Fear of Writing

My name is P.S. Hoffman and I’m afraid of writing. It’s a subtle thing, a small thing that’s hard to notice, but it’s always there. In between every word, there is a pause, a tick where I’m not sure if I can do it, I’m not sure if I can write the next.

I’m afraid I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m afraid nobody will care, or worse. I’m afraid that what I’ve written now is the last I’ll ever write, because nothing I do will ever be good enough.

My name is P.S. Hoffman, and I’m finished with fear. I have too much to say, I have too much to share, and I don’t have time to be afraid.

And neither do you.

Think of this: Your mind is your civilization, and your civilization is dying. Maybe not today, but soon; the end is already in sight. You must write, or else every idea, every advancement, every great thought that your civilization created will be pass into oblivion. You must write because you are the last of your kind, and the future needs to know you.

I invite you, dear writers, to write with me. I invite you to try, everyday, to scrawl out a sentence, a story, or anything you’ve got. I invite you to set time limits, and not word limits. I encourage you to try, to fail, and after you fail, to not give up.

Because what you have to say is important. It doesn’t matter what others tell you, it doesn’t matter what you tell yourself, do not be afraid. Your words are important. Go write them.

What is holding you back? Fear of rejection, or perfectionism, or something else? How will you deal with your fears?

Image by Pat Meler via Flickr Creative Commons

48 thoughts on “Fear of Writing”

  1. Well said, P.S. A year ago I felt all the things you mentioned about fear of writing–all the fear of’s… Now writing is as necessary as the air I breathe. But, thank you for the encouragement!

    1. It makes me glad to know I’m not struggling with this alone. Hopefully, I will be like you one day soon.

      Did you find one fear in particular difficult to overcome? Or was it easier to face them all, once you faced any of them?

      1. We have lots of company! Initially i feared putting my childhood secrets of abuse out there. Afraid of being judged. I really thought the world would come crashing down on me. Then i realized-it already had. That is probably still my one underlying fear–as my world gets brighter i worry the shoe will drop. But thats the old messages playing! I remind myself, “Your only as sick as your secrets” and that gets me back to writing my truth. I think youll do great if you just write write write! 🙂

        1. This struck me, I will have to keep this with me. Now, more than ever, I hear the old messages, but I will remember this. Thank you, Mandy.

          And yes, let’s get back to writing!

  2. My nearest and dearest call me Bebong though obviously it is not my real name. I write to keep sane. There are so many, many thoughts (most of them not nice) swirling in my brain and a bunch of skeletons are residing in my closet. Sometimes, I let them out and let them dance naked.

    1. Ah, what a glorious release, I envy you, and your dancing skeletons. I will see if I can go get mine up and moving, too. Do your fears help you write? Do they fuel some of your better ideas?

  3. Thank you for the much-needed encouragement! I’m so glad you shared these words, particularly today. I’m swallowing that fear and heading off to write now.

  4. P.S., I love this post! Write anything, write with time limits, not word limits, I can roll these around in my head all day. If at all I fear writing on a day, it would be fear of rejection, I suppose. That what I say may not resonate with anyone or worse, be decimated to pieces. I’ve overcome that fear on most days, but some days, it just rears its great, big head and smiles smugly at me. Thank you for this, again.☺

    1. This means much to me, Shailaja, and it’s always a pleasure to have you comment here.

      We bloggers (us bloggers?) probably face this fear of rejection more frequently than most other writers; all that immediate feedback (or lack thereof!) and having to put out new content all of the time.

      But at the same time, this frequency and this feedback are two excellent weapons. Not only do we get to know if we’re doing something VERY right or wrong, but we also get to toughen our skin up, and try, and try, and try, and try.

      When you are fighting your great, big head, remember that the rest of us are fighting along with you.

      1. But you know the ironic part? The blogger’s comments are not the same as a writer’s critics. A blogger will say that the post is good, well, because she/he wants a response later. Am I right? I am always vaguely distrustful of comments which begin with ‘Wow’. Immediately, I wonder if the post was really worth that. Am I making any sense? 😀

        1. Oh yes, absolutely. I’ve thought about this too: do you comment on posts you didn’t like?

          I usually only comment on something that gives me a strong reaction (which, in my opinion, is usually indicative of strong writing somewhere). So when I see people commenting ‘wow, this was good’, I choose to take that as ‘wow, this was something that interested me enough to comment on’.

          Of course, different people show praise in different ways, so I always take it with a grain of salt.

  5. So loved this encouraging post! I agree, one sure needs to be heard/read before the civilization ends. Never thought about writing from that perspective 🙂
    I guess every writer has their bad days but in the end the passion to put your thoughts on paper wins over.

    1. “I guess every writer has their bad days but in the end the passion to put your thoughts on paper wins over.”

      I laughed at the first half of this: such an understatement!

      Everything you have just said is so true, and I suppose it is the passion that keeps bringing us back, even if we quit. Whether it be ten days ago, or ten years ago, if you’ve written once, you’ll always want to write again, no?

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Vinodinii.

  6. Write , write and then write some more…I love what you say about each of us being our own civilization which is ending and we need to capture our thoughts before we end for good… So let go of being afraid and write…In my case let go of being lazy and listen to the heart’s desire to write…

    1. This laziness, sometimes it is just laziness, but sometimes it is more.

      Think: why do you want to write? I believe, if you are anything like me, that there is this perfect, insatiable longing somewhere deep inside of you.

      Who will satisfy this longing? How?

      All of the time you spend not answering your longing, is it worth it?

      I thank you, Nabanita, for your honest comment, and I hope to see you again.

  7. Sounds just like me! Perfectionism is a big problem for me, but so is the fear that I’m not qualified enough to write about the things I write about, the fear that I’ll be misunderstood, etc. So thanks for the encouragement. I especially liked your civilization analogy. 🙂

  8. Nice post. I wake up and take a look at all the things and people around me everyday and can’t help thinking that everything is going to disappear. Finally all my writings, drawings and photos are my effort of not forgetting or of reminding myself that these things exist, or have once existed. The comparison with our civilization is just perfect.

    1. You are too kind, Worldlittlelights (Nhi, I assume?).

      Sometimes it is hard for me, to realize that I will probably never amount to any great importance, and yes, all of this will be forgotten.

      But this is also a fear, and a useless one. Instead, I choose to orient myself with this knowledge, and write in spite of it. I do not care if I am forgotten, I write because I have too many things to say. Too many stories.

      Thank you for the comment, and please stop by again!

      1. (Well actually I am Cu, but it doesn’t matter and I’ll try to put my name next to the comment next time to avoid confusion 😀 )

        I also used to be very afraid of not being able to leave my trace on the world, so afraid that it almost obsessed me. Then I came across the book The fault in our stars by Jone Green and was amazed at how the protagonist who was but a very normal human being at the beginning of the story, became a hero at the end simply because she, unlike anyone else, didn’t care about becoming something in her life, but spent time observing and musing on other beautiful things instead.

        So I believe you’ve made the right choice trying to write down all the things you have to say instead of worrying about being forgotten.

        The future men (or aliens) will have lots to explore!

        And thank you too for following us!

  9. The only fear I have around writing, at least for now (i.e., these days) is not having enough time. I usually write late, sometimes too late, way too late as my time is precious and filled with other important things. So little time it seems and so much I have to say. I SO agree with you on what I have to say IS important – sometimes anyway! ;). And I love your analogy to ‘civilization.’ 😉 <3

    1. I too am a member of Night Owls United, Elly. It’s a problem, and one I’m not sure I’ll ever change (it’s so quiet, and so dark, and sometimes I just feel so creative when all the lights are low).

      I like how you keep your ego in check, an important lesson for us all! Thank you for the kind words, Elly.

  10. Write more, write better, write without limits! Yes, that’s my goal in 2015! Sometimes I also fear of having to meet my own expectations…self critique led to almost no writing in the second half of last year! But no more! Thanks again for this great post!

    1. I know this problem all too well.

      Try some exercises!
      -Write for five minutes straight, without stopping for more than ten seconds.
      -Write for 20 minutes without changing a single word.

      Editing and writing are sometimes like two brothers: they will fight with each other until nothing gets done. You might have to separate the two.

  11. Allowing ourselves to be truly seen takes incredible courage, to tell our stories from our whole hearts. Writing our stories and publishing them where anyone can read them, THAT is an incredibly courageous act. Whether we write memoire of our own experiences or stories filled with fictional characters doesn’t matter. In either case we bare ourselves, which is terrifying. If we bury our fears behind shame they are fed and grow even stronger. I never hope to be fearless because that would mean I was without feeling. Instead, I prefer to face my fears, recognize them, and name them. This always knocks the teeth out of them, allowing me to move forward and write with even more strength.

    Thank you for this post. By reminding us that everyone faces these fears, we know that we’re not alone with them- very comforting and empowering.

    About five years ago a friend gave me a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s book “Writing Down the Bones”. After having been essentially paralyzed and silenced by fear of not being able to write the way I was ‘supposed to’ for 30 years, at the age of 42 it helped me to let go of the fear of writing by recognizing my internal editor and learning how to silence it long enough to get a draft down. When it’s actually time to edit, I call on it when I’M READY! I’ve since given the book to at least 20 other people, (I have a favorite used book store that I like to support) many of whom were strangers, fellow writers I’ve met in cafes, and everyone has appreciated it and found it helpful.

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  13. Well, it’s obvious why it’s hard writing. Before anything’s put in concrete form it’s flawless. Once manifested, there’s thousands of words that have to be picked correctly. Who can keep up with that?

  14. Excellent PS, like others above I appreciate the analogy to creating space for our civilization, our voice. After only writing in fits & starts in ’14, I’ve started writing ‘Morning Pages’ from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. This stream of consciousness handwriting process has helped unlock other projects and pursuits while also proving to be quite therapeutic.

    And welcome to the TwitterVerse, I look forward to connecting via our blogs or there in the weeks and months ahead!

    1. Every time, it’s unexpectedly difficult to get into the mood for writing. Lately, I’ve taken the “moods be damned” approach, and cranking out at least ten minutes of garbage/gibberish/untranslatable inanity. It helps immensely.

      I had never heard of Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’, nor Morning Pages, but I guess this is exactly what I do. This is fantastic, Ben, thank you so much for showing her to me.

      And YES, let’s connect! I’ll be on your blog presently.

      Here’s the link to Cameron’s Morning Pages for anyone else reading this: http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

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  16. Ha – revisiting your blog to re-read this post and what’s this? I see new posts! Nice to see you back 🙂

    I wanted to reread the fear post because I’ve an idea that I’m honestly afraid of. It’s realistic rather than fantastic, it will require loads of research, and it touches on some very dark topics. I’m afraid of mucking it up, I’m afraid of not treating the subject matter appropriately, I’m afraid of all the work, and I’m afraid the idea isnt as good as I hope it could be.

    And it just feels like a great idea.

    So the fear is really blocking me.

    And so I return to your fear post. This is a great post – because the real fear should be not writing it. A fear of running out of time to tell the story.

    Anyway, I’ve re-read it now, and hopefully I can carry this inspiration into schedule for writing. take a bite sized chunk.

    bite again.

    Cheers mate.

    1. And now that you’ve talked about it on the internet, you have no choice but to write it. Right?

      It’s good to hear from you again KT, and I’m working with the same problems. Every time I build up this schedule it seems to fall apart. Recently, I bought a 365 day calendar – and every day I write for my novel, I get to cross a day off. Even if it’s only 1 sentence (though, usually, I can’t stop at once sentence).

      I won’t say it’s been 100% successful, but it’s certainly better than telling myself, “Oh, I should probably write in my book today.”

      1. Absolutely – there is no more binding a commitment than making an offhand comment to acquaintances on the internet 🙂

        I like the idea of the calendar – I think i will need to do something like this. it’s far to easy to sit and watch TV rather than write these days…

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