Fear. It’s that ugly, dark thing that lives in the pit of your stomach. It grows and creeps upward at the very moment you need to be brave and put yourself out there, threatening to choke you and drown all your hard work.
I know this feeling well. When I first started sharing my work with other writers, some acted as if I was a monster for the sheer fact that I wrote horror. Their reaction affected me deeply. Even though I knew I had been writing from a place of authenticity, I started questioning my work, and it destroyed my confidence. I was this close to throwing it all away, burning it with a flamethrower, nuking it to a pile of black radioactive ash, whatever it took to negate it, and never write again.
Then I had the following conversation with a friend: she asked me how, How goes the writing? That’s when I told her my deepest, darkest fear: I was afraid that when I fully came out of my shell as a writer, that I’d be a scary, ugly spider instead of a beautiful butterfly, and that people would hate me.
Her response changed my life:
“It’s okay to be a scary spider. The world needs spiders, too.”
On hearing that, I decided to embrace who I was, and realized I had been surrounding myself with the wrong people. Then I wrote a story inspired by the conversation, and something crazy happened. It went on to win an award, and the judges of the literary contest told me just how breathtaking the story was, how much it resonated with them.
Lesson learned: I had channeled my fear into something positive, and I won.
It changed my outlook on everything. Since then, I’ve handpicked my own community, surrounding myself only with supportive people, those who can appreciate my work while helping me make it better. And I’m taking a lot more risks in my work. The ugly fear monster still rears its head once in awhile, but when it does, I embrace it, and put it to work.
So, hug your spiders. Declare every day a fearless writing day. Write about the things that scare you the most. Even if you’re shaking like a leaf and about to puke when you sit down to your desk, just take a deep breath, and write. The result will surprise you.
Your assignment: take ten minutes to make a list of things that scare you the most, then the next time you have ten free minutes, write about one of them, and go deep. I guarantee it will be some of your most powerful, emotional writing. For extra credit, post the results on your own blog, and tag me with your link on Twitter (I’m @GG_Silverman) using the hashtag #FearlessWriting, or let me know if this exercise inspired an amazing story. I’d love to hear from you.
In my next blog post, I plan to talk about writers’ groups, critique groups, and building a supportive writing community for yourself, all of which will help you become the fearless writer you are destined to be.
P.S. My buddy Jason Ridler is offering a class called Writing From the Heart: How to Write the Stories that Matter Most, where you’ll also get to explore your fears in your writing. Check it out!