- Books, Literature, and Writing
Overcome Your Fear of Writing
Perhaps you are like me and someone in the past told you that your writing wasn't very good. Perhaps even recently someone commented that your prose need work. I can relate. To be more specific, a professor in college (university) told me I was a bad writer. Of course it was a blunt comment to hear. I mean she could have said my writing needed improvement, but no, she simply flat out said it was bad. For years this comment stuck with me. It played over and over in my head. Not that I'm a softy, I can handle blunt comments; even those that sting. However, as a professor, it should have been a priority and even duty for her to help me be a better writer. As an educator, her platform is to help and had someone given me a book or pointed me in the right direction, perhaps my writing would have improved. Had a professor guided me to help elevate my writing, fear wouldn't have taken over every time I lifted a pen or sat in front of my laptop. I recall writing my senior thesis and being completely scared the words would never flow from my brain to the computer screen. It ended up being a fairly decent thesis and I received a respectable 'B', but it didn't flow as well as it should have. The interesting research involved in my thesis was overshadowed by thoughts of writing and how could I possibly string words together and form enough paragraphs to complete this piece. It was truly an interesting topic and thesis, but the fear of writing hung over me every evening when I sat down to work. People are gripped with all sorts of different fears throughout a lifetime and I was saddled with the fear of being a bad, no good, rotten, terrible writer. It didn't feel good.
I love reading. I love words. There is nothing better than diving into a good book and observing how the words unfold to form a beautiful story. I'm known to devour a good book in a day or two. Thankfully being told I was a bad writer did not deter my love of reading. When I read, the words form pictures in my head. (More on that later and how it helps me write.) I knew that I wasn't completely against or afraid of words since I've always been a huge bookworm. So my adoration of books and reading stayed intact which was good. However, the roadblock and fear of writing stayed with me beyond college. Not only was it a struggle to continue trying to write well in college, but in the real world it was difficult as well. I would try to write for my job and it ended up being a disaster. Friends asked me to write for their blogs and I turned all of them down. They weren't the best writers either, but they at least wrote blog posts and gave it their best and many nudged me to do the same. "Ease up!" and "Don't be so hard on yourself." I heard this many times from family and friends who insisted I actually wasn't that bad of a writer. Many encouraged me in ways that the college professor did not. They told me to practice writing and after a time, it would feel more natural. Not only did I feel blessed to have such positive people in my life, but I took to heart what they said. Perhaps I could at least try to make an effort. Although I will state, I made several efforts past and present and many, many times and it simply seemed as if the words would not easily translate to the screen. Maybe some of you reading can relate. Not only did I have a fear of writing, but I wondered how I could possibly learn to turn my thoughts into amazing words. After all, it's not as if I had a lot of practice in sitting down and freely letting my mind wonder and simply writing without my stomach turning into a million knots. Sometimes the greatest accomplishment in improving ourselves or a skill is conquering fear itself.
Banish the Fear
Enough was enough. It was more than time to get past my fear of writing. I wanted to be one of those people who could sit down and type out a 600 word blog post without feeling super stressed and full of anxiety. One day I decided to figure out why writing proved to be such a roadblock. Yes, much of it came back to being told I was a bad writer and that seemed to be forever seared in my subconscious. (The subconscious absorbs what it is told.) Over the years I've taught myself many skills and I decided to try to become a better writer; perhaps I could teach myself. We don't always need a formal setting such as a classroom to learn a new skill. I taught myself Photoshop, so why not teach myself how to some words together in the form of intelligible sentences without breaking out in a sweat. I also came to the realization that I didn't have to be the worlds greatest writer and that mistakes were even OK. There are a lot of writers, such as those with regularly updated blogs, who write on a weekly and even daily basis. They don't win writing awards and sometimes there are mistakes in their posts, but they still continue to write. Slowly, my feelings towards writing started to thaw and I began to relax in the smallest way. I delved in to unraveling my fear of writing by asking myself why putting words to paper or a computer screen seemed so daunting. It was daunting because when I wanted to write, the words didn't seem to easily flow. For example, I would have a general idea about what I wanted to say, but I couldn't find the words to do my thoughts justice. My thoughts were colorful and expressive in my head, but when I typed away on my laptop, the sentences sounded wooden and flat. What I wrote didn't do my ideas and thoughts justice. A concert pianist plays the keys so effortlessly and in such smooth movements as if there isn’t this great divide between brain and hands and that’s exactly how I wanted to write. I wanted to type without heavy worry so that my keyboard rattled like piano keys and the images in my mind flowed quickly and easily through my fingertips. In short, I wanted writing to feel a bit more natural. Although I knew it would never come naturally enough as say an author with many published books, perhaps I could learn to write at least on a monthly and then later on weekly basis. Plus, I had an idea about an eBook that would appeal to both children and adults and I really wanted to start jotting down my ideas. For the first time in years, I wanted to write. I'd already developed many of the characters in my mind, but I had to write much of this down so I would not forget.
In a way I was proud of myself for wanting to write. It was the first time in years that I really wanted to sit down and tell a story through words. Granted the subjects for my yet to be written eBook were hard to resist; a cute rabbit and a fluffy white dog. For nearly an hour every day I began researching online how to become a better writer. I came many great blog posts about training yourself to write a certain amount of words everyday. For instance, if you wanted to become a better writer, sit down and write 800 words a day. I couldn't even write 100 words a day so I certainly had no idea how I would ever get to 800 words. The realization sank in that I wasn't even advanced enough to put to use many of these helpful blog posts. They were geared towards people who were already writing at least a little bit. I, on the other hand, was not even writing on a daily basis. (I did bookmark many of these blog posts that I re-read today as I've worked up to writing 500-800 words a day!) What I needed was something more than a few blog posts for motivation. After refining my searches, I came upon a book called The Right to Write: The bulk of my online purchases are beauty and books from Amazon, so I headed over to read the reviews. (Amazon reviews nearly always seal the deal for me.) Right away I knew this was a non academic book on writing I would like. I wanted a book on writing that was more emotional compared to the manuals many of us bought in high school and college. An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life.
The Book that Changed Everything
The Right to Write immediately changed my view of writing. Only a few sentences into the introduction and I was hooked. The author, Julia Cameron, comes across as calm, caring, and overall someone who truly wants to champion the writer in everyone. I liked her voice and advice right away because it didn’t come across as bossy or that she was far superior to the reader. Students would be so much luckier if they had professors like Julia Cameron. You could gather right away that she truly cared about helping people learn to write. The first page of the first chapter Julia jumps right in with how to start writing. I love when an author states an objective right away. I didn't have to wait until the 2nd or 3rd chapter to learn about writing. The author's goal is to give you tools that she's used throughout her writing journey. They are helpful tools that became stepping stones to end my fear of writing. Chapter one starts off by telling the reader to simply use where you are at that very moment and begin writing. She states that it's nice to be in the mood to write, but not necessary. It can be an average day without anything exciting happening and you still have the right to sit down and write. You don't have to be in the perfect mood in order to write. On pages two and three, I agree with everything she has to say about how many of us are encouraged from a young age not to write. In exchange for self-expression, we are taught self-doubt. As a result, Cameron states, many of us try to write too carefully and we end up sounding stiff or in my case simply not writing at all.
Top Points from The Right to Write that helped me overcome my fear of Writing:
1.) Begin the first part of your new writing journey with an exercise. Simply start writing about where you are at that exact moment. Be descriptive, and write about anything that comes across your mind. You can describe the room you are sitting in, the coffee you are sipping, how you feel emotionally, etc.
2.) Let yourself write. Clear away the notion that only certain people have the gift to write. This simply isn’t true. There is a writer in everyone. Don’t force yourself to believe that everything we write has to be a masterpiece.
3.) Time. Quit using time as an excuse. Find time to write throughout the day. If you commute to work, start by writing a paragraph a day. You can write about absolutely anything. Take 5 minutes to write during your lunch break.
4.) Writing doesn’t take a massive amount of discipline. Once you start writing for 5 minutes a day, it becomes easier to stretch the writing out for 15 minutes and then even 30 minutes.
5.) Don’t make a big deal about writing. It doesn’t need to be a perfect day and the perfect environment in order to write. There doesn’t need to be a lot of rituals surrounding daily writing.
6.) Daily writing is a must. Just as you brush your teeth everyday, writing needs to become a similar habit. Again, it doesn’t have to be a large chunk of time dedicated to daily writing; even 5 minutes is good.
7.) Above all else, keep WRITING. And keep writing on a daily basis if possible. It doesn't have to be perfect prose. Just do it as the popular slogan states.
And surprisingly, I haven’t finished the book. I don’t want it to end. Julia Cameron writes in such a kind and helpful way, that I don’t want to say goodbye. Somewhere towards the end of the book I started writing more. In fact, I now write between 500 and 800 words a day, but I keep The Right to Write nearby in case I need it for moral support. I’m not even joking. It’s a very supportive book that encouraged me to kick my fear of writing.
How I Write Today
It’s now March 2015. Since this past summer, I’ve started writing blog posts for several of my friends in the beauty and design industries. I try to write at least 500 words a day. Sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less. Writing still makes me nervous, but it doesn’t grip me with intense fear as it once did. I still struggle with finding the best words to bring my thoughts to life, but I try to push through and keep writing; even if it’s boring and bland. Just as I see detailed images when I read, I now try to visualize my thoughts in the same way while writing. Often, but not always, visualizing my ideas helps the words flow a little bit easier. Julia’s book taught me that anyone can write and that it’s okay to continue writing even if we don’t keep the reader on the edge of its seat. So even on days when I feel my writing is subpar, I don’t dwell on how bad it is, but I simply keep writing. I also like to save article editing until the end. And when I need help, I ask someone to edit for me. Sometimes another set of eyes helps bring a blog post to life.
I’m far from being a perfect writer, but I am slowly improving. I'll never be the world’s best writer and I'm completely fine with it. I don’t have to be an award-winning writer. However, I've come to see writing as a skill and not necessarily something that I have to be the best in order to continue. Sometimes I like to jog, I'm not really good at it, but I continue anyway. Do I have the best form and stride while jogging? No. But that doesn't stop me from exercising and doing my best. Because I’ve started writing daily, it also doesn’t seem like such a chore. However, that doesn't mean I always know exactly what to write or how my new blog post or article will read. I also need a kick in the pants to finish my own ebook. I've found that when I write for someone else, the words arrive easier than when I sit down and write for myself. In order to write my eBook, I've started jotting down character development throughout the day. Then when I have free time in the evenings, I develop these ideas and characters even more. I plan on keeping The Right to Write by side for a long time. There are chapters I already cannot wait to re-read.
If you have a fear of writing, don't despair. I know exactly how you feel. Perhaps there are other books that help people along their writing journey, but I was lucky enough to stumble upon Julia Cameron's The Right to Write and it made me realize that I deserved the right to write just like anyone else. No one has the right to take our thoughts and words away from us. Start slowly with a time limit of 5 minutes a day and I guarantee you will be up to 20 or 30 minutes in no time. Thank you, Julia Cameron, you didn't swing out belittling and trying to make me feel stupid like the professor from college. Instead, through your kind and steady voice, you guided me in the best way possible towards overcoming my fear of writing. Thank you!
Below you will find a link to The Right to Write and also two other books that help keep your grammar in top form. They aren't feel-good, motivation books, but they need to be on your shelf. And I definitely wouldn't call myself a "writer", but when I write blog posts for friends and colleagues, I like using a bluetooth keyboard with my iPad. For some reason, I find myself very distracted when I'm on my laptop and it’s much more difficult to write. When I want a change of scenery, I’ll take a notebook, iPad and keyboard and pack them in my favorite work satchel, one of these designer handbags from PLIA Designs, and head to a quiet coffee shop. I’ve found it easier to write from different locations. I now have three favorite hangouts where I enjoy writing and they are all quiet and peaceful. That's another point I loved in The Right to Write and it's discovering what manner is the easiest for you to write. There is a chapter about finding places to write that motivate you without distractions. For instance, a noisy café may be the perfect spot for some to write a blog post, while others would find it too noisy. I’m one of those people that need near silence in order to write. I find loud voices and sounds interfere when trying to turn my thoughts into words. Whether it's writing long hand on a legal pad, typing on an iPad like myself, or even escaping to the library, find what works well for your life and your writing.
And yes, I'm sure there are several mistakes scattered throughout this post and you know what? That's okay. Hopefully I will catch mistakes as I re-read and edit over time. I may never be the author with prose such as "lateral juxtaposition of verbs and vertical implementations of nouns," but at least I’ve overcome my fear of writing. And don't forget to keep writing! Make it a habit just like brushing your teeth.
This book helped me overcome my fear of writing.
Everyone has the right to write. It's not something that is only exclusive to a handful of people.
Most of my writing takes place on my iPad. I find the laptop too distracting. I adore this bluetooth keyboard.
Grammar and punctuation.