The 7 Deadly Fears of Writing – a 7-Part Series

This post is part of a 7-article series on the fears of writing. You can find all other articles here:

There is nothing quite like a Sunday afternoon with nothing to do but enjoy a little guilt-free time. The fridge is full and doesn’t echo, the pile of laundry is soundly beaten into submission and banished from sight, and I’m all caught up on work.

I picked up Your Writing Coach by Jurgen Wolff, and the very first chapter title snared me: No More Fear, No More Excuses. Many creative people often scare themselves out of a good project before they even put a pen to paper. Wolff broke down these fears into seven basic categories:

Fear of Rejection

This is a big fear and the most common. Harboring a fear that no one will like your finished product is enough to stop you dead in your tracks. Rejection happens. You can’t please everyone all the time.


If you keep trying, though, you find one person (or more) who likes your work. Store shelves are lined with the books of famous authors who suffered rejection – look where those authors are now.

The only difference between a winner and a loser isn’t the number of times the person has been rejected. The winner is the one that never gave up.

Fear of Inadequacy

This is a big, big obstacle for me – the fear that nothing you write is good enough. I can’t count the number of times I’ve dragged my feet because I thought to myself, “What do I know about this? Who wants to read what I have to say?”

Apparently, plenty of people. I thought my work was utter crap (and often still do). Clients think it’s almost sheer genius.

Even the critics thought Shakespeare was lousy; 400 years later, Shakespeare’s works are still around and doing well. Just goes to show how much critics know.

Fear of Success

This one sounds like an oxymoron, but many people are afraid of success. I’m pleading the 5th on this one. For some, the thought of everything becoming too big to handle is enough to paralyze them into doing nothing.

The trick is to deal with the situation one step at a time. Worry about success when you get there.

Fear of Revealing Too Much

This was one fear I hadn’t thought of. Looking back over the course of the past, there were times when I wondered if what I wrote did reveal too much of me. I draw a lot from experience. The characters in the novel James and I are working on are very close to my heart. I wondered whether family and friends who read the book would see right through the characters – and see me.

As writers, we often bare our souls. This works for you and against you. You’ll run up against people who disagree with you, but on the other hand, you might end up touching your readers deeply.

Fear of Having Only One Book in You

Finally! One fear I don’t suffer from. I have enough material stockpiled to write at least a dozen novels in a dozen different series.

Many writers aren’t that fortunate.

Realize that you are a writer, that you have stories to tell. You will always have stories to tell. Some may take longer than others to unwind, but those tales in you are waiting to come out.

Fear You’re Too Old

Bah. You’re never too old. With age comes experience. Experience adds depth to your writing. Age adds an element of maturity to any work. A novel requires patience. Think about it – patience is something a young writer might lack.

Fear of Too Much Research

Details are important in a novel. You have to know the period in which the story is set, the details of characters’ occupations, the nuances of different cultures, and so on. Even Details make the story believable. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, based much of his science fiction in science fact.

Enjoy the research. Learn about your characters and the world they live in. If you’re writing articles, blogs, or ebooks on non-fiction, enjoy learning about something new. Don’t consider learning a job; it’s a pastime and a hobby for many writers. So, how does a writer overcome these seven deadly fears? By facing them, of course.

Read Jurgen Wolff’s book, too. I highly recommend it. Or even better, get a writing coach to help you work through your fears and get back to great writing you enjoy.

(Hey, I just said I’d share the fears with you. What you do about them is up to you.)

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  1. Hey Sharon,

    I think all of us have at least one of these fears in the back of our heads, nobody’s *that* cocky. 🙂

    I know whenever I see anything poorly done, whether it’s writing or not, I always think to myself I can do better and set out to do it.

    I can’t think off hand what writer I would like to model myself after, I have so many authors I enjoy. I think right now I’m trying to find what my style is.

  2. Harry,
    Good points. I can identify with fear # 2. I always think that what I’m going to write is corny, and that people won’t give a hoot about what I have to say.
    Also, it’s probably also because I’ve said the word “corny” a thousand times every time I came across something that has been written badly or wasn’t too original. My biggest fear, I guess, is being corny, or trite.
    One style I’d love to imitate when it comes to writing a novel is Ann Patchet’s. Her book, Bel Canto, was riveting – her words and sentences were beautifully expressed. First class. Elegant. You could almost smell her private school background and sense of substance in her writing.

  3. Hi, I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I thought for a first time, Blogworld was very well organized and a lot of the talks were rich in content. For the next one, I’m going to propose doing a talk about blogging with re-purposing in mind right from the start (e.g, having the intention of turning a blog into a book or other profitable information product). Best regards, Jurgen

  4. Jurgen! Thanks so much for your comment! And thank you for writing such an informative book.

    Wow, my first celebrity response. I’m a little starstruck.

    I didn’t have the opportunity to hear you speak at Blogworld, but now that I have a better idea of who certain people are, I’ll be sure to sign up the next time around for your session.

    I’m enjoying your book immensely and savoring every word. You’ve got a lot of excellent tips in there and I’m not wasting a second putting them into practice.

  5. I have enjoyed reading several of your articles tonight. I can definitely relate to this post. As a “new” writer (I still have difficulty describing myself this way); I definitely have some of these feelings often. I have to remember that I just need to keep working and eventually it will pay off.

    I have a tendency to “over analyze” and “over research” on how I should work my blog(s). I guess I just have to keep that in mind; as I noticed this takes quite a bit of time away from real writing.

    I do want ask though; say you writing something like a short story or excerpt from a book; how do you keep it safe and free from copywrite infringement while sharing? With my photography I can watermark; what do you do for writing?

  6. Thanks Harry; what a quick response! I can see now I didn’t explain the “copyright” issue well. Sorry for that!

    What I really mean has to deal with your own work; or for me of course; my own work. How do I make it so people just can’t come on my blog and copy my “stuff”? Or is there even a way to do that; the way I do with photographs/watermarks?

    The reason I ask; is because I am delving into fiction writing and if I post pages from a book I am trying to write; what is going to keep others out there from stealing my work. I say this of course like someone is going to want to do so. 😉

  7. Laura,

    Thanks, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying yourself here. I think every writer has these feelings at some point or another – even long after they’ve become veterans in the field.

    I over analyze, too. When we first started this blog, I found blogging to be one of the most difficult tasks to do. I searched far too long and hard to come up with topics on a daily basis. It’s true, blogging has a way of eating up time, but only if you let it. I think what I realized was not every post had to be a 500 word masterpiece. In most cases, many bloggers suggest keeping your posts short, like 200 to 300 words. If you find yourself pressed for time, there’s nothing wrong with putting up one of these short posts. Save the long ones for topics you can’t resist writing about.

    When you’re sharing excerpts from books, short stories, articles or other blogs, follow the general rule of thumb of giving credit where credit is due. It’s no different than writing a paper and citing your sources. After I finished this last post, I had concerns that maybe I said too much. After all, Jurgen Wolff is trying to sell his book and might not have liked having the secrets inside plastered out here on the blogosphere. I tried to present it in such a way that I wasn’t quoting the book word for word, but rather using it as a source to share the information I had learned to help other writers – and endorse a product I felt good about.

    The next book on my list to read is Cyber Law, by Brett J. Trout. Hopefully, I’ll come up with more information to share with you at a later date.

  8. D’oh! I see it now. That’s what happens when I read too fast, and I do that often.

    Okay, here’s the deal, no matter what you put up on the net someone, somewhere is going to find a way to copy it sooner or later – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything in your power to protect what’s yours. The written word is much harder to do this with than graphics. Pages on a blog or other posting just need a simple pass of the cursor to copy. It’s annoying and unfair and all you’ve got to cover yourself is the copyright statement at the bottom of your site.

    I’d say if you’re going to post large amounts of copy from your own work, put it in the form of a sample PDF and set the security on that PDF so people can’t copy/paste or print. It’s very simple and just takes a few clicks of the mouse. Of course, this won’t stop people from typing out the pages word for word.

    I’m by no means an authority on the subject, this is just a quick suggestion. James knows a little more about it than I do and I’m sure he’ll add more later on.

  9. James knows quite a bit more, and it’s a very good question. (Hi Laura, welcome!)

    Indicate copyright ownership on everything that you own and want to protect. By showing who owns copyright from the start and to what extent, there is no guessing that could leave vague impressions. If you have a blog, indicate copyright clearly on each page and post. If you have an ebook, add a page at the beginning that indicates copyright. Articles, same thing.

    As long as you can prove that you are the original author or that you own all rights to a work, copyright is yours. You don’t need to register copyright (though that does add extra protection; it’s optional, though). Files created in Word are date/time stamped with the date of creation and modification, which helps immensely.

    Dealing with breach of copyright is another matter entirely. Unfortunately, the wide-open access of the Internet and the ease of getting away with many illegal action without being pursued by court of law makes enforcing and protecting copyrighted material difficult. Not impossible; just difficult.

    You’ll have to patrol the net to discover any of your work that has been lifted. You’ll have to contact the individual who has breached copyright (if you can find a way to do so) and ask that he or she stop using your work. You’ll have to follow up with a lawyer’s letter if that doesn’t work. Then you’re into courts, etc.

    The best way to protect your work from copyright infringement? Don’t post it publicly where people can lift it. The best advice regarding copyright infringement? Don’t let the fear consume you and the vigilance take over your life. I’ve seen it happen with a photographer friend of mine.

  10. @ Harry: “D’oh! I see it now. That’s what happens when I read too fast, and I do that often.”

    Ha,ha; I have done this more times than I care to think. If I remember correctly, that is when my hubby or someone else lets me know just how “ditsy” I am being. 🙂 Thanks for your input!

    @James: Sorry to hear your friend has had a fear of photography and the internet. I have’t let that stop me with my photography because I know there are ways to protect myself; for the most part. Yes, if someone wants it bad enough and knows what they are doing, they can steal it. As far as writing samples, that is a bit more difficult. I do like the idea of using pdf or even possibly word or another software. I have to admit I ask these question for a purely selfish reason. As a newer writer (maybe even if I were more experienced; I want input on my writing samples. Preferably positive; but will take the constructive critism too. 😉 I guess a way to “stroke my ego” for lack of better words.

    Thanks again guys and keep them awesome articles rolling!

  11. On a different note. I am getting an “out of memory error at line 198” only on your site. Is this my error or yours? Just curious as it doesn’t seem to affect the way I “surf” your site! 🙂

  12. That error sounds like it might have something to do with your comp, but I’ll look into it and let you know what I find.

    If you want input without putting your writing up publicly, do what we did and send it to a couple of writers who’s opinions you trust – and who you know won’t steal your work! We’re not talking friends and family, either. When we wanted some input on our novel we sent a couple of chapters to a few of the editors we have on staff for their opinion. It helped and we were surprised at the results.

  13. I found the solution for the error here:

    Seems simple enough and explains why I’m not seeing it, I use Fire Fox.

  14. I guess I need to “redownload” firefox eh? Since I got my new laptop (yes windows based..hehe) IE has worked great. I have used Firefox for years but I guess it is time to go back to old tried and true.

    I just wish there was a way to take my windows system and turn it into a MAC…LOL.

  15. I hear you on that one. I want to eventually upgrade to a Mac (how odd is that I now think of Mac as an “upgrade”) but I have so many graphics programs I’d have to purchase again it’s going to cost a pretty penny.

    I haven’t used IE for years, not since I got a bug that totally screwed up my comp from using it. Firefox is the way to go for sure.

  16. I have to say I have been a die hard windows users for many years. Now I just use it because it is more “convenient”. I know there are many “open source” softwares out there, but not all are as good and you are correct; you need a small fortune to get the software if you were to switch to MAC. I tried to get my hubby to agree to purchasing a macbook when I got this laptop 6 months ago; but alas; it wasn’t going to happen. He just doesn’t understand!!!

    I have even been thinking of some alternatives to windows, but not sure it is worth it. Ubuntu is the first that comes to mind! I just don’t know enough about it’s pros and cons.

    So, I have I bugged ya enough today? LOL

  17. @ Laura: Hell no! Keep it coming! Windows is convenient and I saw an amusing ad the other day. It was one of those Mac/PC ads and the PC guy was saying he had to switch back to XP and how everyone was “downgrading” to that platform. Maybe I’ll be able to find it on You Tube, if I do I’ll post it here.

  18. Don’t go Vista. That’s all I’ll say 🙂

  19. @Harry: Omg I love the Mac/Pc commercials. They are so freaking funny!

    @James: Sorry to burst your bubble there man; but my Toshiba came with Vista. I will say for a windows app, it isn’t bad; but only as a new install. Trying to install on an older system; even if it claims to be compatible is just a pain in the arse. 😉 I really haven’t had any issues *knocks on wood*; so I will keep it for now. My desktop still has XP though!

  20. Here you go, I found it: Mac vs PC PR Lady

  21. As always, I’m behind the power curve. And I thought I was the only one who had figured out these “fears”.

    In a “misery loves company” kind way, I’m really enjoying these posts. I can relate to every single fear you have written…..except, the “fear of having only one book”. But I can take this one further and talk about the fear of not having any books. Yet, my writer’s heart screams for me to “write, write, write” and I’ve said in a big lump for over fifty years afraid to take that first step.

    I’ve had your blog bookmarked for a while but haven’t read much of it. It’s excellent.

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

  22. I’m already feeling I’m a little old at 40 to start making a name for myself with my writing, but I also don’t yet feel I have the patience to write a novel – so thank you for this informative post, as it makes me now think that I’m not yet old enough!

    Your post also reminds me of a saying I once heard somewhere, which I like: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
    .-= Teresa Schultz´s last blog ..How to avoid copyright problems and write using your own words =-.


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