3 Can’t-Fail Steps For Writing Without Intimidation

nofear.jpgThis is a guest post from Dave Navarro, a crack writer we can all learn from.

If you’ve ever held back from writing because at some level you’re feeling intimidated, you’re not alone. Thousands, if not millions of writers hear the same voice in their heads:

  • “I could never write as well as _____ can.”
  • “What could I say that hasn’t already been said by someone else (or worse, said better)?”
  • “I don’t know if I can keep up a writing schedule.”
  • “What if nobody likes what I’m writing, or thinks I’m an amateur?”

You know the voice I’m talking about. You’ve heard it. But you have to tell it to shut the hell up, because it does nothing to help you move forward. All it does is keep you from writing with power (or worse, from writing at all).

If you want to silence that voice forever, here are 3 steps to shut it down and write without intimidation for the rest of your life.

Step One: Remind Yourself That Someone Needs Your Wisdom
It’s easy to look at someone who is at the top of your field and feel intimidated. On the ubiquitous “1 to 10” scale, they may be a 10 where you’re only a humble 5. How can you compete? How can you not feel intimidated? Easy. Remind yourself that there are people out there who are 4s, 3s, 2s, 1s and even 0s who can gain instant benefit from what you write and become your fans. There may even be some 6s and 7s who read what you write, and they’re reminded to strengthen the fundamentals from what you write, remembering what got them to where they are now.

Bottom line: You don’t have to be a 10 in your field to be just what your readers need. Remind yourself of that.

Step Two: Remind Yourself Someone Wants Your Story
People can’t get enough of reading stories. They crave them more than facts (and they’re even hungrier when you combine the two). Whatever you’re writing about, you have a unique angle, a filter based on your own experiences that colors whatever it is you’re writing. Write from there, and people will connect. Bridge the subject matter with your experiences and you’re automatically writing something fresh and new. Think of the blogs you love to read – you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

Bottom Line: Even if you think you’re boring, other people don’t. Remind yourself that they crave the perspective of others in the same way that you do.

Step Three: Remind Yourself To Write For The Garbage Can
Steve Allen came up with this one, so I can’t take credit. But I follow this advice like crazy. When I sit down to write, I don’t try to create a masterpiece. I just sit down and slam out honest content without any regard to how it sounds. Editing can always happen later, after you let your creative energy pour out. Sometimes what I write is really good (in my opinion, at least). Sometimes it’s utter crap. But writing is like strength training – the more you do it, the better you get. Some days you’re pumped after a workout, and some days you’re trashed by it. But in the long run, you get better as long as you keep trying.

Bottom line: The only way to get past writing poorly is to write poorly a lot. Remind yourself that the goal of practice is progress (not perfection!)

Bonus Step Four: Remind Yourself That You Are Your Own Worst Critic
Remember that you are not your audience, and you’ll often hate the passages that your readers love. Case in point: All four of my posts that hit the Digg frontpage were ones I didn’t like (and in fact, 3 of them were ‘write for the garbage can’ posts). But they resonated with readers, probably because I wasn’t worrying about impressing them or looking like an authority figure – I just focused on adding what value to whatever I could at the level I was at.

Bottom line: Don’t stress – people like you more than you think. Remind yourself that you don’t judge other people’s writing as harshly as you do your own.

Now You’re Ready For A Life Of Writing Without Intimidation
If you’ve read this far, you know exactly what to do to erase intimidation whenever it rears its ugly head. And if you’ve really been paying attention, you’ve seen how I’ve used referenced all four of these tips in this article.

If you like what you’ve read (or you’ve got your own story to tell) let’s hear it in the comments. And take a moment to subscribe to my feed to get more tips like this.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Brett Legree says:

    Dave, this is right on the money. I’m currently writing a biographical story about my wife and children (short version – we lost a child in our first pregnancy but one survived, our second pregnancy resulted in triplets, and my wife contracted thyroid cancer shortly after, and is surviving quite well, thankfully). To me, this is “my life”, but other people I have told about it have been very interested to listen.

    So, I decided to write a book about it. My goal is to be on Oprah! Hey, dream big…

    None of us leads a boring life, and we all have a story to tell – we just need the courage to tell it.

  2. Brett –

    Thanks for the shout-out. Write away – there are always people who are interested.

    Dave Navarro – Million Dollar Leverage’s last blog post..8 Business Stats You Should Double In 2008

  3. Brett Legree says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Dave. It is coming along well and I know I can do it. I already have most of the ladies at the office lined up for a signed copy when I’m “famous” 🙂

  4. Now the next step is to set a writing schedule with allotted time and deadlines … have you done that yet?

    Dave Navarro – Million Dollar Leverage’s last blog post..8 Business Stats You Should Double In 2008

  5. Dave’s right on this one. We’re working on our novel as well. In fact, we’ve been working on it for FIVE YEARS! Whose fault is this? James. Jamie’s fault, all the way. Why? Because James is the ultimate procrastinator AND probably has ADD to boot.

    (there’s a post about this somewhere…)

    Harry finally sat me down. Editing the WHOLE book was overwhelming and I couldn’t do it. Editing one chapter a day? Pffft, I can do that.

    In less than a month, we’re at Chapter 14 and counting, and the book will be finished and in an agent’s (or POD publisher’s, more likely) hands by June.

    Ah, found that post: How to finish a project in 10 minutes.

    Save me a copy of that book, Brett. Hey! And we do editing for a living, no HOW coincidental is that!

  6. I think Tony Robbins said something along the lines of:
    “Talk is cheap..talk about it.. it’s a dream..when you start to envision things it gets exciting..when you start to get a plan it’s possible … but when you SCHEDULE IT, it’s Real”


    Dave Navarro – Million Dollar Leverage’s last blog post..8 Business Stats You Should Double In 2008

  7. Brett Legree says:

    @ Dave – that is a great quote, and so true. I had to finally sit down and put some hard deadlines on paper, to stare at me every night at my desk at home. That will work for me.

    @ James – I will save you a copy for sure. Let me know how the POD publisher works out, if you go that way – don’t worry, I’ll remind you later in the year if you forget… 🙂 and I will probably take you up on that offer – yes, funny how things work out in life, I find I always meet people who can help me, and hopefully I can return the favour as well… I still like that post, by the way, very inspiring.

  8. @ Brett – If we inspire one person to make a positive change for a better life, then that’s the highest compliment we can achieve.

    That sounds so much better than: We provide you with the kick in the ass you were needing.

  9. Brett Legree says:

    🙂 although, sometimes I need a kick in the ass, so put on your big boots… otherwise I’ll spend my life drinking Quebec liquor and cutting trees on your property!

    (actually, that doesn’t sound half bad.)

    But seriously, thanks for the continuing inspiration. That is why I continue to read this blog, and a few others (Dave’s, IttyBiz etc.)

  10. @James: I think it was John who asked us about why people should read our blog. You might have hit on something with that kick in the ass bit, bro.

    @Dave: I enjoyed this post a lot. I’m finding the more I read your posts, and everything else you do, deep down I think the same way. It just takes me longer to put it into action, but eventually I get there.

    Last night I was saying to James that as soon as I put something into writing, whether it’s on the schedule or quickly jotting it down as a note or a draft for a new series, that cements the idea in my mind and I’m committed to it. It does become real.

    @Brett: Write away! Somebody out there needs your words and I’m sure you’ll reach them.

  11. Dave – great post and very very true. When I first started out I had a rough time finding freelancing jobs. Why? Not because I wasn’t a good enough writer to do them, but because I was too scared about what others would think.

    The first job I bid on and won on Elance was for 600 perfume product descriptions. It took about 40 hours and paid $280. Do the math…it sucked.

    In the end, however, I realized that I was better than that garbage and that I could handle real writing work……..(i think)

    Chad | ProFreelancing’s last blog post..Wayne Gretzky’s 8 Tips For Freelancing Success

  12. Lame confession time. I just ditched everyone out of my feed reader, so I feel completely out of touch with everyone. When I go to write something, my biggest fear nowadays is that someone else will have written it like, the day before, and I’ll look like a pathetic copycat who won’t even give retribution. I have to physically hit myself on the head to remind myself of the whole “nothing new under the sun” thing.

    It’s getting better now that I know I’m going to have another mouth to feed. One, I’m exhausted, and making excuses for not writing often takes longer than the writing itself. When it comes down to making excuses or taking a nap, I’m opting for the latter. Two, there are many mouths depending on my writing, so navel gazing has to take a back seat for a while.

    Naomi Dunford’s last blog post..On Form And Function: Luxurious Living While Working From Home

  13. @ Naomi – Actually, I think you have the right of it. No matter what you write will be coming from a completely neutral and your own fresh and unique perception. You literally cannot be copycatting someone else’s yesterday work, because you don’t know about it. That means everything you write is original.

    Now *that’s* good writing.

    Oh. Don’t forget to toss in swearwords.

    @ Chad – Learning the hard way is the best lesson of all.

  14. Brett Legree says:

    @ Naomi – right out of your own words, here’s your next blog post

    “Making excuses for not writing often takes longer than the writing itself”

    because it is so very true.

    While I haven’t cleared out my feed reader, I did scale it back a lot, and set certain times to read it – otherwise it was far too easy to consume the work of others, rather than create my own.

  15. @Dave – great post man. It’s funny, as I read your post it inspired me to “have no fear” and just do it, which I think is what you are trying to get across. When I first started blogging (not too long ago), I ran into your step one problem almost immediately when I came across this little site a few of you may have heard of, Copyblogger (queue the death music for my blog).

    I thought, “Damn! I’m suppose to compete with this?” But every time I get discouraged, feel I can’t compete, or tell myself I should just give up, an automatic voice switches on in my head. It’ll sound funny but it’s true. I get Donald Trump’s voice in my head that says, “Never quit. Only losers quit.” The next day I installed WordPress.

    I’d like to add a couple thoughts about writing.

    1. I think it’s vital that while you write (or do anything in business) you tell yourself, no . . . convince yourself that you are creative – an opening line of one of my posts ;). I always try to approach a topic or business decision from a completely different angle – which is why my hosting company looks totally different than any other. I’m a subscriber to the lateral thinking way of thought. As a person writes, I believe they need to reassure themselves not only that they can do it, but they have the intuitiveness to do it.

    2. When writing for the garbage can I think it is important for people to remember that mere repetition is not enough (but is huge). Take for example learning to hit a baseball. At first you step into a batting cage and attempt to hit the ball. If this is your first time ever, you are almost guaranteed to miss the ball. Now if mere repetition was all it took to get better, you would think as time went on you’d get better at missing the ball! Like you mention, repetition is key but I’d like to maybe add that you have to also have the drive in you to learn and grow to truly get better at it. Learn and build from your mistakes and then try again.

    Ok maybe one more. The difference between a dream and a goal is a timeline.

    @Brett – If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. I find your new drive inspirational. Can’t wait to watch my first episode of Oprah. Let me know when.

    @Harry – anytime you’d like a good butt kickin’, let me know! LOL 🙂 Like you said, we could probably get Pay-Per View – “The web host vs. the content writer!” How many Diggs could we get?

    John’s last blog post..8 Drawbacks to Free Web Hosting

  16. Hi Dave – This is a great post, and it has cheered me up a lot. I think the first and the last one most of the time – so at least I know I’m not alone.

    CatherineL’s last blog post..The Secret Ingredient of Online Business Success

  17. @ John – One of my first thoughts when I began blogging was, “Why *not* compete with Copyblogger?” I never realized that I couldn’t. And I still don’t. And I’m still working at it and loving it more each day.

    Another trick that works for me is sitting back and thinking, “Hmmm… What would Brian Clark say about this, I wonder?” Then I do the complete opposite, because I don’t want to be Brian 🙂 I just want my readers to enjoy my blog as much as they do his.

    Regarding writing for the garbage can – I do not have a garbage can. Everything I begin and ditch or begin and don’t finish goes to a special folder in storage.

    I also don’t title them. They’re just blog post 1, blog post 2, etc.

    Periodically, every couple of months or so, I open up a file or two in that folder. I have no idea what post might pop up, because there’s no giveaway. And then I see some crappy post and think, hm. Behind this crappy post, there was a good idea. Now I’m going to write a good post that gets the idea across.

    Seems to work.

    Oh, and if you and Harry get me even ONE Digg? My day would be complete.

  18. @ Catherine – I’ll tell you a secret: We think those same four things too sometimes. You’re not alone.

  19. @Chad – dude, that sucks ($280), but I bet you were rejoiced to get your first job and know you can do it!

    @Naomi – I totally get what you’re saying about the copying thing. I feel that way a lot of times, too. What really makes me feel bad though is when I write a post and feel satisfied and then a day or two later find someone else wrote a post (before or after me) that did a better job on the same topic. But, I always try to learn from it. I also worry sometimes that maybe one day someone who taught me something in the past will see a blog post I wrote and then say, “Hey, I taught him that and now he’s making like he came up with it.” That’s not my intention but if I stopped to mentioned who I learned everything I know from my posts would be 3 miles long.

    @Brett – I too have been spending a little too much time in my reader when I should be working on my site. It’s just . . . I find all you guys (and gals) interesting.

    John’s last blog post..8 Drawbacks to Free Web Hosting

  20. @James – One of my first thoughts when I began blogging was, “Why *not* compete with Copyblogger?” That is exactly the mindset you need and is well said. And I love the opposite way of thinking point. Oh and, Digg . . . ? What’s that 😉

    @Catherine – Your last blog post caught my eye. Looks along the lines of something I would write about. I’m heading over to read the post (Ahh, CommentLuv at work).

    John’s last blog post..8 Drawbacks to Free Web Hosting

  21. I am constantly reminding myself that I am my own worst critic! I also have editing disorder — I edit and revise like a fiend. I’ll probably proof this comment at least three times.

    @James, I’m turning out to be somewhat of a five-year novelist myself. Maybe ten-year. We’ll see.

    @Naomi, Even if you intentionally did the pathetic copycat without retribution thing (which is totally out of hand in the blogosphere), your voice and writing style would outshine the fact that you’re not crediting the muse…

    After all, voice is one of the most powerful assets a blogger can have. I recently read the advice “write like nobody’s reading,” which, if taken the wrong way could cause a lot of problems (we should always keep our audience in mind). But if you understand it to mean that you need to be yourself, with all your quirks and idiosyncrasies, then it’s priceless advice indeed.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Talk is Cheap but Good Dialog Can Be Worth Millions

  22. And:

    Don’t spend the rest of your life polishing.

    Write it, let it sit a few hours or even a few days. Read it then and fix whatever you need to fix but again don’t nitpick it.

  23. @ Anthony – Yes. The sky won’t fall in. God won’t strike you dead with lightening. Agreed.

  24. @Anthony: Amen to that, brother.

  25. @James –
    “God won’t strike you dead with lightening.”

    Um … that would be Zeus, with the lightning and all. :-p

    Dave Navarro – Million Dollar Leverage’s last blog post..8 Business Stats You Should Double In 2008

  26. Brett Legree says:

    @ John – wow, very powerful words – thanks. I will be sure to let everyone here, and at a few other key places (here’s looking at you Naomi), when things are really moving. I’m sure I’ll be grinning from ear to ear when that happens.

    @ Anthony – I’ll have to add my “amen” to that as well… just write it, get it out.

  27. Just to add one more thought to that: when you start editing and re-editing, you run the danger of losing your “voice”, of starting to sound like something written on the inside cover of a magazine or some flyer you get in the mail.. you can too easily lose the “you”.

  28. @ Melissa – I think what many bloggers forget is that they have the power to change things. More so, perhaps, than many other people these days. All it takes is someone to use their voice and start a wave.

    @ Dave – Up here, that’s a common saying. We figure anyone who can freeze our world for nearly 9 months can probably throw lightening, too. Accurately.

    Greek gods are cool as hell, though.

  29. @ Anthony – now *that* is so true.

  30. Hey, how come your “CommentLuv” thingy can’t find my most recent post? It used to be able to.

    Ordinarily I wouldn’t care but I’m on a bit of a mission with today’s post to help support the One Laptop Per Child initiative.. I’m crusadin’ !

    Anthony Lawrence’s last blog post..Support for XO computer buyers by Anthony Lawrence

  31. If you didn’t click it on, then it doesn’t go lookin’ for your posts 🙂

    Going to check out your crusade now.

  32. No, I had clicked on it, each time but it’s a little brain-dead. It should look at the link rel=”alternate” tag to find your RSS feed and suck the post out of that.. instead it stupidly parses the “Website” you put in the comment and if it isn’t in a format it understands, it fails. So because my “home” page is untraditional, it can’t find links..

    Bad piece of code.. not well done.

    Anthony Lawrence’s last blog post..Support for XO computer buyers by Anthony Lawrence

  33. lol… We don’t build the plugins, my friend. We just plug ’em in and hope that Jamie doesn’t break the blog. Again.


  34. Gosh, I know you didn’t write it 🙂

    If you did, I wouldn’t have said it was stupid: I’d have offered to help make it smarter.

    Anthony Lawrence’s last blog post..Support for XO computer buyers by Anthony Lawrence

  35. Wait, are you saying that if I wrote stupid code, you’d lie to me and tell me that it wasn’t stupid? Tsk tsk…

  36. “Wait, are you saying that if I wrote stupid code, you’d lie to me and tell me that it wasn’t stupid? Tsk tsk…”

    Ayup 🙂

    Anthony Lawrence’s last blog post..Support for XO computer buyers by Anthony Lawrence

  37. I wish someone would lie to me and tell me my business will be an overnight success!!!! 😉

    John’s last blog post..8 Drawbacks to Free Web Hosting

  38. *points at Anthony* He’s your man…

  39. John, you will be an overnight success.

    Some night.

    Anthony Lawrence’s last blog post..Support for XO computer buyers by Anthony Lawrence

  40. Brett Legree says:

    We are all successful, that is why we are here, right now, having this discussion. 🙂

  41. I loved this and have often felt intimidated myself. I guess there are a lot of people who feel this way in the beginning. Loved your tips and advice.

    WFU’s last blog post..Finding your Wisdom

  42. @WFU: Many people feel that way in the beginning, I know I did. But one day you wake up and you realize there’s nothing to be afraid of.

    If you enjoyed this post, you’ll enjoy the series we had on our old blog which explores all the other fears that go along with writing.

  43. I’m amazed at how simple it really is. When I read your opening paragraph I found myself getting a bit emotional. Because I know exactly what you’re talking about. That critical, internal editor that I have playing non stop paralyzes me from just sitting down and doing what I’ve wanted to do my entire life – write.

    I am fifty-one years old. Or at least, that’s how old my body is. 🙂 There is a writer in me that has been screaming to get out for years.

    Every time I read a post like this I’m ready to to kick butt.


    Magnolia’s last blog post..The long and winding road??.to your door

  44. As a newbie writer, I sure feel intimidated at times even if it is as simple as essay writing. But, I do try to appreciate myself better and look at the brighter side that maybe, just maybe, someone will find my writing as something worth reading. Thanks for the nice post

  45. Love this killer post. These 3 steps will be amazingly effective at re-centering my personal state into a creative focus.

    Writing for myself is like pulling deeply embedded thorns out of my skin. Relief for me, but not much help to others. Focusing on the story and contribution to others makes it all work.

    Regarding stories, here’s what John Carlton shares, “People love a wicked good tale, and will buy from the dude that tells them one.”

    Joe 😀


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