The fear of writing is a very real one.
Everyone has a different reason for it, but all are valid. Mine stems from a lack of knowledge. I am not experienced as a writer nor am I an expert source on any one subject. I have a way of pretending I know what I’m talking about through extensive research and delivery. However, my general feeling is that I’m not qualified enough write about what I want to write.
It’s very common for people not to do something out of fear of not knowing enough about it. People who aren’t part of the art community will look at my art and go, “wow, I wish I could draw like that!”. I always answer with some variation of just practice! You probably know the kind of answers I get.
“Oh no. I can’t draw,” he says with a laugh.
“I’ll never be able to get as good as you,” she states.
I feel so disappointed when I get those answers, and don’t forget the annoyance at hearing the same thing over and over! I think this applies to writers as well. Writing is an art, in my opinion, and surely skilled authors receive similar comments as I do as a fine artist. I take this into account when I feel my own writer’s anxiety creep up on me.
The hard part for me is my insecurity about my own intelligence. When I’m writing or editing this is doubly so, and there’s always that lingering thought of, “does this sound stupid?” I hate looking back at past works because all I can think is stupid, stupid, stupid! What’s especially difficult about this self-doubt is that I want to write about the sciences and philosophy; things that field experts write about themselves. It’s no wonder I get so stuck on researching their work on a topic that I never actually put my fingers to the keyboard.
I also want to do creative writing on top of this. It’s easy for me to equate this to art, but this time I feel like the person saying they could never draw like that. Plus, the creative works that I do push out are the ones I end up hating the most when I look back on them. At least I know that, like drawing, I will improve with practice, at least with creative pieces.
So far, I’ve only written a few things for this blog. I’m proud to have been able to post what I have, including that terrible review I did on Tap Tap Fish. Even with my intelligence complex, I’m so proud of my last post on the human population trend versus water stress. Whenever I see views on my statistics page I get so excited! I don’t even know if the readers liked my post, but I get this awful sense of joy from it.
Pushing past the fear of writing something is incredibly difficult for me sometimes. The only thing I’m an expert on is myself, but that’s not what I want to cover! Once I break the barrier, though, that’s when I realize why I write in the first place. Why I want to write. The flow of words is like letting my body flow down a river, or wading through the course of a stream. This piece feels like a smooth ride in deep waters on a soft, rainy day. Then there are rocky streams I must trek like when I was writing my first global warming post. These feeling are remarkably similar to creating art now that I’m taking the time to reflect on it.
If writing is an art and follows a similar process as drawing does, then the recipe I have for dealing with The Fear, don’t I? Or, specifically, how to improve to the point that I have the confidence to break the fear… Behold! For I shall bestow upon you what I have learned from a life of experience in drawing.
Doodling, aka ‘The Stream of Consciousness’
Doodling gets your creativity flowing, so does the stream of consciousness! Write when you’re bored, when the inspiration strikes, or just for the fun of it! Pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, it doesn’t matter. In art, doodles aren’t meant to look good. They are meant to arouse your imagination and tickle the right side of your brain. It also draws out your style as you continue to learn the fundamentals of art. At first, it’ll look inconsistent and later… it’ll look like a jumbled mess to your eyes. That’s the beauty of it I think. The one rule you have to follow is to do it every day.
Look at art: Read a book.
How are you going to know what you want to do if you don’t even have the base knowledge of what’s out there? For an artist, this would be drawing from life and photos. It also means referencing other artists. I hate it when I hear someone make that offhand comment that using references is cheating. What a hark! If you don’t, you’ll only have your memory to rely on and what then? You won’t be improving your basic skills or learn to really See. For a writer, the same concept applies. Reading and experience is your set of references. Even learning to See can be done through visual writing. If you don’t read, feel, use the world as your reference, you’ll be lacking something fundamental.
Control + C, Control + V
Now, don’t go publishing work based on this but it is something important to keep in mind and try out. Being sued probably sucks.
Copy someone else’s style, practice it, and then try out another’s. I’ve actually read before that this is a method writers use, so I feel it’s a valid point to acknowledge. It might not mean copying something word for word, but rather the style of a work or author. With art, I do this when I see pieces that make me think, “oh! I’d love to be able to do that!” Once I’ve sketched it out a bit, I go back to doodling and making my own work the difference and improvement is quite clear. I achieved an aspect that I liked and my own style had developed in the process.
Wash, rinse, repeat…
Don’t let the cycle of creativity end, but sometimes you got to do the boring stuff too! To improve and keep on improving you’ve got to practice things you have trouble with over and over and over. This step is like studying in school. It’s fun to learn new things, but for it to stick you’re going to have to put the time in for it. In my sketchbooks, some pages are filled with pages of the same thing. How else would I ever be able to draw a dragon in under 20 seconds? Get obsessed with an object, concept, or technique until you’re able to get it right and stuck in your noodle.
Reference Your Own Memory
This can be done while you’re doodling and repetition cycles. Only allow yourself to create something from your own noggin and review it afterwards. Create works that have been infused with your creativity, aided by your past referenced work, and has been influenced by your favorite authors and artists. What you’ll find is something only you could do. Maybe you’ll feel confident enough to seek critiques. Even if it’s not, consider doing it anyways. Good advice is valuable and will help you grow and better yourself.
Finish Your Projects
Most of the time, this is the hardest thing for me to do! Whether I start an illustration or writing a story it’s difficult to keep the commitment. What I have found, though, is that it gets easier to finish projects every time you… well, finish projects! When I’m making an art piece nowadays, it’s easier to finish a picture than it was when I was in high school. It’s almost second nature to get so involved in a personal project and fully flesh it out as well as forget about the rest of the world in the process. That last part isn’t healthy, but whatever. With writing, I’ve been starting with small experiments instead of a 6 k word article or, god forbid, a full-blown book. When it comes to committing to an idea and plan, keep it realistic about what you can do.
The fear of writing arises from a lack of experience and insecurity. Self-doubt is hard to push down, but understanding you’re at the very beginning of your journey will help you embrace it. You might now feel good enough, but that’s no excuse to not do it in the first place. Every kind of art stems from the same roots and follows a similar set of rules when it comes to improving. There’s also one more truth to bettering yourself; push past boundaries until you feel good enough to share your beloved creations to the world!
Never forget to practice.
I’m not one to break rules, let alone my own that I have laid out here. I’ll be here continuing my own hike down the stream and swimming with the current of the river. It’s a never ending, painful, wonderful adventure that I will continue for a long time. What about you? Do you have a fear of something like writing or art? I’d love to hear about it!