Scared to write?

I feel timorous about writing this blog entry.
I’ve just come home from a get-together with my writing group, I have the urge to write, I can feel the words and ideas jostling for attention in my my mind, but . . . dare I actually write when I know they can read these words? I met two new members tonight, and it is the awe I have for their talent that causes my nervousness.
Despite those feelings, I continue to write this entry. I enjoy the process of writing, the creativity, the search for the right word or phrase to convey the idea that I wish to communicate to the world. Writing shouldn’t be an issue on my very own blog! A blog means that the writing is public, so there is a chance that the other writers will read it. What will happen then?
Perhaps the real excitement in writing is when others begin to read your work. It can be scary, but dare to write, dare to express yourself in words, and then allow others to critique your work. Exciting discussions, followed by opportunities to hone your work, occur when you share your writing with others. If you write for yourself, and only keep it to yourself, well, isn’t that a bit sterile?
I once wrote a 1500-word article for a newsletter. I had not been given a limit, and I thought it took 1500 words to tell the story. When I handed it in, the editor said the limit was 300 words. I gasped. Horrified. Then I began my rewrite. When I managed to whittle the entire article down to 300 words, I felt so victorious. The constraints that horrified me at first, really made me think. In the end, someone else felt that I had omitted some of the essence that was necessary for the article, and I was allowed to use 100 more words. It felt a bit like cheating after all my effort, but I agreed that it was necessary. This was a lesson in constraints for me. I was exposed to the idea that constraints may actually nurture creativity. The fear of sharing my writing is a type of constraint. Am I going to let it prevent me from writing?
I thought I saw a similar lesson in constraints this evening. Two writers presented their work to the group, and we all provided our (constructive) criticism and comments. Both writers were quite pleased, and no offense was taken. One writer is going to discard his first page and completely rewrite the opening of his story. I got the impression that both writers felt that their writing developed just a little bit more (or perhaps a lot more, I don’t know) through the sharing of impressions and ideas that took place in our little group.
The moral of this story seems to be: Don’t be timorous about your writing. You have got to let it out in the open and share it in some way, so it becomes polished and refined, displaying your craftsmanship at its finest. Disregard those fears of rejection from your peers. If there are harsh words, they are aimed at your writing, not you. When you allow others to critique your work, you learn and grow. I really can’t do my technical writing at work or my blog writing if I fear the reception, so my timidity is really nonsensical. Perhaps it is just misguided perfectionism that sometimes holds me back just when I think I have a great idea for an article. Of course, no one will ever know about that great article if I don’t disregard those silly nerves and just start writing. I am not writing to win the Nobel prize in literature. I am writing because I get paid for it! 🙂 Or because I want to share ideas, news, and information with others. Well, actually, sharing information is also a true motivator for my paid writing. I really would like my manuals and online help to be beneficial to that particular audience. In the end, it is my eagerness to communication and share that gets me past my hurdle of timidity.
Wow. I really need to thank my writing colleagues for inspiring me to write this blog entry. It was a most enjoyable journey. I would be honored if others found inspiration for their own writing efforts.

PS I know that writing can be a catharsis, so it can be quite legitimate to write and then store the result in a drawer, never to be seen by anyone else. In case you are interested in reading more about this, you can read these two articles. I also recommend Living to tell the tale by Jane Taylor McDonnell (disclaimer: she was one of my English teachers at Carleton College). While we’re discussing books, another good writing book that provides “techniques for mastering the writing process” is Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power. Enjoy.)

2 replies on “Scared to write?”

  1. Just wanted to write to let you know I enjoyed this post, it helped to clarify what I’m feeling right now. I just googled “scared to write” as I’m having a moment of insecurity, and your post was one of the results. I like the idea of fear as a type of constraint. I’ve just started my first blog, hoping it will give me some structure and help me to follow through on my goals.
    I feel very nervous when I think about sharing my writing – but sharing is the only way to improve. Thanks for the post and the links. I think they will be very useful, especially Peter Elbow’s book. Cheers!

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