by Dana Forbes | 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?