Monday, July 30, 2007

Fearless Writing

Over at CopyBlogger, guest blogger, Michael Stelzner of Writing White Papers posted a simple question: What Keeps You From Writing? While there were a great variety of answers, one common answer that showed up several times was "fear". Since this blog deals with ways to keep you writing whatever it is that you write, I thought addressing this common issue would be beneficial.

As a former college writing instructor, I've seen fear manifest in a variety of ways. Sometimes it's the fear that a blank screen presents. Other times it is the anxiety that what we write will not live up to the standards we set for ourselves. Either way, approaching writing as a process rather than as an activity can help quell fears and get keys moving.

Too often, we are motivated to write by good things we have read or by witness remarkable events that move us to express ourselves. What is especially helpful to keep in mind, however, is that the OVERWHELMING majority of well-regarded works of writing are the products of extensive editing or rewriting that occurs after an initial draft is completed. Ulysses wasn't built in a day, nor will your most captivating work be.

Realize that 50-90% of your initial draft will be rewritten or thrown out during the editing stage, and you should feel a tremendous weight lifted from your shoulders during the drafting stage.

Drafting stage:
This is the stage where you get out shreds of ideas . You jot down thoughts. You pour collective brain drippings onto the page. These thoughts will come out in varying degrees of order: and that's okay.

Editing stage:
After you have put the words on the page, the editing stage is where you begin to shape them into the story you wish to see. During the editing stage, you'll discover that some thoughts need filling in, some need to be rewritten to portray a more accurate account of your creative vision, and some need to be reordered for maximum impact. Depending on the length of your work, the editing stage can often take 20 times as long as the drafting stage. That, however, is why writing is a process, not an action.

Additionally, the best way to reduce fear of writing is to write as much as possible. Create a journal and feel free to post even the most mindless things in there. Try writing a poem. Scribble ideas on sticky notes. Don't think. Just write. This practice will reduce anxiety and usually uncover themes from your own life that you find important and worth writing about.

In the end, however, I find writing is a mode of self-expression that should satisfy our basic desires to express ourselves. If you get something brilliant, that is a bonus - one that can certainly be worked toward, and even achieved - but not necessarily the most realistic motivating factor.

If you are looking for ways to be fearless in your writing, I might humbly suggest my book: Tapping Creativity.

Related Posts
Fearless Writing Part II
Fearless Writing Part III


Michael Stelzner said...

Excellent post! If you have not already, be sure to trackback OR post a reply to my post on CopyBlogger with a reference to your article.

Geoff said...

Wow, thank you for stopping by. I took your advice and went back to the copyblogger article.

As a new blogger trying to build a readership, comments from writers like you who are more established are a great boost.

Thanks again for the comment and all of the great content you put up at Writing White Papers.

Patricia Singleton said...

Geoff, this is a well written article. I have never seen any of the articles that I have left comments for get as much as Michael's article has received in the past few days. I am new to blogging myself. I just started on June 1. I am learning daily from CopyBlogger and a few others. My niche is Spirituality. Best wishes for the growth of your blog.

Michael A. Stelzner said...


You just spawned an article on my blog (I referenced this one in the comments).


Tai McQueen said...

Great post! As another I'm enjoying seeing your blog evolving and gaining subscribers.
One thing I find scary about writing is how subjective it is. Just because I think something is good doesn't mean my client or their customers will; but I've found the best way to overcome this fear is just to keep putting the words out there, learn from criticism and gain confidence from positive feedback.

Geoff said...

Writing for clients is especially subjective, Tai. It's a hard pill to swallow when you come to the conclusion that your idea of "good" is better than your clients, but you have to deliver what the client wants anyway.

And you are so right to always stay open to criticism, and leave room for improvement.

Thanks for following the blog. It means so much.

Tai McQueen said...

Sorry about the messy link in the previous post - I must have misplaced a closing bracket. I'll use the preview from now on!

Geoff said...

Hi Tai, no worries about the bracket. I'm just pleased you felt moved enough to comment. It means a lot to know you've made my little blog part of your day.

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