Your heart races, your hands shake, you want to run, scream, hide! Glancing behind you, you’re ready to face the growling beast that prowls toward you. But you see nothing – no beast, no scary slithering snake, no creepy spiders.
Instead, you see a draft of your story and a friend, who’s waiting for you to hand it over which can be as terrifying as having a spider plop onto your keyboard or notebook mid-sentence.
The crazy thing about fear is that your fear response is the same whether you’re facing an angry, hissing snake…or handing someone a piece of writing. Fear is fear, and our bodies don’t differentiate, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve ever been accused of being “dramatic” about it.
But why is sharing our writing so scary? We’re giving someone a piece of paper with little black marks on it or hitting publish on the computer, not passing over a live hand grenade.
It’s scary because our writing is part of us. When we share it, we’re putting a piece of ourselves out into the world. What if people don’t like it or reject it? It can feel like they’re rejecting us.
Trust me. They’re not. But we can tell ourselves that all day, and it might not help. Below are eight steps that can help you work through your fear.
1) Figure out if you can pinpoint exactly what is terrifying you. Write it down on a post-it or piece of paper and stick it on the wall in front of you. Maybe you’re afraid that your grammar stinks or someone might laugh at it. Now, put that into perspective. Will anyone die if you share? Will a kitten get hurt? Will life as you know it cease to exist? If the worst that will happen is that someone might point out a comma error or an inconsistency in one of your details, remember that’s a good thing.
2) Take some sharing “baby steps.” Start sharing with somebody safe who you know will give you 95% super positive feedback and gush about how amazing you are, like your mom or your best friend who already thinks you’re brilliant.
3) Share a small piece. You don’t need to hand over the first half of your novel. Start with a descriptive paragraph or a character sketch.
4) Find a group of writing buddies where everyone shares. At the high school where I teach, we have a creative writing club that meets weekly where kids can bring pieces to share and get feedback. If you don’t want to start a club at your school or don’t have access to that, start sharing online, but if you’re nervous, start small.
5) Write a question at the top of your piece that you’d like your readers to focus on. For example, you might ask if you’ve written enough details about the setting, or where you can add more character description. Or, you can ask more structural questions like where is it choppy or abrupt, so you know where to add more transitional phrases to help with the flow of the piece. This is also helpful for your reader because then they have one or two elements to focus on instead of the entire piece, and it rescues you from the fear that they’re going to give you an overall negative response.
6) Face your fears, and they’ll shrink. Think about it. The first time you do something can be terrifying but the more you do it, the more routine it becomes. Remember the first day of high school? Now look at you! It’s the same way with writing. When I wrote my first blog post four years ago, my hands shook when I hit “publish.” I was sure my writing sucked, people would laugh at me. They would wonder what the heck I was doing or even thinking having a blog. What actually happened? People read it and commented on it. Now they ask me why I don’t blog there anymore and when I’ll be back. Hmmm. Today, I have no problem writing a blog post and hitting “publish.” I faced my fears, and they vanished.
7) Stop judging yourself so harshly. Nobody is paying as much attention to you as you think they are. Trust me. You are an amazing young man or woman and you have something important to offer the world. Don’t be afraid to share it.
8) Open yourself up to learning. Writing a huge failure of a story can sometimes be more helpful in becoming a better writer than writing and sharing the perfect story.
If your goal is to grow as a writer, then you need to not only understand but embrace the idea that not everything you write will be amazingly wonderful, and that’s a great thing. It means you’re pushing yourself, taking risks, trying new techniques, playing with words – all the good stuff that will make you a better writer.
Put it into Action
Learning to write well is a process. It’s hard work but doing it together makes the process that much easier. This week, to take action figure out what you’re afraid of and evaluate if it’s an earth shattering fear.
Then, choose one small piece, maybe the opening paragraph to a story or a short poem. Figure out a question if you want specific feedback and write that at the top. Finally, face your fears and share it with a “safe” person, or post it in the comments below.
If you did it, congratulations!!