Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing & Fear Part One: 10 reasons I pause before I publish

I can tell by her emails to me that she’s a writer at heart.  I asked her to write for me. She was shocked, honored, and afraid. She protested:  “I’d be so exposed. Someone might find me out.”

I know that fear.
It is pretty scary out here on display. 
But tell me, friend, what exactly are you afraid of?

She explained:

Fear of not being accepted. Fear of the unknown. Fear of someone not liking me or not liking what I think/feel about something. Fear of someone questioning why I do the things that I do. Being exposed is very scary to me. It's so raw, revealing, uncomfortable, and I always feel inadequate, vulnerable. I hear myself saying things that sound so stupid sometimes and I always feel like I need to explain myself, why I am thinking what I am thinking.

Having my feelings about things out there, wow. MY feelings. What I think. For anyone to see. For someone else to pick apart and find all the flaws in.

I am better at responding to things than delivering them. This way I have time to think about the best answer. No, I am not untrue in my responses, I just like for them to come out sounding at least educated. And too, I don't really know how I think about some things until I start writing them or experiencing them.

(See that last sentence? It is yet another piece of evidence that supports my theory that my friend is a writer.)

Oh dear friend with the fear, I understand much more than you think.

Writing is not scary, not in itself. 
It only gets scary when you show your words to other people. 

Why? I'll give you ten reasons.

I don’t know how people will react.
I leave the comment section open, which is like leaving my heart open.  Standing here as a potential target is scary. I might get hit by an arrow or two.

True, this rarely happens on this blog.  However, I do not think this is because I am so awesome. I suspect people who have criticisms just don’t tell me what they really think. In the case of a blog, that leaves me no chance to defend or explain anything.  My words stay here, alone, standing just as they were when I hit “Publish.”

(And I must say, I do appreciate honest discussion and even debate. I do not fear that, but I do fear ugly sniping.) 

It won't be perfect.
I proofread, but I try not to obsess. Does that matter? Maybe I should obsess? Maybe I am obsessing already, and it's still not perfect!

I might be misunderstood. 
Those things that are so clear in my head may not actually be clear to you when you read my work. For this reason, I ask my husband to preview those posts that seem tricky.

I might offend somebody.
I am a peace-maker, and I wish life was all about harmony and peace. I hate to offend people, but I know that Truth is offensive.  Before I post, I ask myself (and sometimes my husband,) If someone is offended by this, will they be offended by Truth, or because they are misunderstanding what I say? Or worse, will they be offended by something trivial? Am I making a law where there is no law?

Blogging is one-sided, and you might not give me a chance to explain!
Once my words are out there, odds are I will never hear from you, never know what you think. I hate to think you have been scared away by my sloppy thinking!

I might not be able to take it back.
So let’s say I post something and later come to realize that what I have said is completely wrong. I can recant. I can take the ugly post down and apologize. But will the reader hear it? 

What if I pour my heart into something, and someone important to me criticizes it or doesn’t care about it?
Good question. Well, self, why are you writing? What kind of feedback do you need in order for you to say, “I’m glad I did this?” 

I might expose too much. 
You may not believe this, but there are some things that I write about that I do not share with you all.  I try to consider the privacy of my own children, the potential for misunderstanding, the importance of the issue, and other factors relating to the Big Picture. Again, when I am not sure about this, I ask others for feedback before I post.

People might not get it.
I’m a writer. I am a little quirky. You might read some of my stuff and just shake your head, or roll your eyes. You might not get it. Not that I care, of course. But maybe I do, a little.

People will see me differently if they know what is really in my heart.
I am a writer. I think in words, and I think best in written words. I often write about things I can’t say, or things I just don’t say, in person.  Written words expose deeper places in my heart.

I am a mother of six, and a pastor’s wife. There are many assumptions about what that means, both in the minds of the people I know, and in my own head. What if I don’t live up to those standards? What if they know that I have a temper?  What if they know that I battle depression? Will they judge me? Will they pray for me? Will they still love me?

Dear timid writer friend, I understand your fear.

Staring at fear is not going to make it go away.  But like you, I am a writer! I must define the problem first, in all its agonizing details! 

I understand, and yet I PUBLISH. Why?

See also: Writing Fear Part 2: Do you remember when you started to hide?

Until then, I want to hear from you!

What would you say to my friend, the timid writer?
If you are not a writer, do you feel this kind of fear when it’s time for you to do YOUR art, whatever it is?

Writer friends, do you relate to any of these?
Which one is the hardest for you to overcome?

How do you find the courage to hit “Publish?”

Linking up with Many Little Blessings


  1. I love the way you defined all of your fears when it comes to PUBLISHING your writing. I have written blog posts, poems, song lyrics, essays, and started a few "best-selling" novels (ha! ha!). But putting anything "out there", published, for others to see and judge is a point from which there's no turning back. It is indeed fear-inducing. When it grips me, I find strength and courage in 2 Tim 1:7, "But God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline" (NLT).

    1. Yes... I ask, is it important enough to take the risk? If the answer is yes, then hold close to God and go for it!

  2. as usual...wow..as a new blogger, I think this was so important to read....it feels so good to write, but there's always that fear factor....Your idea of having someone proof it is probably something I should consider...I am apt to hit that publish button quickly...I am a very fast writer, and it just happens so fast...I am really looking forward to your next part 2 on this topic...you are sooo right about writing more than you can say in person and that is so "me" as well...thank you so much for putting this out there for us....brave soul :) I love it!

    1. Oh, don't misunderstand, I don't have someone read EVERYthing I publish on the blog. I only have my husband preview the ones I am unsure of- that I don't want to be misunderstood or get the theology wrong- the ones on depression and things like that.

      When I published my book, I had a wonderful editor who attacked it with a red pen for all the grammar mistakes and whatnot. There were plenty of them, which makes me pretty sure I make them all the time on the blog, too!

  3. I find writing my blog to be freeing once I get past the fear. If you can just take that last step, it's almost as if a weight has been lifted. Something you've been containing within yourself is finally out for other to share. Ahhhhh..... And, not all comments are negative. Quite often, something I've said has brought kind words and the start to a beautiful "computer friendship". Pray for peace. He will give it.

    1. Oh I agree so much. If it is something heavy on my heart that I really just NEED to say, once it is out there it is just a relief.

      You remind me of this:

      “Writing like this is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.”
      ― Anne Lamott

  4. I spend more time THINKING about the writing than actually WRITING. Does that make sense? I considered a blog for a year at least before I actually dove in and did it. I had all of the fears you listed. And I have, in fact, offended a reader - who is a reader no more. Putting yourself out there takes courage. And for some reason I have more courage when I write than when I speak. I, too, get hubby's thoughts once in a while. Sometimes a friends. Sometimes I think maybe I should go back and delete a post! But this is me. And I am God's.

  5. But this is me. And I am God's.

    That is beautiful, Jenny. You just summed up my next post (why I write anyway!)

    I write in my head all the time, constantly really. The words are safe there :) I also have more courage when I write than when I speak (though this is changing some). The written word give you TIME to play with it, time to make sure it fits what you mean! The spoken word just goes out of my mouth and then vanishes!

  6. Many of the fears that you listed, I can apply to myself, but there's something else. There's something that's keeping me from being all that I can when it comes to my writing.
    I know for sure that I need to find the joy in doing it again.
    Maybe I've lost my passion. I don't know, that may be it, but I'm going to find out what it is, for certain.
    Thanks for this post. It's requiring me to put forth some effort.

    1. This is interesting. Please let me know how it goes for you, ok?

  7. Amen, sister! It's scary every time I hit that "Publish" button - for all of the reasons above. Transparency is a scary, vulnerable thing. But I’m doing it anyway.

  8. All of these things run through my mind every single time I put up a post--thanks for the encouragement :)

    1. hm, well, I'm not sure that post was the best way to encourage a person... but if you found that one encouraging, hopefully the follow-up posts will inspire your socks off! :)

  9. I write for a living. I write arguments; I don't write about myself, so that's a little less scary. But it is still my voice, my own argument and thought process, and it's hard sometimes to have those criticized. I started feeling much better about criticism when I finally realized that I'm good at this. Having inner confidence made me able to hear criticism as it's meant and not as an indictment of my entire self. At the same time, the terror I used to have about turning things in began to subside too.

    1. You are right, growing up and becoming good at it really helps (as does learning how to spell!)

      As you said, becoming able to
      "hear criticism as it's meant and not as an indictment of my entire self." is SO important! :)

      thanks for helping we write the next posts in this series :)

  10. It is frightening, especially the unkown of it all. Not knowing what people are thinking and how they are reacting to what you are writing can paralyze you from making that step. I have learned to pray before each post, give it to God for His glory, and allow Him to work in it as He chooses. It may impact only one person, or many, but it's all about Him anyway and all for Him. This is a great post!


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