Fear written in blood red on a chalkboard

Is Fear Sabotaging Your Writing Progress?


What a powerful force.

Fear Drives Us and Holds Us Back From Writing

In life. In writing. I’ve seen so many posts from writers, worried about a litany of issues that cobble their ability to finish their WIP and take the next step. What kind of worries? These top the list:

  • Fear of failure
  • Impostor’s Syndrome (for more, click here)
  • Fear of rejection
Writing check list on clipboard with a pencil laying across the top with several items checked off

These worries drive some writers to long hours on social media, doing chores, watching shows. Anything but face the blank page. The fear of falling short as a writer is juxtaposed with the satisfaction of newly vacuumed carpets or the instant gratification of likes and followers in the Twittersphere (see how the power of dopamine is pushing you to want more ‘likes,’ here). And while growing a social media platform is important to your reach as an author, it can become a sinkhole of avoidance.

Planning To Avoid Doing

Over the years, from quality assurance projects (oh, yes, they were as much fun as that sounds) to plotting out new WIPs, the one thing I’ve had to do is learn to overcome that fear. I found myself thinking for months over projects: making lists, planning, doodling…just not writing. And the eventual stress of multiple pending projects, all falling behind schedule, made creative thinking that much harder. Putting of the eventual task made the fear worse.

How Deadlines Can Force You to Get Past Fear

My research article on the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome was recently published! (see article here) Talk about fear! When I started toying with the project, my brain put up lots, and lots of fear barriers: What if the project is too much for me? What if the editor rejects it after 100’s of hours of work? What if other pharmacists criticize it?

Eventually, several timelines forced me into action and I ordered up about a bajillion articles, found a research partner equally invested in getting published, and dove head first into the work. The project was massive. We sifted through over 50 references, from drug studies to major review articles. More hours than I ever imagined, more editing than I planned into my daily routine.

After we finally submitted the article to the journal editors, the wait was unbearable. Would they even take the article? We waited for a few months before the acceptance email arrived. Another 2 months of editor-requested hard revisions put us, finally, into a publication queue.

Using the Past Positives to Overcome Fear

I go back and look at the journal article acceptance email periodically, when I find myself dragging my heels on yet another project. It doesn’t make starting another project easier. It doesn’t remove the fear of failure.

But it does remind me that if I don’t start the project,

I am assuming defeat from the beginning.

It reminds me that getting past the initial, huge wall of fear is the hardest part- the rest can be handled. When I pick up my iPhone, clicking social media apps, I am reminded to put it down and be honest with why I’m wasting time.

Turning Huge Tasks Into Manageable Bite Sizes To Control Fear

I have started a daily list of long term and short-term goals: what do I need to get done today? What about by the end of the week? The list helps me see the project in small, manageable bite size tasks. If I don’t get everything done, I don’t label myself a failure, because life happens. The next day, I pick up the list and try again. I find this helps move the project forward, and pretty soon I have overcome the fear, and can start making real progress.

What fears threaten to keep you from your goals? Keep you from your dreams of becoming an author? I’d love to hear any tips you have on overcoming them!

Happy Writing!


  1. “When I pick up my iphone, clicking social media apps, I am reminded to put it down and be honest with why I’m wasting time.”

    Omg I need to be honest with myself about this. I keep meaning to reach my word count every day—and thankfully I haven’t missed any so far—but the phone is always there to distract me, making things take longer than they usually would. Maybe I just need to be more self-aware. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Stuart- I am glad it gave you pause to think. I catch myself all the time reaching for it. I have taken to putting the phone on a different counter, with the ringer up for emergencies only. I also try to limit my social media to certain times of the day. It has helped sooooo much! What genre are you writing in?

      1. I do mostly sci-fi (cyberpunk, specifically), but for the sake of the craft, my next manuscript might be fantasy or comedy. I’m not sure yet. I still have about 10,000 words to go before completing my current WIP. What about you?

        1. Very cool- cyberpunk seems quite popular. I have one YA contemporary done, working on a fantasy retelling of romeo and juliet. I also have my hand in some non-fiction projects. So keeping busy! Good luck finishing the WIP!

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