We need your words, not your fear
Half of the time writers are freaking out, that much is true, but it is never something that keeps them from writing. There are levels to this state of frustration, but it is rather constant—an unavoidable side-effect of the craft. Freaking out in this context is not that negative, because it means that you care, but it becomes a problem when all you do is freak out instead of typing actual words.
From veterans to enthusiasts to non-writers, self-doubt is a natural part of the craft.
The blinking cursor on a blank page is our great enemy, the catalyst of that what-the-fuck-do-i-do-now mindset, but despite how scary it might be at first, it is easy to overcome. I don’t believe in writer’s block. That’s just a lazy excuse to avoid writing.
Honey, no one’s asking you to go ahead and write One Hundred Years of Solitude in one sitting.
When you face a blank page don’t do it in fear, but aware of the beautiful freedom that comes from that empty space. It is asking to be filled with meaning and crazy ideas, inviting you to experiment, and discover parts of yourself through the intimate act that is writing.
The initial fear comes from not knowing what to write about, but ideas can come from anywhere if you allow yourself to chill the fuck out and think.
Imagine a spoon. There’s nothing exciting about it, but a writer will find a way to make it so. I don’t mean using a cliche metaphor that is trying too hard to sound poetic but using the spoon as a starting point for a compelling story.
Larry woke up with a spoon jammed into his thigh, again. There you have a story. Who stabbed him with a spoon? Why? Didn’t he feel it in his sleep? What happened the first time? That is for the writer to explore.
Even if it’s not fiction, you can apply the same mindset. An editor at a magazine is asking you to write about a personal experience. Think about any emotion, like fear for instance, and think about the last time you were afraid. Then write about it.
You shouldn’t be afraid of doing something that allows you to be the most genuine version of yourself, or where you can be whoever you choose to be and no one can tell you it’s not okay.
Something that makes it easier to let go of the fear is to develop a habit. When your mind and your body are stimulated by controlled choices that you make, such as timing and space, it is easier to feel confident during the activity.
For more than five years I used to write only after midnight. Now I can’t do that. My brain and my body said, “Sorry, we can’t keep up with your bullshit anymore.” And now I write in the afternoon instead.
Writing spots are also important, and just as sacred. We have our particular preferences, like vintage desks or cafes, some weirdos write in their beds (I can’t do that, bed is meant for sleeping and crying only), but the place itself affects the quality of the craft and our disposition to commit to it.
Another great fear comes from not knowing if you have something to say, if your words are worth reading. Great writers from all disciplines encounter that same frustration but to overcome it, you need to have a little ego, and that is not a negative trait.
If you don’t believe in your story then no one else will.
A lot of people have nothing to say and still have the confidence to say it. Just look at social media. But you, my dear writer, must avoid falling into that embarrassing pit. Ask yourself what a reader can take away from your piece, and if there is at least something, go ahead and write. And do it without fear.