Five Ways to Combat Fear
by Ingrid Schaffenburg
Fear is something all writers encounter, and it’s no wonder. We willingly plunge into the depths of our souls on a daily basis, which can be a scary thing at times. The very thing that lures us to this profession, that makes us feel more alive than others, is also the very thing that can stop us in our tracks. So how do we handle fear when it crops up in our work? Here are a few strategies I’ve found helpful over the years.
1. Par for the Course
First, acknowledge that it’s normal. Every writer that has come before us has encountered fear at one time or another. It’s such a common occurrence that we even have our own term for it: writer’s block. Probably the greater our fear, the greater our talent. So don’t take fear as a bad sign. See it as being on the right track. Experiencing fear isn’t the issue. How we handle the fear is what matters. To quote Susan Jeffers, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
2. Mentality Work
One of the most helpful exercises I learned as an actress in LA was mentality work. In one of my classes, we had to spend at least thirty minutes a day reading from an inspiring work, something that would set our mind straight. This always came before our creation work with our characters. My teacher recognized that at least half our battle as artists was maintaining the right mindset, and I couldn’t agree more. I highly recommend starting with The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
3. Keep Your Eye on the Ball
We must remind ourselves every day of our end goals, of why we get up each morning at the crack of dawn, stay up well past midnight after the kiddos have gone to bed, or squeeze our word count in at lunch. We can create a list of goals in a Word doc or a vision board if we must, but a daily reminder of why we write is critical for both long-term success and combatting fears.
4. Remove the Governor
A lot of fear is paralysis of analysis. We’re judging whether it’s good or not, which leads us to overthink our work instead of just letting it flow. If we get too deep in our heads, then it’s all over. So remove the governor. Stop trying to be perfect and stop over-editing yourself. If you’re really stuck, take Candace Havens’ Fast Draft class. I’ve taken her workshops and they do wonders.
5. Just Show Up
An athlete understands that talent alone will not support him on the playing field. He must “show up” daily in order to maintain and improve his skills. We writers are no different. So pick a time, any time, and stick to it. Even if we only write one sentence, it’s the act of showing up that over time builds our confidence and makes it that much easier to ward off fearful thoughts.
Ingrid Schaffenburg is a Dallas-based freelance writer who has a passion for helping others lead fuller, richer, more joyful lives. She holds a BS in journalism from Texas Christian University and has worked in entertainment for more than a decade. Her book, Threadbare Gypsy Soul, is due out this fall and she currently blogs at ingridschaffenburg.wordpress.com.