Two Ways to Overcome your Fear of Writing

by | March 31, 2011

Do blank pages frighten you? Do you backspace more than write? Do you agonize over every word? Is beginning a first draft worse than a root canal? If you answered “yes” to one of these questions, you may fear writing. Like most learners, you have something to write but fear stops you. Fortunately, you can overcome your fear of writing. Here are two ways to help you overcome it:

First, recognize that you are not the only one who fears writing. When I worked through my fear of writing, I talked with experienced writers, past professors, and current colleagues. After these conversations, I discovered this truth: they all feared writing in some manner. Recognizing this truth not only comforted me but also bolstered my confidence in writing. Likewise, if you were to ask other learners about their writing, they would likely express some fear about it. Sharing your fear of writing with other learners will help you have less fear about it.

Second, confront the source of your fear about writing. Explore the source of your writing fear, but it may be a painful experience for you. For example, I had a learner share her pain with me about a grade school teacher who marked up her paper in red and said harsh words about her writing. As a result, the learner still experiences fear, doubt, and shame about her writing. Here is the difference: She confronts her fear and freely writes. Does an early writing experience stop you from writing?

Perhaps, perfectionism is the source of your fear about writing. When I worked on my master’s thesis, I spent hours trying to write a perfect paper. But it clogged my creativity (yes, I believe creativity, not creative writing, can be part of a dissertation or thesis) and flow of thought. Eventually, I wrote with the purpose of getting words onto paper then shaping them later. I’m not sure if I would have finished my thesis had I not controlled my perfectionism. Writing is a recursive, chaotic, beautiful mess. Does perfectionism hinder you from writing?

With equal power, using incorrect grammar can be the source of writing fear. Correct grammar is critical to well-written papers, dissertations, and so on. But the first draft may not be the time for this (if it’s for you, then fine). Some learners have shared with me how they have agonized about choices of grammar in the first draft, and it has crippled their writing output. Try not to worry about grammar while you write your first draft and see how your words flow (easier said than done). Allow the writing process to help you generate words, sentences, and paragraphs then rigorously edit, revise, and proof for grammatical errors.

Question: How can you overcome your fear of writing and increase your writing output?

4 Responses to "Two Ways to Overcome your Fear of Writing"

  1. Stephanie says:

    This is a very timely posting for me. You have no idea. I am working on overcoming my fear by remembering that it’s a draft and my mentor will advise me on how to fix what needs to be fixed. It does not have to be perfect the first time. But I struggle with this fear constantly.

  2. Dana Forbes says:

    I’m glad to hear that the post helped you out. Keep rewriting, revising, and editing your work. I wish you the best as you work through your fear of writing. Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Lori Schroeder says:

    Stephanie,

    If you are not familiar with Diana Hacker’s work, A Writer’s Reference, I encourage you to check it out.

    http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/writersref6e/Player/Pages/Main.aspx

    Also, working with someone near you who is professional proofreader and editor might be very helpful.

    Best wishes,
    Lori Schroeder, PhD

  4. Gabrielle Siegel says:

    I’m not so afraid of writing as I am afraid of not answering the questions asked of me. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your view, I begin my writing several times before I start the final draft of a discussion, just to get my thoughts together. It is especially difficult to work with the deadlines of the courses I am taking, but somehow I get the posts done before they are due (and I’m taking two courses right now, in addition to raising 3 boys and doing activities with them too!) But I always have my books with me, trying to read while at games and practices just so I don’t get behind, in addition to reading at home and wherever else I may be.