Writing 101: Being Afraid

Are you afraid of your own writing? If you’ve ever stared too long at a blank page, or re-read the same paragraph four times because you just weren’t sure about it, or put off finishing that chapter for another day, you may be spending too much of your time being afraid. Lots of writers all secretly have the same fear, but I’m about to expose it once and for all: bad writing. Have you found yourself being afraid of writing badly, too? 


Fear of long words is a real phobia, but fear of writing is something that possibly strikes only authors. Writing a book encourages you to second-guess every sentence you put down. Bloggers like me get on the Internet and scream about editing, editing, editing. You get told to choose just the right words and avoid the wrong ones, to double-check dialogue and keep your narrative voice strong. And when you’ve got to think about all that, it’s absolutely natural to start being afraid of just totally writing the wrong thing.

If you start second-guessing yourself before you ever start writing, you might experience everything from writer’s block to anxiety. You might be so afraid of writing badly that you end up not writing anything at all. It’s much easier to simply not write, and in this way not risk the failure and inevitable shame of writing something awful, right?

It’s always easier to not do something, to give up, to not try. But it actually feels worse. If you want to write and let fear stop you from writing, you’re cheating yourself and all those potential readers out there. Because here’s the thing: it’s okay to write badly. In fact, you should go ahead and embrace the fact that you are definitely going to write badly...because you will.

I can’t stress it enough: first drafts are meant to be ugly. This is where you just vomit words on the page, and to heck with how they’re spelled. You get the ideas out, you start letting the characters move around, you just write and write and write. Most of it, in fact, will be bad. But all those words give you the foundation for a book. Once you start shifting them around and changing them up, all that bad writing will start to take a different form.

Don’t spend your valuable writing time being afraid of bad writing. Allow yourself to write badly. It’s the only way to really get to the good writing that will come later.

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