All writers are anxious about their writing. That’s completely normal; it’s the way your brain works. Even so, you can change your relationship with fear: writing fearlessly is possible.
In my first couple of years of writing I was a wreck. I’d sit down at my wonderful IBM Selectric with tears running down my face. My hands shook as I rolled paper and carbon paper onto the platen. All these years later, I can smile at my younger self, but at the time the experiences were far from funny.
Here’s how to develop courage, effortlessly.
1. Breathe Deeply, and Focus on Your Feet
Yes, I know it sounds odd, but it works. It stops you running away. Do this when you’re sitting at your computer, and:
- You don’t want to write now, you’ll do it “later”, because:
- You don’t have enough information, you just need to ______ (whatever — contact the client, call someone, Google it…) Breathe, instead;
- You don’t know what to write about;
- You think your current project is useless…
- And so on.
In other words, whenever you’re afraid, sit and breathe. Feel your feet in your shoes, resting on the ground. Keep breathing…
2. Meditate for Ten Minutes a Day (or Even Five Minutes)
Meditation works. I’ve been doing it off and on for over 30 years. If I skip meditation for a few months, my productivity drops. A few months more, and I lose confidence. Ten minutes a day is fine; even five minutes makes all the difference.
These instructions are excellent. Set a timer.
You’ll feel the results immediately.
3. Walk, Don’t Run: Plan, and Chunk Everything
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Writers often ask me how to format an ebook before they’ve written it. Cart before the horse, right? Make a plan. If you were writing an ebook, your entire plan might be: “write an ebook”, but that wouldn’t be very helpful.
Write at least a page about what you want to achieve. Then develop a plan from that.
After you’ve created a plan with four steps or more, and a timeline, you’ve created a project. Next, chunk everything in the project down into small tasks. A task should take you no longer than half an hour to complete. (A task is something you can do in a single session. A project has several or many tasks.)
Your initial chunks/ tasks in your project may look like this:
- Spend ten minutes listing topics for an ebook which I could easily write, and have fun writing;
- Choose a topic;
- Spend 15 minutes on Amazon researching books and sales stats in that topic;
- And so on, and so forth.
Adjust your tasks as necessary. You’ll add more tasks, and will eliminate some as you progress through the project.
4. Sweat: Exercise Removes Adrenaline, and Relaxes You
Fear spikes adrenaline, and the answer is aerobic exercise:
Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. Endurance athletes commonly experience the restorative power of exercise, and this has been verified in clinical trials that have used exercise to treat anxiety and depression.
You don’t need to go running; go for a walk. Even ten minutes regularly helps. A side benefit: you’ll get ideas for your writing when you walk. Take a pen and notepad.
5. Focus on the Practice of Writing, the Results Don’t Matter
True story: the happiest-ever days of my life were the four days after my editor at Macdonald Futura told me I had a book publishing contract. The operative words in that sentence are “four days.”
Writers write every day. Over time, you realize that your major successes, while their light doesn’t dim, aren’t as important as the pleasure you get from writing every day.
It’s the practice that matters. Writers write, bakers bake, bricklayers lay bricks. You do what you do. Look on your writing as just something you do. If you can develop that perspective: I write because that’s what I do, you realize that your successes, while wonderful, aren’t important in the context of your everyday life. And neither are your failures. Tomorrow is always another day. 🙂
You may have a wonderful writing day today. Or not. It doesn’t matter. You’ll write tomorrow, and the day after that. And success or failure, it’s just writing, and it’s part of your life.
If you take these ways of developing courage on board, you’ll write fearlessly.
Post update: April 27, 2018
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