Five Steps I Used To Overcome My Writing Fears
Raise your hand if you struggle to find something worth writing about, write about it, and/or publish it out for the world to read.
I just threw both hands in the air.
I’ve written many technical blog posts and documents as a part of my career in information technology. More recently, I wrote some science fiction and opinion pieces too. My biggest struggle is finding something I think is worth writing about. I’ve had many ideas I wanted to write about, but why bother when someone else has already written amazing pieces on that topic?
Part of my problem may be a lack of confidence. The technical community can be very judgmental, so why put myself out there? Why risk being publicly humiliated? What if no one responds or comments on something I put hours, days, weeks or more into? What if it’s just not good enough? These questions and more go through my head every time I sit down to write.
I recently started writing science fiction short stories (a great way to start!), and I had the same struggle. However, with fiction the only mistakes I can make are grammatical. No one can tell me that a character did something incorrectly or my story wasn’t technically correct. It’s my story, and it is what I say it is. If you don’t like it then I accept that, but I still want feedback so I can improve next time. Unless you’re my editor, then I care what your opinion of the story is. :)
I have a process I go through that typically helps me create a piece I think is worth publishing. I don’t always follow this. In fact, I skipped #1–3 for this piece! Let’s dive right in:
1. Note high-level ideas or topics
This is a brilliant way to start. You can build a list of ideas and topics quickly. As you think of potential ideas throughout the day, write them down, text yourself, or get an app like Evernote that lets you quickly take a note on your phone. You don’t have to add a lot of information, write the basic idea or just the title.
You may also find that a topic or idea is enough to create multiple pieces or a series of them. This is easier to flesh out in the next step.
2. Outline the basic structure
I’m checklist oriented and structured in my thought process. Writing an outline helps me keep my thoughts in order, but it also helps me to visualize the structure of the article or story.
Start your outline with the headings of the major sections of your piece. Think through the flow of what you’re trying to tell the reader and make sure that those headings make sense. Next, work on adding some thoughts to each section of the outline. If you need to, use subheadings to organize your thoughts within each section.
3. Add meat to the outline
Or protein if you’re a vegan, I guess? Anyway, this is where you fill out your piece and really bring everything together. Turn those subheadings and thoughts in your outline into cohesive sentences and paragraphs that deliver your point.
Don’t forget to conclude! Each section should have a conclusion or a reference to the next step to keep the reader going.
I’m horrible at the grammars. Use a tool like Grammarly or ProWritingAid to help you. These tools are fantastic. I’ve always been a double spacer but am working to change that. I also use passive verbs like it’s been going out of style. These are tough habits to break and the right tool can help you.
Also, get an editor or a few people you can share your pieces with before publishing. Publishing through a publication on Medium can be helpful as well since their process and editors will help mold your piece to greatness.
5. Publish it
With billions of people in the world, some will like it, some will hate it, but most won’t ever read it. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it? I hear you! That is one of my biggest struggles, but I’m working to overcome and be better with every writing. Be confident and know that we need your opinion. Your voice needs to be heard (re: read). Publish that piece, then blast it all over social media!
This process also helps me to create a piece with a cohesive conclusion, which isn’t always easy. Sometimes I need to remove entire parts of my story just to drive home my conclusion to the reader.
There are lots of reasons not to write and publish a piece, but do it anyway. Your voice, your opinion, your creativity needs to be shared. This crazy social media world we live in is dark, depressing, and can be very cruel. Don’t let that prevent you from sharing your light! I hope that this helps at least one other struggling writer in their journey.
Now go write!