Getting Over Your Fears About Writing - Steph Cook

Getting Over Your Fears About Writing

Everyone who has ever put down a word on a page has had some form of fear about how that finished product will turn out. Some forms of writing, like a letter to a friend, feel like they have lower stakes. But others, like a work project or your novel, have more weight. And that weight, that fear of producing nothing, can be crushing.  

How do you get over it? How does one write when the words won’t come? The answer, I’m afraid, is routine. All professional writers sit down and write, even when what they produce is absolutely terrible. And, in fact, some of the very best writers write absolutely terrible first drafts.  

In her memoir on writing, Amy Tan details a time when she had such bad writer’s block, she literally wrote about the writer’s block until she wasn’t blocked anymore. Anne Lamotte devotes an entire chapter in her book on writing Bird by Bird to shitty first drafts.  

And I love that she calls them shitty first drafts. Because that is what most first drafts are – shit.

Many novice writers have this idea that they will come to writing and the words will pour forth in perfect order. In fact, this is rarely true.  

Real craft comes in the revision. What first comes to a writer’s mind (and then fingertips) is not polished. The transitions are missing, the words are clumsy, and clichés pepper the writing. In other words, it’s terrible.  

But it’s ok to be terrible. In fact, I say embrace the terrible. Because from the first draft, you can only improve. But the key is to start putting the ideas down. Without that terrible beginning, you will never get to a polished finished product.

  • Steph Cook