✍️ Fear of Putting Yourself Out There in Your Writing
or, How to Get from “The End” to “Send”
Susan Cain was shocked when someone told her that she seemed comfortable “exposing her true feelings”. Susan, like many writers, is a self-proclaimed introvert. Although there are some introverts who are comfortable revealing themselves, at least in certain situations (many actors are introverts, for example), for many of us it doesn’t seem… natural. She said it took her almost thirty years to become a writer exactly because she wasn’t comfortable sharing her personal stories – even though that’s all she wanted to write.
“Eventually, my drive to write grew stronger than my fear, and I’ve never looked back,” she said. “I still envy friends who write about topics like science or politics. They can show up at dinner parties without everyone announcing: ‘Here comes the introvert!’”
That first book was called Quiet, and it went on to be a bestseller.
I think she’s lucky that she is so self-aware like that. I have not been so percipient. I’ve known all along that you need to “put yourself out there”, and for the longest time I thought that meant letting someone read your stuff. That is certainly part of it, but it’s not the entirety. It also means opening up and being vulnerable – concepts so foreign that I didn’t even realize that subconsciously I avoided them at all costs.
Of course I realize now that the cost is sometimes to the writing.
I’m still working on that part of my writing journey. So let’s assume here that “putting yourself out there” means letting others read what you’ve written, regardless if you’re like Susan or like me in terms of being in touch with your emotions. I have sent my writing out to be read almost every week for the last 30ish years (over 35 if you count working on the university newspaper). So, I can at least speak intelligently about that!
What’s Stopping You from Putting Yourself Out There in Your Writing? I Mean Besides Everything?
The first thing I can tell you is that it gets easier. That may sound cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason: because they’re true. (Is that cliché to say now, too?)
So my advice to anyone who hesitates before hitting “Send” on their work is to find a way around that. To quote another cliché, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself. Over time, you’ll get more and more comfortable with submitting until you get to the point that you don’t even think about it anymore.
It’s important to note that (surprise, surprise), “putting yourself out there” in your writing is often connected to one or more writing fears. Jennifer Rosenfeld writing at iCadenza reveals that those most susceptible are introverts, perfectionists, over-thinkers, or any combination of the above.
In other words, anyone except the chillest of chill surfer dudes.
However, I would argue that this is one of the easiest fears to overcome. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure there are TONS of short stories, poems, and other writing pieces that we’ll never read because someone froze hovering over the “Send” button. It can be debilitating! But all the creative hard work is done.
Here are a few ideas to help you get over this fear of putting yourself out there in your writing. Some will help when you want to submit a piece to a contest or publication. Others will help you get used to putting yourself out there faster. Pick and choose what will work best for you!
Publish a blog or Substack – Many people start a blog to get themselves into the habit of, among other things, putting themselves out there. It’s a fast, easy way to publish your writing. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get used to being in the “spotlight”!
Make it small! Twitter – Arjun Basu wrote short “Twisters” on Twitter. Meanwhile, Rupi Kaur became a world famous Instagram poet. Although writing short, condensed pieces can take longer word for word, if you’re only writing a couple of dozen, it still doesn’t take an extremely long time to get your stuff out there.
Start with not-so-embarrassing personal stories – Saying something like, “I like Cup of Soup” is revealing without disclosing too much about your personal life as, say, “I like collecting ancient human skulls” would be. Note that in my experience, the deeper you go, the more reaction you’ll get. So don’t be offended if the world yawns at your Cup of Soup stories. You have to start somewhere! Just keep digging as you get more and more comfortable telling your stories.
Create “writer” you: your alter ego – I recently watched the Wham! documentary (okay, talk about me being vulnerable and revealing…) George Michael, unsurprisingly, found himself uncomfortable being a sex symbol. Mostly because at that point he was uncomfortable about his own sexuality. But he knew that in order to be successful, he had to play the part. He dressed the part and talked the part and acted the part and eventually, for a short time, Wham! became one of the biggest bands in the world. You can do the same. Hunter S. Thompson had Raoul Duke, a persona he took on sometimes when writing gonzo. You can have Captain Sunshine or Ms. Featheringpen. (Or, you know, a much better name of your choosing.) That way you never have to hit the submit button. Ms. Featheringpen will do it for you.
Create a nom de plume – Same as the above, except that you are totally anonymous. This way, you can gauge the reaction of people to your writing without actually writing. A spy in our reading midst.
Liquid courage – I don’t want to promote drinking as something new to try. But if you’re the type of person who sometimes does a shot of tequila to steel yourself in a wholly constructive way, it might work in this case too. Word to the wise though: write the email with any accompanying info before the shot or glass of wine or whatever…
Give it to someone else to send – This might be a crutch, but hey, I think the word “crutch” has gotten a bad rap lately. After all, what is a crutch but a temporary device to help you stay mobile until you are better? In this case, that crutch is sending to a trusted friend to put into that submission box and click “Submit”. Eventually, you won’t need that crutch anymore.
Key Takeaways: Putting yourself out there can be scary! Submitting your work is the last leap of faith you take with a piece of work. Just because you’re finished writing doesn’t mean your fears have magically disappeared. But this fear is one of the easiest to overcome because the hardest work is done. Just take a breath, close your eyes, and… send.
Over to You: How Difficult is It for You to Put Yourself Out There in Your Writing?
Do you find it difficult to hit the “Send” button? How do you overcome it? Or, if you’re old hat at that, do you have any words of encouragement for others? Let us know in the comments below!
I’ll leave you with a TED Talk by Susan Cain about The Power of Introverts.
Until next time*, keep writing with wild abandon!
*Short Summer Break
To Write with Wild Abandon will take a short break in August. I’ll be back on Tuesday, September 5. For those readers in the northern hemisphere, enjoy the rest of your summer! If you’re lucky enough to be south of the equator, I’ll see you in the spring.
email me if you get lost.