How Do I Overcome My Writing Fears?

One of my all-time favorite motivational speakers is Lisa Nichols. You may have seen her in the popular 2006 law of attraction documentary, The Secret. She was a single mother who couldn’t afford diapers for her son (literally had to wrap a towel around him) and decided to change her life. That was decades ago, and now she’s built a successful business teaching others how to overcome their fears, speak up for themselves, and live the lives they dare to dream about.

When I was thinking of ways to share tips with you on how to get past your fear of writing, I immediately thought of Nichols. Her books and YouTube videos have helped me for years. She’s helped me learn how to set attainable goals, let go of negative thinking, and how to keep moving toward my dreams. I rewatched several of her videos and created these actionable steps we can all take when it comes to overcoming our fears surrounding writing (fear of failure, fear of success, fear of publicity, fear of drying up after only one successful book).

First, look at fear in a new light…

Nichols says that people always want to know how to banish fear. How to eliminate it to break free and achieve their dreams. She suggests that we accept that fear will always be there. There’s no keeping it out of our minds/hearts/lives. So, we must try and accept that it’s a part of the equation, but that it won’t be so big that it overpowers us.

“How about (if) you let fear sit with you? You just commit to keep moving, even with the fear.”

~Lisa Nichols

“What if you tell fear, ‘You’re welcome in my life because you’re going to come…but when you come, I’m not going to stop’?”

~Lisa Nichols

Now it becomes less about “How do I overcome fear?” and more about “How to I keep moving forward while carrying the fear?”

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Here are Lisa’s 10 Best Tips for Dealing with Fear

  1. More Information: Collect more information, since fear results from a lack of information. What you need, is not inaction but to take actionable steps to learn more about what you’re doing.
  1. Collect Team Members: Pertaining to writing, you could join a writer’s workshop or online group, or even enlist a trusted friend of family member to be your accountability partner.
  1. Get a Coach: Again, pertaining to writing, you could take some extra classes, hire a life coach to keep you on track with your goals and help you deal with writing anxieties, or even hire a ghostwriter or writing partner to co-author the story so you aren’t alone with your first novel.
  1. Stay Moving: When we feel compassion, we hug. When we experience joy, we laugh. So, why, when we feel fear, do we stop in our tracks? We use fear as an excuse for inactivity! The remedy? Keep moving! Feel the fear, but do it anyway. Learn to dance with the fear.
  1. Know When to Rest: I know I just said stay moving, but sometimes when we’re overwhelmed, it really means we need to allow our body and brain to rest. That might mean taking an afternoon off from writing and going on a picnic with your kids. It might mean a nap. It might mean a bath. It might mean reassessing, simplifying, and restructuring your list of priorities. In the case of writing a novel, maybe it means cutting a subplot or a few characters to simplify thing process.
  1. Let Go of Past Failures: “Your past does not equal your future” Nichols says. It’s time to forgive the times you procrastinated or failed or made excuses. Yesterday’s actions do not define where I’m going today or tomorrow. When you know better, do better. If you’ve started twenty novels and never finished one, that was yesterday. Allow today to bring fresh hope and a resolve to make a real change.
  1. Reset: Recommit, recharge, whatever you want to call it, give yourself a do-over. Figure out what isn’t working with your current plan, and then make an attainable action plan to uncomplicate the picture. Whether that is turning your writing routine upside-down or committing to conquer small daily goals and rewarding yourself with a small treat once a week, just figure out something different that will put you back in the driver’s seat of your life.
  1. Find Your Fire: Maybe the fear stems from something deep inside that isn’t all that passionate about your writing topic. You might not even realize that truth, so take a moment to sit with that thought. Are you truly on fire for the novel you chose to write? Sometimes, we need to admit that we’ve set out on the wrong path. That’s OK! It’s better that we realize it now than when we’ve invested another day, week, or year on that path. Are you on fire for your novel? Because if not, figure out what story you really want to write.
  1. Project The Possibility That Your Dream Will Come True: When we feel fear, what we’re doing is projecting what we think will be the outcome, and then feeling that feeling now. Instead, Nichols says to project the feeling that your dream is going to come true, and then allow yourself to feel those positive feelings. Say to yourself, “I can imagine holding my novel in my hands,” rather than “What if I write the whole manuscript and cannot find an agent?”
  1.  Be Realistic: Most new writers get overwhelmed because they’re thinking too big, too soon. You can have a goal to see your book in Barnes & Noble, but let’s start with seeing chapter one finished. Set incremental goals, and reward yourself along the way. When hikers climb Mount Everest, there are base camps along the way, mini-goals to aim for, reach, rest, and celebrate, before trekking onto the next goal. Try that with your writing.
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Everyone experiences fear sometimes, and writers especially do. We always wonder what will happen if we can’t get an agent, if we finish the manuscript and realize it’s awful (and we’ve wasted months or years on it), and what if we just aren’t good enough to make it as a novelist? We can do the steps above, and they will certainly help alleviate the feelings, for sure. But in the end, we need to be wiling to play full-out, while carrying some level of fear with us. We can’t wait for it to go away before we strive for those dreams. Like the old adage says, feel the fear, and do it anyway.

“My mistakes of last month, last year, or thirty minutes ago, do not define my next decision. Reinvention is available to everybody, everyday.”

~Lisa Nichols