The Fear that Holds Creative Writers Back

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My meeting James Chartrand of Men with Pens didn’t go smoothly. We met on Poewar and had a friendly debate about men vs. women bloggers. But as I got to know him, he grew on me. He oozes talent and confidence that many writers don’t have. Sure, his lyrical writing style made me feel insecure at times… so how appropriate that he writes about the topic.

The Fear that Holds Creative Writers Back

Creative writers generally work alone. They write alone, they think up their plot lines alone, they secretively select who they’ll show their work to and don’t really enjoy receiving feedback.
Creative writing is a personal matter, after all. The very action means that we’ve called upon ourselves, our experience, our minds, our skills and parts of our soul to create what we will.
The problem with creative writers is the tendency to think, “I’m not that good.” It’s a rare day when a creative writer stands up tall to proclaim, “I rock. My short stories are awesome. I’m fantastic at this! Wanna read?”
Right. I know. You wouldn’t think of being so bold. You probably say something like, “Oh… It’s really not that good. Kind of silly, even. I could let you see… but…well, okay.”
Not the impression of someone confident in a creation from the heart, is it?
Most creative writers set very high standards for themselves. They do so through comparison. They read the works of others and think, “I wish I could write like that.”
And instead of saying, “I’m going to try to write like that,” they avoid public embarrassment, bow their heads and go back to their solitary work, feeling disheartened.
Not good, that.
We know. We’ve seen it. We recently opened a new creative writing game that lets writers put their talents out there in a collaborative environment. They can practice, learn from others and improve by trying new techniques. Action brings reaction, after all. And a game that uses creative writing is fun.
But some writers, excited as they are to try the game, start to squirm. They create marvelous characters, write a few introductory parts… and start comparing themselves to other writers in the game.
That person writes fantastic dialogue. These two writers have marvelous chemistry. She pens great description. He’s aces at vivid scene settings.
The whisper of fear and self-doubt begins. “I’m not as good as they are.” The hesitations start. The excuses slip. “I’ll just read a bit more… I’m not ready to write yet.”
And another writer slips back into the isolated, lonely world of creative writing, wishing to be better but creating mental obstacles to stay exactly at status quo.
Who says that you’re not good enough? So you’re rusty. So you’re unsure. So you’re new at creative writing. So what?
Writers need to work hard to break the feeling of not being good enough. It’s a fear that we impose on ourselves and one that many of us carry forever. It’s also a fear that holds us back:

  • We don’t experiment and try new techniques.
  • We don’t learn to adjust and improve our writing.
  • We don’t become comfortable with our talents and skills.
  • We don’t learn our limits — or push the ones that exist.
  • We don’t learn to trust that we can overcome obstacles.

Imagine what would happen if you stood up and said, “You know what? Here. Read it. I don’t care. I love writing and maybe I’m not great now, but I can be and will be. So honestly, truly, genuinely let me know what you think and I’ll work on improving.”
The more that you start putting yourself forth and taking steps forward instead of back, the more your creative writing becomes richer and better. But you have to take that deep breath and try.
And one day, someone will look at your work and sigh, “I wish I could write like that.”
You’ll be able to smile and reply, “You can. Just stop being afraid of what people think.”
About the Author: Want more great creative writing tips? Interested in improving your fiction or getting more solid advice from a pro? Visit James Chartrand’s blog Men with Pens, the Capturing Fantasy blog or hop on over to the hottest new creative writing game on the Internet, Escaping Reality.

7 thoughts on “The Fear that Holds Creative Writers Back”

  1. Hello Meryl.

    I think one of the most important things people need to do who tell themselves they are not good enough is to think the reverse.

    They are good enough.

    A little technique I learned back in my college days for overcoming negative thoughts like that is to immediately write down 2 reasons “why you are good enough.”

    In other words, for every negative thought that comes your way, write that down. Then write down 2 reasons why that’s dumb and you can do it.

    John Hoff – eVentureBizs last blog post..Blind Marketing Is Risky

  2. Just so you know — James Chartrand wrote the post. I am just the person who put it up. Want to be sure credit goes where it belongs.

    I love your technique. Simple and takes only a few minutes. We need to learn to think more positively in today’s negative society.

  3. Hi James
    I’m reading an interesting book – The Courage To Write: How Writers Transcend Fear. I can recommend it.

    It does take a certain amount of courage to put your work out there “in public view”.

    That’s one of the things I like about writing for the web. You do get feedback, often instant feedback (and of course interaction with your readers).

    Talking about fear and writing… not being able to edit comments after you’ve hit the submit button can be scary too. 🙂

    Yvonne Russells last blog post..Weekend Writers Cafe – I’d Rather Be Writing In… All Virtual Expenses Paid By The Writers Cafe

  4. I can remember in the middle of writing an article about cochlear implants, I was gripped with fear. I had already committed to writing it, but even before I wrote the first sentence, I was getting mud slung at me on a forum for tackling a controversial subject.

    So I kept putting off the article, because each time I sat down to write it, I ended up with a pit in my stomach. Then I had a moment of, “the heck with it, I’m just gonna let the story unfold and whoever gets upset reading it can just deal with it.”

    It turned into an article that I’m really proud of. And the mud? Well, they stopped slinging it.

    Karen Putz / DeafMoms last blog post..A Mother’s Journey, And a Final Goodbye

  5. I’ve noticed this habit among writers, and I’m definitely guilty of it too. But I think there’s a reason for it, for me at least. Writing is personal. When I write, the images in my novels are things only I’ve ever seen before, things I’ve spent time creating; the characters are people I’ve grown to love, even though they don’t really exist. When others read it, and they criticize, it feels like they’re critiquing me, even if it’s not about me. I feel that I am so deeply connected to my writing that if others don’t like it or identify it, they won’t like me either. I really just have to learn that this is not the case, that who I am is in most ways unrelated to my writing.

    Thank you so much for this – I stumbled on this web site by accident but now I’m glad I did. You made me think.


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