Have you been thinking about wanting to write? Did someone mention to you that it might be good for your career? Or you want to write to earn some money? Maybe you just want to document your notes and share them with others?
I can’t read your mind and know your motives to want to start writing, that’s for sure. But what I can do is this: go through the fears that are currently stopping you starting to write. How do I know what these fears are? Because I have the same writing fears and I wrestle with them every day and every week.
Let me start by saying: I’m not an expert. But over the last year I’ve managed to write nearly 15+ 2000+ word guest posts and land myself a paid writing gig. I’m not a published author — but I have learned a thing or two on the way that might help you on your own path.
Okay, so you might be wondering how we’re going to tackle these fears.
Fear not! To begin I’ll take you through my own journey with writing. It’s been about a year now since I started writing seriously. And a lot of my own personal motivations to write came from fears. After we’ve been through my journey I’ll take you through some of the big fears that I often face alongside some practical ways that you can overcome them.
Okay — so you’re up for it? Awesome.
Why I write
I started off writing for career related reasons. Here I am, in 2015 (with braces) on the day I collected a really expensive piece of paper.
I feared finding a job
My initial reason to write was driven by a fear of not being able to find a job.
I hadn’t exactly had the easiest time finding jobs when I was younger. The first job I ever had was because my brother brought me in to work with him in a hotel — I’d tried and failed at the traditional application process for a long time before this. But this miserable time taught me a valuable lesson: Finding a job isn’t easy, and if you want it to be, you have to work hard at it.
Writing to find a job
This is where my journey to sharing my thoughts in writing began.
I went straight from university to find my first job (see previous comment about being scared that I wouldn’t find one). And I had read in various places that it’s a good idea to do some blogging for the job interviewing process.
So I set to work building out a pretty crappy website where I wrote about various random thoughts about: programming, working in teams, personal development etc.
(Not much has changed here!)
In the end, the writing worked! I had my first job (below is the mudano team).
…or boyband, I’m not so sure.
Writing to market things
With a job in hand, the next year was a a blur. I was busy and consequently the writing died down. That is, until I started building my own app called The Lifting Academy.
I’d built The Lifting Academy to solve some basic problems I saw in the strength-sports industry. Along the way I made some pretty tragic mistakes, and I wanted to share my learning. The itch to write was back.
As I looked for books about marketing I ended up reading a book called: Key Person of Influence. This book incidentally inspired the first post I ever wrote on this site. Key person of influence is about why certain people float to the top of an industry and why many stay at the bottom. It is a pretty brash book, definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but to me it was a revelation. Something seemed really cool about the idea of teaching and helping others and getting personally rewarded in return, it seemed like good karma.
Struggling with a feeling of emptiness
This period of time during my first job was quite significant for me. Why? Because ever since getting the job I had struggled with a real sense of emptiness.
This feeling of emptiness I was not expecting. The chase to find my first real job had been so long and arduous that when I got my hands on the job I didn’t really know what to do with myself. The fears I had about finding a job had shifted, I wasn’t afraid of finding a job any more, but I was afraid about finding work that mattered to me.
As a result I went on a search to find this meaning…
Searching for meaning in books
I went through a period of reading a huge amount of books (the best of which are on my reading list). One that really stood out to me at the time was one by author Cal Newport: So Good They Can’t Ignore You.
In the book, Newport argues the case that fulfilment in life comes not from “following your passion” but instead by getting really good at something. Then, when you’re good you have leverage to build a life that you love. To me this made a lot of sense. Not only did it make sense, but it also blended well with the ideas I’d read in Key Person of Influence (Since then there have been many books I’ve read with the same sentiment: Linchpin, Tribes, Expert Secrets).
A change in my drive to write
My original drive to write in order to find a job had shifted… It was no longer about writing to find a job, but writing to get better at what I did and to reflect a little more. Now, writing, for me is a way to reach more people with ideas. To me, writing has become an exercise for in:
- Creativity — In finding things to write about, looking at the world in different ways and trying to work out what will interest other people.
- Humility — Because I often write crappy work that no-one reads (I’m working on this). Working with editors and dealing with (often painful) feedback can also be character-building to say the least.
- Empathy — Getting under the skin of readers to reach them with my writing. Good writing means knowing your audience, and this is not easy.
In a nutshell: I write because it’s both difficult and has potential to make an impact.
The 3 big fears
Whilst your mileage may vary, let’s go through 3 of the biggest fears that have stopped me from writing in the past and what I did to overcome the fears. Spoiler alert: I haven’t stopped the fear — I’ve just found ways to muffle it with a pillow.
What are these fears?
- “I can’t write, I’m not an expert”
- “I don’t feel comfortable sharing my work”
- “What if the writing I put out comes back to haunt me”
Fear 1: “I can’t write, I’m not an expert!”
One of the biggest fears I see in others who want to write but don’t comes from feeling like you’re not an expert on something. After all what gives you (of all people) the authority to write on a specific topic, right? I suffered from this fear for a long time, and I still do.
Here are a few things that I do to combat this:
Write a summary: Rather than put your name to an original piece of work, create a summary. Summarise a book, an idea, a topic. Basically write a piece of work that avoids putting any of your own opinion in it. This way you can drip feed your opinions into your work slowly and it can make the process a little easier.
Write your experience: Rather than putting yourself out as an expert, you can simply say “I was wondering about X so I went out to find out more information”. You don’t have to define yourself as the expert. Rather than creating something new, just document your experiments (you may note that this is exactly how I’ve positioned this article, too).
Fear 2: “I don’t feel comfortable sharing my work”
This is easily my biggest fear, and it still is to this day. Every time I post up an article I feel sick to my stomach. Really.
At times it really does feel traumatising. But, I’ve found one simple hack to overcome this fear myself, and that is:
Schedule your writing: I find that I go through fluctuations in confidence. So I take advantage of the foolish confident version of myself and schedule posts in Buffer. This allows me to run away and forget that I even played this evil trick on myself. Then, at some point in the future I’ll check my phone and find the article was published a few hours ago and since it’s already out in the world, the worst part is over.
Fear 3: “What if the writing I put out comes back to haunt me”
One of my other biggest fears I create for myself are the fictitious stories I make up in my head. You know, the ones that are like: one day in the future, I’m going to be sitting across from someone in a job interview and they’re going to turn down the offer for bad mouthing something back in 2012.
Write something you’re proud of: The best way to combat this fear is to really polish up your work. There’s a balance here, you don’t want to fall into a perfectionism trap, but when you put together a piece that you’re really proud of, the fear of it coming back to haunt you dies down a little. I also think — whilst it is scary — submitting your writing to publications with editors can seriously boost your confidence.
It’s time to write
The reality is that the fear never goes away.
But all is not lost. I’m hoping that by sharing that writing scares the sh*t out of me, too it will give you the solace and confidence you need to just start.
The best thing you can do is build up your reasons to write and make sure your drive and motivation to write is stronger than the fears that stop you.
So write your first post, schedule it in Buffer and then run.
(oh, and you don’t need to admit to anyone that you did it this way!)
What’s your biggest writing fear? How did you overcome it (if you have!)?