Paralyzing Fear

Writer’s block is a tough wall to breach

Paralyzing fear, also known to those of us who
scribble as a living as writer’s block. Most writers have
experienced this at some point in their career. Traditionally, we define it as
a time when the well runs dry in the middle of a project.
I have a different opinion. I’ve talked with (okay,
occasionally ambushed) many writers over the years and find the conversation
might go something like this.
Me: “Have you ever had to deal with writer’s
Anonymous Writer: “No, never. Once I start a
project I just keep going, no matter what I’m feeling.”
Me: “What about before you begin a project? Have
you ever postponed it because you doubt your ability to do it
justice? Or maybe you needed to think about it some more – just work out the
details in your head?”
At this point the person I’m speaking with usually
takes a step back and begins to stammer. Most writers don’t include being
afraid to start a project, as writer’s block. I would beg to
differ—anything that keeps you paralyzed and unable to write is, by definition,
writer’s block.
Success can sometimes make us more
afraid of failure
Funny thing is, the people who suffer most from writer’s
are writers who’ve had a modicum of success. Maybe they’ve won a
contest or two, or written regularly for a while. Usually they’re afraid they
can’t live up to what’s gone before.
I also find it crops up when a writer is trying a
new genre. They might be going from fiction to non-fiction, or from writing
devotions to writing a column or even romance to science fiction. Let’s face
it, trying something new is always a daunting prospect.
Now that
we’ve defined it, how do we combat it?
  • First, quit putting it off. Make a
    commitment to spend a certain amount of time in front of the computer—writing—and
    do it. Sound hard? Of course it is, otherwise everyone would be a writer.
  • Begin by writing what you’re afraid of. Fear of
    failure? Write why it matters. Fear of inadequacy? Define it. You’ll find it
    looks small and more than a little silly when you actually write it down.
  • Next, remember how you got here.
    Recognition in the writing world comes (99.9% of the time) from putting in
    time. It comes from being willing to let others see your work and getting back
    at it after rejection. Give yourself some credit, you’re obviously
    not a wimp or you wouldn’t be trying to become a writer.
  • Finally, give yourself permission to try and fail. Just
    because this one project doesn’t work out doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. I
    would say the contrary is true. If you succeed at everything you’ve tried so
    far, I suggest that maybe you’re not trying very much. 

Quit procrastinating under the guise of ‘I have to
think this through before I start.’ Get out there, and blow a raspberry at writer’s block
and hit those keys!
Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the Social Media Coach at My Book Therapy.