Fear of Writing has given me new friends, a creative outlet, and a chance to push myself to do some things I’ve been thinking about for a long time.
— Susan Smith, Bulverde, Texas
If you’re out on the Web searching for some
— FUN (+ a way to let your hair down creatively)
— Emotional support
— Creative inspiration
— Thinking outside the box
— A big ray of hope for yourself as a demoralized or currently inactive writer
“Life may not be the party we hoped for,
but while we’re here we should dance.”
What is “fear of writing”?
Fear of writing can be that familiar thud in the pit of the stomach when you visualize sitting down to write.
But there are many aspects to fear of writing. Even prolific writers can experience it in some form. Here are some of the results from a survey sheet I’ve been using since 2001 at the Fear of Writing Clinic:
- Fear of mediocrity
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of criticism
- Fear of pain and effort
- Fear of commitment
- Fear of “Making a big deal out of myself by writing from the heart . . . ‘as if anyone wants to hear that’.”
- Fear of reading my writing aloud to a group
- Fear of overworn metaphor
- Fear of not enough life experience to write about
- Fear of drawing a vacuum (“zip”—nothing to write) in a group
- Fear of not knowing where to begin
- Fear of being stilted and uncreative
- Fear that I will work and work but never get published
This is just a small selection from the many personal aspects of fear of writing that show up in my workshops. I don’t believe I’ve uncovered all the facets yet. There are also degrees of intensity. Some workshop participants mark only a 1 or 2 on their survey. Others mark 10 for the most severe. The rare bird marks a zero.
What is a “closet writer”?
A closet writer is someone who dreams of being a writer but has been procrastinating about getting started. Or has lots of false starts. Or, is already secretly writing but doesn’t admit it to anyone.
Here are some of the reasons a closet writer might use to stay in the closet:
- I’m not entitled to be a writer because I don’t have a degree
- I’m terrible at grammar
- A college professor told me my writing stank
- Writing is for creative people; I’m not very creative
- It will take semesters of training in dialogue and other mysterious techniques before I can write a story
- There’s nothing original left to say
- If I admit I’ve been writing, my family will think I’m selfish or weird
- If I admit I’ve been writing, I might have to let someone read it
- If I admit I’ve been writing, I might have to meet a certain standard before I can call myself a “writer”
All of these reasons evaporate magically every time you step inside this Website. But, if you’re a closet writer, you can stay safely in your closet while you check it out. There’s no pressure here.
Let me share with you a living, breathing
example of the kinds of stories I hear
This is Jenn Martin Ilo of O’ahu, Hawai’i, seen in the photo with her dad, Jerry Martin. Below is an excerpt from an email she wrote me on September 6, 2005.
Note: The Jen (with one ‘n’) that Jenn refers to in her email is the author of a chapter from Fear of Writing called “Jen Speaks.”
“This was a short piece I was compelled to write after reading some of Jen’s writing in the book. I have not edited this at all. It is as I wrote it—straight from my fear center.
When I read Jen’s first writings, I was amazed by her eloquence . . . then horrified because I, a “seasoned” writer, am not nearly as eloquent as Jen, a “newbie” to the writing world.
How can I call myself a writer? I can’t even begin to write a portrait—not in the first draft . . . often not even in the third, fourth, or fifth drafts! How does Jen do it in her very first attempt at writing?
I have a desire . . . no . . . a need to get my words down on paper, but I struggle with my creative voice. I have ideas, but I simply stare at my blank sheet of paper, pen poised above it, ready to make contact but never quite hitting its mark. Hah! Sometimes my hand even cramps up with holding my pen above the paper but never writing.
I wonder, how do people like Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Maya Angelou, Jen do it? How is it that the words come so easily to them but fail to come to me? What can I do to make the words flow? Will I fail yet again?
I would like to thank Jenn for her honesty, and also her courage, in allowing me to share this with others who may have similar fears about writing. — Milli