rabbit hole we can't find our way out. The fear of getting it wrong and readers calling us out on the inaccuracies can drive you mad. And soon enough, your writing can become less of a story and more of a dissertation (believe me, I know).

Here's the thing: even the most astute of researchers make mistakes. We cannot ever know absolutely everything there is to know about a topic. All we can do is do all the research we can with the materials we have and make educated guesses to fill in the gaps.

It hasn't been easy for me to learn this one. I've spent years stressing over what are ultimately inconsequential details and have since been working to make my writing less textbookish while still incorporating all those historical details.

Recognize that there are ways to lessen the chances of inaccuracies in your writing. Know how to find credible sources and maintain a list of them for future reference should you need to double-check yourself. Connect with others who have knowledge in those areas and seek feedback as possible.

Lastly, learn to laugh at your goofs and take them in stride. This post on looking into the societal rules surrounding dancing for my WIP is a prime example of this in action. Being able to forgive myself for these blunders has made a huge difference in my writing. It's alleviating the pressure of perfectionism that was frankly holding me and my stories back.

Fear Of Rejection

Another common fear we all will inevitably contend with in our writing journeys. Even the most celebrated and successful of authors are not exempt.

Rejection is often accompanied by a fierce sting, especially when it's garnered by projects so close to your heart or something you have spent so long working on.

It helps to remember that although you might pour so much of yourself into a piece of writing, it's only an extension of you. Rejection your writing receives is not a direct reflection of you as a person.

Rejection is part of the process. Like any other art form, writing is subjective. Readers have different tastes and interests. What one loves wholeheartedly another may not find enjoyable.

Don't focus on trying to write something that caters to the taste of every single person out there. That can't be done. Instead, focus on writing the story that you most want to write, and trust that it will find its audience one day.

Fear Of Success

Yes, you read that correctly.

The complete opposite of the fear of rejection, the fear of success, is a surprisingly common one among writers.

You may be wondering how this is even possible. How can a writer be afraid of doing well, making a name for themselves, maybe even becoming a New York Times bestseller or seeing their book getting the silver screen treatment? Don't they aspire to see their name in lights?

Many writers do dream of success, but that success can sometimes invite trepidation.

This can stem from a number of things.

We've all heard of the "sophomore slump," a term used for creatives and others not quite measuring up to the expectations set by their debut, and we dread it. It's known to further provoke already-present anxieties. Finding success with your first release creates standards your new audience wants you to meet (not to mention publishers and others involved with the process). Worrying that you'll fail to follow through is natural.

On a similar note, one thing you'll see me talk about often here on the blog is impostor syndrome, as it's something I find myself having to confront in my own writing. "Impostor syndrome" refers to that nagging feeling that you're not worthy of your successes, as though you're just a pretender among the pros. As you find success with your writing, you may start to wonder if you have truly earned it. Even the smallest of victories can be called into question.

Then there's the inevitability of scrutiny, especially as social media continues to evolve. Readers have heeded reviewers' opinions for decades, and are especially influenced by them today. How often have we seen books climb the charts after becoming popular on TikTok and Instagram? And just as often, those platforms as well as YouTube offer reviews ranging from quick spoiler-free overviews to comprehensive critiquessome of which might do some investigative research on the author themselves.

♡ Side note, reviews are for readers, not for writers. ♡

Needless to say, in this technological landscape where everything is available at your fingertips and content spreads faster than melted butter, and writers are all but required to have an online presence for marketing and networking purposes, scrutiny feels inescapable.

Remember that it's natural to worry about what is to come. Embrace everything that lies in your future, both creatively and in your career as a writer. The fear of success is one you just have to work through. Starting with small steps, like sharing your work with others or looking into writing contests and online forums, can make the journey less daunting.

No one wants to see their dreams turning into nightmares. Don't let that fear stifle your creativity.

Fear Of Failing The Crew

I think some of my personal fears of success might have to do with the pressures and high expectations built up by a strong support system. I'm fortunate to have a crew of family members, friends, and former classmates and coworkers cheering me on in my writing endeavors. I've had one former teacher request that I save him a parking space at a book signing, a high school classmate who wants to be an extra in the film adaptation, a coworker who's anticipating the day my books become popular enough to get an entire theme park based on them, and so many others who have asked me to "remember them when I'm rich and famous." When I run into acquaintances or attend family get-togethers, one of the first questions I'll be asked is how the writing's going.

I wholeheartedly appreciate their support, but it can also be overwhelming.

It's great to have so many people standing by you, but that also means you have that many people to let down (a number that will hopefully increase with new readers).

I'm pretty vocal about my love of writing and my hopes of publishing my work someday, and that's one of the things people know me for. But lately I've been trying to separate my self-worth from my writing and not let it be defined by the expectations of others. That kind of goes back to the idea of writing for yourself first and writing the kinds of stories that you would most want to read.

I also know that most of the people in my support circle aren't big into romance like I am, which means that my WIPs may not cater to their tastes. But there's nothing wrong with that.

The main thing is that when it comes to my loved ones, their support is not contingent on me writing a good book. I'm sure they'd like my books to be good, but I'm lucky enough to be in a situation where their support isn't withdrawn because they dislike the stories I'm telling.

Every writer has their fears. And just like your writing itself, those fears can change over time.

Whether your fears are known to be common or feel like they are yours alone, conquering them is no small feat. It requires patience, resilience, and being kind to yourself along the way. Through understanding their roots, accepting their existence, embracing the ups and downs of writing, creating a strong circle of support, and stepping out of your comfort zone, you'll find those writerly fears will gradually wane.



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