I’ve been teaching creative writing, along with mindful living, for years now. And I can say, without hesitation, that fear is ubiquitous. Its presence, more than anything else, stops writers in their tracks.
All seems to be going along beautifully, words and ideas are flowing, characters and plots are taking shape, and wham! a certain self-consciousness seeps in. The flow slows to a trickle, we begin to falter, and, worst of all, we judge ourselves harshly, comparing our present writing to our glory days. Or we compare ourselves against other writers, those in our midst, or literary greats of times past.
Just a few minutes ago, I finished up an informal discussion which I was leading on the web. The talk shared the exact title of this article, and one of the participants is a long-time student of mine. He’s the sort of guy you’d never guess would be fearful of losing his writing voice. He’s a confident and successful middle-aged businessman, and he’s led an unusually creative life. He’s gigged as a singer-songwriter, owned and managed art galleries in London, has a lovely family, and travels widely.
Yet Alex has a lingering concern—the very one detailed above, whereby his writing seems to get off-track, falters and he starts doubting his abilities, whether he’ll manage to write with ease as he once did.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take which, if heeded, will do more than help us to find and keep our writing voice. These steps can help us to move beyond fear and to live more creatively.
Ten steps to help you move beyond fear and find and keep your writing voice
- Acknowledge your fears: don’t pretend they’re not lurking there behind the scenes.
- Face them: Face your fears with a simple, uncomplicated awareness of the corresponding bodily sensations. In other words, notice how your fears (and thoughts generally) make you feel, physically.
- But don’t feed them: As with online trolls who get their jollies trying to wreak havoc, your fears will lessen and eventually fade away if you stop engaging with them on their terms.
- Recognize that your fears are illusory: You can smile at their devilish innocence.
- Simply put pen to paper: Write through your fears. Write down whatever comes up.
- Notice our tendency to negatively compare ourselves with others: These crippling, judgmental thoughts are another illusion, another trick our minds play to limit our naturally creative selves.
- Realize that action trumps fear: When things get tough, go for a good long walk, take a yoga class, return to your breath. Do such things as these on a daily basis and things will not get so tough so often.
- Write down your inner truths: Do this with great courage and honesty. You’ll thereby find your voice.
- Take heart knowing you’re not alone: We, all of us, feel these fears. Don’t believe otherwise.
- Trust in the process: Nurture an awareness that everything, even fear, can be a great teacher!
What fears tend to squelch your writing voice, and what strategies do you use to overcome these fears? Please leave your comments below. Let’s get the conversation flowing.