In The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes says:
“Just thinking about being a writer can be scary (as well as thrilling; the two tend to go hand in hand). Saying-even to yourself-“I’m a writer,” or “I’m going to be a writer,” or even “I guess I’ll do some writing now,” feels presumptuous; like a five-year-old playing make-believe for bemused grown-ups.”
What makes calling ourselves “writers” so scary? Doctors, teachers, heck even my husband can spout out their careers as if they were describing the weather. Whereas I? I fumble through the word inaudibly.
Fear of Being Judged
I think it has to do with the reaction that often follows those three words: “I’m a writer.”
I’ve been ridiculed, rejected, criticized and misunderstood when speaking it. Recently, a relative thought “writer” was a nice way to say “administrative assistant.” He kept saying, “No really? What do you do?”
Added to that is our own internal fears and insecurities. To be a writer means you only need to have written. A friend who writes told me he could never claim the title because he wasn’t published. But the act of writing itself deserves the title writer whether or not you’re doing it as a hobby, or a full or part-time gig. We dole out labels for everything else. Why is it that you need to be awarded the title to deserve it?
Fear of Sucking at It
Maybe you have visions of being a great writer. You mock those who do write because you secretly believe you’re SO much better than them. But the truth is, your own claim to fame as a writer is based on the fantasy you have built up in your head. If you want to write, you need the courage to confront those fears and write. That means accepting that you might suck at it. That means being humble and honest about what you can do at this stage in your writing career. Sucking at it doesn’t mean your doomed. In fact, I’ll admit that my first drafts always suck BIG time. But it’s part of the journey. It’s part of the hard work. So suck it up and let yourself suck. You’re that much closer to being the writer you dream of being.
Fear of Being Found Out
This is the fear writers have of either being a writing fraud (I’m guilty of this) or saying too much. It’s a slippery slope when you write. Good writing comes when writers divulge honestly about what they’re thinking, imagining or feeling. But every time a finger pushes down on another key, there is a fear that what we hide will suddenly be revealed.The world will finally know our secret wishes, fantasies and fears. For a writer who is often introverted and secretive, this is their greatest fear. Yet, in order to write and write well we need to relinquish our need to look perfect so that we can be human, fraudulent, flawed and all.
There are of course a lot more fears writers deal with. But these are a few that swarm around our heads when the room is too quiet and the keyboard is silent. In order to keep writing, we need to push on ahead mentally courageous and resilient as if none of this matters, as if the only person reading this is you.
It takes courage to be a writer. It’s not only saying, “I’m a writer” like you mean it, but seriously believing it.
Do you have fears about being a writer or writing itself? How do you cope?