AKA Overthinking Everything and Working Myself into an Anxiety Storm
When it comes to writing a new idea down, I have a crippling fear of commitment. I have been in this crappy relationship (which is fit for the toilet entirely due to my own faults) since my childhood.
When taking the time to analyze the repeated patterns of behavior and the possible reasons for the behavior, I have discovered a few reasons why I am so afraid of writing down my ideas and disturbing the blank page with my ideas.
(After reading, please let me know why you have been afraid of the blank page in the comments!)
5. The Grass is Greener on the Other Page
I am terrified that once I begin to write down a particular idea for a character or story, I am losing all of the potential for those characters or stories to go in a different direction.
Of course, my imagination says that the nebulous and vague “other idea” is much better than the one that I am starting to write. In other words, I get jealous of the ideas that the me in Universe B is writing and go off in a corner to sulk.
4. Fear of Public Misspelling Shame
Yes, as an adult who is over 30, has a Master’s degree, and reads all the time, I still do not always spell things correctly. I actually produce clearer ideas when I write on paper as opposed to typing on the computer, but I tend not to do so because I lack confidence in my spelling.
This stems from childhood when the spelling bee was held in the cafeteria and all of the students in my grade level would laugh whenever someone misspelled the assigned word.
Additionally, when writing impromptu examples on the board during lessons, I would occasionally misspell a word, which led my students to inevitably say something like, “You’re an English teacher, how can you not know how to spell?” Talk about pressure.
3. Fear on Not Conveying the Idea
Ernest Hemingway had it right when he said that “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” However, in the back of my head is the doubt that even if I bleed my heart and imagination out on paper, I might still be incapable of writing down the scenes and emotions that I see in my head.
The fear is that I will be unable to do my ideas justice, that it won’t come across correctly when it is read, and I will have failed as a writer to convey my ideas to others.
2. Fear of Boring Myself
One of the most quoted bits of writing advice is to “Write What You Know,” but I do not have a wealth of adventures and experiences. As a normal (yet slightly weird) person, I am often afraid that my lack of “Life Experiences” will make my stories and ideas boring.
When I try to follow the classic bit of advice in my writing, I tend to bore myself , which makes me want to discard everything about that story. This fear has led to a stack of abandoned story ideas that are gathering dust in the story graveyard.
1.Fear of Rejection
Of course, the top thing that I am afraid of when I look at the blank page that is waiting for a story is that no one else will like the story. The doubt creeps in that even if I think the story is great, even if I am able to properly convey my ideas, readers won’t like it.
Coupled with the general “What if they don’t like it” terror is the fear of never being published at all. What happens if newspapers, magazines, and publishers of all kinds refuse to publish my work (my poor word baby!)?
Despite the serious inroads made in the self-publishing industry, there is still a stigma against authors who publish this way. Many authors are given the side-eye when they say that their books are self-published, and they often aren’t considered “real” authors or successful until they have an official book deal with a publishing house.
And once you do publish (through self-publishing or a house), there is the fear that not many people will buy your work. It’s like the fear of being ghosted or getting the cold shoulder.
So now that I’ve reflected on why exactly I’m afraid of the blank page, what can I do to combat these fears and put ink on paper?
Step 1: Take a deep breath and acknowledge that the imagination is working overtime and creating unnecessary anxiety.
Step 2: Create daily mini-goals for writing.
This will create a habit (if consistently met) of being creative and just writing. You may want to choose between using time-bound mini-goals (15, 30, or 60 minutes), word count mini-goals (250, 500, or one thousand words), or page length mini-goals (1, 2, 5, or 10 pages) per day.
Step 3: Create a tracker to help stay accountable until your habit stabilizes
Create a checklist, a bullet journal spread, a phone alarm, etc. Make sure that this is something that will be easily accessible every day to record your progress on the mini-goals (and their completion)
Step 4: Add in heavy duty brainstorming and outlining sessions for new writing projects
Create a brainstorm page to list multiple ways that the story could develop and choose the one that looks the best.
Keep track of the brainstorms as they may provide ideas for entirely different stories.
Additionally, once regular brainstorming occurs, patterns and formulaic tropes might reveal themselves in your story telling style, which will allow for consciously choosing to break with these patterns.
Step 5: Find a place where you can comfortably share your work.
This should be a “safe” space. This may mean finding a beta reader who will provide an honest reaction and critical feedback, which will allow a glimpse of how a larger audience might react to the work.
If you do not have a particular designated beta reader, seek out writers’ gatherings in your local area or even online writing communities. (Or start a blog! )
Step 6: Decide which publishing form you want and GO FOR IT!
Writer Rejection Happens. Stephen King has a particularly humorous way of dealing with his rejection letters, which he reveals in his nonfiction book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. He shoves the rejection letter onto a railroad spike that he keeps in his writing nook.
Whether you want to be published in newspapers, magazines, websites, ebooks, or traditional print, you won’t get published unless you actually write something. So take a look at your favorite websites, publications, or publishing houses and investigate the requirements for submitting to them.
The only cure for the fear of the blank page is to conquer it with ink… or pencil, or whatever medium you are using.
Let me know if you have any tips or tricks that you use to combat the fear of the blank page in the comments below. Also, let me know if you would like to see what my daily writing tracker looks like.
Happy New Year! I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to kick off the new year to a good start!
I know that I disappeared off the blog for quite a long time, but I am back and will be making my posts much more consistent (with the help of those mini-writing goals and trackers).
Jules AKA The Dawdling Writer