“There is no illusion greater than fear.”
I woke with a startle at the sound of rustling leaves thrashing against my bedroom window like the mitter curtain of a car wash, soap laden cloths hurling down on the windshield in a flurry of water and cleaning fluid.
For me, sound, in general, has always been the most acute agent of fear: the tone of a person’s voice when something isn’t right, a piercing siren as it rushes past my house, an unexpected buckling in the floors from their first taste of a southern winter.
Fear can find its way into our lives in so many different ways. It can be the thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night or a more abstract entity finding its way into your desk, keyboard, and office chair.
There are many ways we can allow fear to creep into our work, particularly our writing: the fear of failure of not measuring up of not being original of not being genuine of giving off the wrong impression and so on and so on. But when you hear the sound of your own voice in your head filling your mind with these ideas, take a step back and know that fear doesn’t have to be the driving force of your actions, not if you let it.
Today, I am going to talk about a few ways to help you conquer your fear of writing.
Start with research
Research is to writing as sunlight is to plants, proving the nutrients and energy for it to thrive and grow. Research can help you feel more prepared when tackling a difficult subject. Whenever I am working on a tough piece or something I am not familiar with, I always start with a healthy dose of research which often includes pouring through many articles from other writers on the topic or even videos or brochures.
As I start to learn more about the topic, I actively engage in the subject. I ask my own questions, research, and work to draw arguments, connections, and conclusions that will support the piece.
Research can help take some of the subjectivity out of the task and give you a neutral backdrop. It can also answer some of your questions and address certain reservations you have which can improve your confidence as you start to write or edit a particular piece.
Hush your inner critic
We all have that little voice inside our heads spreading seeds of doubt, often at the most inopportune times. But it is important to quell your inner critic.
This idea makes me think of a TV show I like to watch and in one episode the protagonist, a romance novelist, is crippled by her inner critic who manifests itself each time she opens her computer to tackle a big rewrite. Throughout the course of the episode, she had to learn how to embrace constructive criticism while also finding the resilience to move forward with her work.
For me, my inner critic comes out when I strive to make something perfect. As I obsess over each adjective, proper noun, and sentence structure, I find that each time I make the sentence more complicated than it needs to be. My search for perfection is in vain and so is yours.
Being perfect is a trap and isn’t really asking the right question. Instead, think about asking yourself different questions.
- Is the piece authentic?
- Am I making my best effort to be thorough and accurate?
- Does the post communicate key ideas and beliefs that you hold true as a company?
- Will this piece help my audience?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then the post is ready. Your post won’t be perfect, heck this post isn’t perfect! I struggle with the grasp of perfection every single day I sit down to work. But I don’t let that fear stop me from researching, creating, and writing.
Your inner critic can be hard to grapple with. It can make you think that a single post has the power to make or break you, instilling doubts, fear, and anxiety.
I encourage you to get to know your inner critic and what triggers it and then actively set it aside and look at it from a more objective vantage point which isn’t always easy. One thing I usually do is take a step away from the work and direct my attention elsewhere for 5-10 min. That way, I am able to create healthy distance, keeping my mind sharp and active.
Set reasonable goals
It might not be reasonable to say that you are going to devise and implement a full marketing plan in a few hours (though I may or may not have tried).
Take some time to set some real goals for yourself and your business. What role does writing play in your business now and how can you implement changes to strengthen it? How can writing add a new dimension to your business and what specific goals surrounding content do you have? What can you reasonably handle and what would you like to outsource to a team?
Embrace the fear
This may sound like bizarre advice, but leaning into the fear can give you more adrenalin which can actually fuel your work. Sometimes a healthy dose of fear is a good thing. Like jitters before a presentation or a big event, it shows that you care and that you want to succeed. Lean into those more positive side-effects of fear.
Sometimes the only way to stop fear is by taking matters into your own hands and simply starting the task. Remember, you are in control and you can overcome your fear. It may not always be easy and it definitely won’t be perfect, but with practice and determination, it will be thoughtful, engaging, and authentic. At the end of the day, you really can’t ask writing to do more than that.
We love helping our clients find the right content strategy for them. If you are looking to add or refresh content into your marketing strategy, set up a time to chat with us. We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, happy writing!