Writer, what’s holding you back?
From finishing that novel, from sharing that tweet, from writing that query letter or even just picking up a pen or opening a black document?
You’ve got all the materials you need.
You’re head is bursting with ideas.
Your drawers and files are chock full of half-started ideas.
Maybe you even have a finished manuscript just sitting there.
So, what’s holding you back from moving forward? From starting to write, to finishing that draft, or sending out that manuscript to publishers, agents, or maybe even just beta readers?
Are you afraid no one will like it?
Are you afraid of what people will think of you when they’re exposed to your ideas, your interpretations of the world to them?
Are you scared of someone telling you you’re not good enough, that you should stop doing what you love the most because you don’t deserve to do it?
Okay, let’s stop for a second.
Say all those things, your worst nightmares. come true.
Say you post that story online, or share it with your friends and family members. Heck, maybe you even send a query letter with the first three chapters of your work attached.
And you get either no feedback, or scathing, horrible, insulting, feedback.
The kind that makes you want to crawl in a hole and never come out again.
It stings. A lot. Maybe you put your head down. Shed a few tears.
Maybe you give yourself a day or even a week off to do something else, to take your mind off it.
Or maybe you internalize those insults and think, “Maybe their right”?
If you get that far, stop.
Has that person, or party that rejected your work somehow physically enabled to the point where they have prevented you from ever creating again?
Have they broken your fingers with a hammer?
Did they shoot you in the head?
Did they kidnap your family and hold them for ransom, saying that you will never see them again unless you promise to stop writing?
There are some places in the world where this is likely, depending on the topic you have chosen to write about and who you shared your writing with.
But it’s also very likely that you don’t live in one of them.
No. You got nasty feedback from someone who was probably angry about something else and they took it out on you and your work because it happened to be there.
Your feelings are hurt. Your imposter syndrome is just eating up those hurt feelings and getting stronger and stronger.
That little negative voice in the back of your head has turned into some big Russian drill sergeant with a megaphone, and the volume is turned all the way up.
You put yourself out there, and you got kicked for it. That sucks. It hurts.
But it’s the risk we all take whenever we share any of our ideas, be it in writing, online, or heck, even out with our friends or in a meeting at work.
The ever-present fear that we will somehow be deemed unworthy or suddenly disliked if we expose some secret part of ourselves is why we all have secret parts of ourselves that we don’t share with anyone.
The truth is though, that people are more concerned with themselves than they are with you.
And unless you live in a war-worn dictatorship of a country where you are allowed no freedom of speech, a verbal or written rejection is probably the worst thing you’ll get back when you share your writing with the world.
Which, really, isn’t all that bad, as far as worse-case-scenarios go.
In a way, letting your writing be seen by the world is kind of like online dating. You’re vulnerable, you’re looking for affirmation, and you’re expressing your most private desires in the hopes that someone shares your same ideas.
You might go out in a couple of dates.
You might try to reach out to someone who seems really interesting, and either they somehow manage to prove you wrong the instant they message back, or they just ignore you.
It feels very personal – you’re on a dating site, for Chrissake, but the reality is that it’s not.
You just happen to be one of many who’s looking for love amidst a sea of other people who are doing the same thing. Sometimes you’ll get bites. Other times, your inbox will be real quiet.
But if you want to find someone, then giving up isn’t the answer. You just keep looking, and more importantly you change your attitude about having to look.
Rather than wearing your heart right on your sleeve, ready to hand it to anyone who happens to come across your feed, take a step back.
Find the humor in the situation, the kind of freedom online dating gives you. These are people that you will never have to meet in real life, and even if you do and it turns out to not work out, then your chances are probably very slim that you’ll ever run into them again.
Whenever a new opportunity for connection comes along, think to yourself, “I wonder where this will take me?”
And just like that, you’ve formed a much healthier relationship with the dating apps on your phone.
Odds are you might even get more people wanting to talk to you.
Because even through the separation of screens and cold, hard text, perceptions and emotions can be conveyed, especially strong ones.
Desperation is one of those strong ones.
Once that’s out of the equation, it becomes a much more comfortable situation for everyone.
The same can be said for job interviews, moving to a new city, meeting up with family members or friends you haven’t seen in a long time.
And, of course, sharing your art – be it writing, painting, drawing, music, whatever – with the world.
So when you start to feel that anxiety bubble up, when you’re hands start to shake and your heart starts to pound and you think, “if this doesn’t work out I don’t know what I’ll do oh my god oh my god oh my god” try to catch yourself.
Trust me, it takes practice, but awareness is the first step.
So start trying to be aware of those things when and as they occur in your mind because seriously – it really is all in your head.
Instead of letting those racing negative thoughts get the better of you, instead of letting those anxious feelings grow and grow and grow, put your foot down.
Think or say out loud, “I wonder where this will take me?”
And then, the most important step, dare to find out.
What’s your story? Tell me about your WORST (or best) experiences with sharing your work, and any insights you might have gained from it in the comments section below.
See you next week!