Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writing—Getting Rid of the Fear

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I was at an event recently and heard one of the PR people for the corporation coming out of his office, sort of flustered. “Hectic day,” he said.

I asked him what was wrong and he launched right into it (he knows I’m a writer): “I’m organizing another event,” he said. “A retirement dinner with speakers. And none of the three people who are talking about the honoree at the dinner wants to write their own speech! So I’m writing three different speeches in three different voices. And they all know this person better than me!”

I said, “That’s got to be frustrating, and a lot of extra work for you. I’m asked to write a lot of stuff for people, too. Resumes and cover letters, letters to principals, complaint letters, whatever. Maybe when people know you can write, they just want to hand it over.”

“You know what it is?” he asked. “You’re not afraid. You’re not afraid of writing and they are.”

It’s true. The times that I’ve been asked to write things for other people, I got the distinct impression that they were afraid if they did it, they’d screw up. If they wrote their own material, it would mean opening themselves up to being misunderstood or having their mistakes on display. They were worried their letter wouldn’t sound right and would present a poor impression of them.

But writers haven’t totally shaken the fear, either. Ours just takes different forms—it goes to the next level:

We might be afraid:

That we can’t finish a book.

That we can’t successfully represent on paper the story that’s in our heads.

That our book will be rejected by publishers or agents or readers. Or that we’ll be rejected by our family for writing the thing to begin with.

That we’ll fail at trying to write something new.

That our reviews will be bad.

That our book won’t sell.

But there are ways to move past these fears:

Write frequently. Practice always means improvement.

Just keep moving forward on the draft. Poor writing can be fixed.

Be forgiving of first drafts.

Write quickly, edit thoughtfully.

When finishing one project, start right in on the next. Don’t invest all your emotions into an “only-child” book.

How do you move past your insecurities and fears and keep writing? Do you do a lot of writing for your family and friends?