7 real fears of wannabe authors (and how to get over them)

When I was putting together this list of fears of wannabe authors, I immediately recalled the quote: “Feel the fear and do it anyway…” It’s a poignant quote, coined by Susan Jeffers in her book of the same name, that is now bandied about loosely and printed on t-shirts and mugs all over the world. But what does it actually mean for you as an aspiring writer or wannabe author who is feeling paralysed by fear? How do you just embrace fear and get on with it anyway?

It’s a big question, that’s for sure, and one that most (if not all) professional writers and authors have had to grapple with. I know I certainly have, and I’ve been writing professionally in one capacity or another for over two decades! No doubt I will continue to be challenged by these writing fears too as I strive to push new boundaries and stretch myself beyond my comfort zone.

The thing about writing fears is that you just get better at knowing which ones are rational and which are not (I’ll give you the hint – most are not!) and you get better at heading them off at the pass so that they don’t sabotage your efforts. Because sadly, the fears of wannabe authors can become so crippling that they stop them from ever writing a book at all.  And that’s criminal!

Part of what makes ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’ a little easier, is when you know you’re not alone in your fears. Regardless of whether it’s a positive or negative emotion, humans love to feel that they are part of a crowd and not the only weirdo who is feeling a certain way.  There is comfort in being ‘the same’.

So just as others have felt as you do, others have overcome the fears and pushed through to create their books or other content.

Writers have a lot of fears, particularly related to whether or not they have what it takes to ‘make it’ or to succeed. Whether you aspire to be an author, a freelancer, a journalist, or simply a creator of content for your business, you’re probably harbouring negativity about your own abilities that are keeping you small and knocking your confidence.

Here are 7 fears of wannabe authors that you will have to face if you want to move from ‘wannabe’ or ‘aspiring’ to actually being an author:

1. Who am I to write a book?

Otherwise known as ‘Imposter Syndrome’, this one is a doozy. Imposter Syndrome is when someone with a lot of expertise and experience thinks they don’t actually know what everyone thinks they know.  They think everyone else has everything figured out but they are just faking it.  They believe their ideas are not good enough or special enough and, in the worst case scenario, feel that their book will expose them as a fraud.

How do you get over this one?

Ask yourself: are people coming to me and paying for my knowledge? If yes, then you clearly have a book in you, as long as the book is about you sharing that knowledge with people. By focusing on this key point, you’ll overcome your Imposter Syndrome.

2. I’m not a writer!

Otherwise known as ‘perfectionism‘. Many people don’t believe they have the skills or the education to write a book.  Wannabe authors get stuck here all the time.  It’s when they fret over every detail, keep editing and adding content in endless cycles, and put everything they know into a book. At its worst perfectionism will paralyse an author into not writing anything at all, because of the fear that what comes out might be rubbish!

How do you get over this fear?

If you can put sentences together and share ideas in any kind of logical format, you are a writer.  If you have ideas of value that you wish to share more broadly with the world and you know they’re useful ideas and you can articulate them in some way in print, you are a writer. But let’s be clear….most of you probably don’t want to make ‘writing’ your profession. So the truth is, take the heat off. You don’t need to even consider yourself a ‘writer’  as such. Be an ‘author’ instead.  Delivering your value and the lessons from your story in the form of a book with the intention of helping people, demonstrating your thought leadership, attracting clients and thereby growing your business is being an ‘author’. Don’t get hung up on whether you are going to be the next Tolstoy or JK Rowling. Put your ideas and knowledge and experience together and an editor can help shape the writing into something digestible for readers.

3. I’m afraid no-one will care about my book.

Otherwise known as ‘what if no-one reads it?’ This fear is quite simple and is usually masking other fears such as the Imposter Syndrome or the perfectionism fear.

How do you get over this fear?

Used right, you can turn this one into motivation. If you’re afraid no-one will care about what you have to say, then go find a real live person who does care about what you offer – perhaps a past client or mentor or friend – and talk to them about what you know and wish to include in your book. The transformation through your teachings should be evident in your past clients, and if it’s someone new to your work, teach them what you know and observe the positive impact that has. Once you make this observation you should get the impetus to finish your book – because the book is about those people, not about you any more.

4. I’m afraid my book will upset people.

Otherwise known as the ‘judgement fear’.  You might be nervous about upsetting past clients, family or friends with your words.  You might be scared about being perceived as a know-it-all, a bitch, a showoff.  This fear kills off SO MANY BOOKS.  Many people simply can’t face the slimmest possibility of judgement so they simply don’t write their book, or they don’t tell the stories they really want to tell. The truth is though, if you don’t write something that may prompt disagreement or heated discussion or contrary opinions, if you don’t divide an audience you’re being bland, grey, beige. And that’s just dullsville – and probably isn’t worth putting in a book.

How do you get over this fear?

Your book should make new claims, tell new stories, reframe old information, or offer new viewpoints on a particular subject. That’s the whole point of a book—to help people learn something new or be prompted to look at something they already know about in a different way.  You can offer that if you simply share your experience and your stories, truthfully and openly, on your particular subject matter.  And you’d want to hope like hell that you DO divide your audience and engender some disagreement, because that’s what makes a book interesting! (Oh, and remember, if they’re getting personal in their judgement, blacklist them – they’re not your kind of person anyway. This is about your book, not the entirety of who you are.)

5. What if I run out of things to say?

Otherwise known as ‘I don’t have an interesting life or much life experience’.  There are some days when every writer feels like this, regardless of experience.  You are possibly worried that your life won’t be seen as valuable or interesting to anyone else, and that you really only have a couple of ideas to share – not enough to fill an entire book. You may also feel you’re too young, or lived too nice a life, to have anything of value to offer.

How do you get over this fear?

Your life, regardless of your age, class, creed, race or gender, is more than interesting enough.  Full stop. Everyone views the world in different ways, everyone has seen things, experienced things, learnt things that can be translated into value for a reader. You don’t have to have a rags-to-riches history or to have travelled the world and studied astronomy with Tibetan monks or to have survived a terrible accident to have a story worth telling. Say what matters to you, in your voice, and in a way that makes it relatable for readers.  For the record, you don’t have to come up with 100,000 words to have a great book – some of the most impactful and legendary books have been short.

6. I’m going to look stupid.

Otherwise known as ‘what will my [friends, partner, mum, coach] think’. Virtually every writer/author is somewhat nervous about embarrassing themselves when they embark on writing a book. Why? Because a bad book can actually be damaging for a career, particularly if someone is high profile.  Also, a book becomes a very personal endeavour, an extension of who you are for a period of time,  and no-one wants to receive criticism about something that is that much a part of your identity.

How do you get over this fear?

Again, you need to use this fear as fuel to create the best possible book you can.  Spin all this negative energy into positive fuel to work hard, focus on the task at hand, and make darn sure that you produce something that doesn’t make you look stupid.

7. I don’t have time to write a book.

Otherwise known as, ‘this is not really a priority for me,’ or ‘I’m freaking scared to death and have all of the above fears going on but I’ll blame it on not having time!’   Hmm. When will you ever have more time than today? When will you ever wake up with BOOK WRITING on your whiteboard as the number one priority? You just have to make it so. It may be that in the past you’ve shown enthusiasm and good habits on big writing projects, but somehow, every single time you lost motivation and your work ethic dwindles.   And you’re afraid that this will happen again … and you won’t finish what you began …. and you’ll beat yourself up over it… and meanwhile competitors will publish their books before you…. and you’ll miss out… and….

How do you get over this fear?

First decide whether time is actually the problem (it’s often just masking one of the other fears). Then revisit your reasons for writing the book in the first place. Next, you need to decide whether the desired outcomes outweigh the extra effort required to make writing time a non-negotiable in your weekly plan for the next few months.  If so, you just need to put you big girls pants on, make some space in your schedule and do it.  If you need support to help with family obligations, find it.  If you need help financially to make this work, seek it.  You may need to make sacrifices for the long term gain.  There is no time like the present to create magic, help others and leave a legacy.

The fears of wannabe authors are many and varied.  There are so many reasons NOT to write a book.  But fear is simply excitement with a negative spin.  It’s true! So what are you prepared to do to turn your fears on their head to get back to the place of excitement you first felt when you decided to write a book?

The world needs to hear from you.

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