On the first day of my first writing retreat, I faced several writers who had repeatedly tried to write a successful manuscript. They had come to see if I could help them where others had failed.
My instruction was to throw out the old-school linear way of writing an outline and, instead, to play with their creativity and see what they could find by allowing themselves to explore all possibilities without any structure through stream-of-consciousness writing.
For some of the participants, that was a BIG ask.
One in particular almost refused to sit down and write. After the others had left for the beach to write for the day, we talked.
Seeing her emotional reaction, I realized that she was filled with fear about writing with no restrictions.
So, I asked her what her worst fear was.
She replied that she had written for several publications and anthologies but had never been told her writing was good.
I asked her how that outline/structure thing was working for her.
I suggested she write about her fear of writing, what someone would think about her, and why she believed her writing wasn’t good.
Overcoming her resistance, she eventually agreed.
When she shared her discoveries later, she realized that she had allowed the same fear to stop her in her life and business, where she was at that moment, facing both bankruptcy and the end of her marriage.
A lightbulb went on that weekend, and she began to write. And write. And she couldn’t stop writing.
She called me a week after the retreat to tell me that she had gone from feeling fear to feeling exhilarated by the freedom to explore.
A year later, her first book was picked up by a publisher. Since then, she has written four more books. She has restarted her business, travels the world teaching, and found the love of her life.
She now faces her fears head-on and writes to tell about it.
After that retreat, curious, I started to track what other fears my writers faced.
There are six major fears I’ve encountered working with writers, and when I share these with a new client, they nearly always resonate with at least one, and many times several; occasionally, I have a client who has all the fears.
As their writing develops, it is incredible to observe that whatever fears raise their dragon heads when a writer faces that blank page is the SAME fear holding them back in their life or business.
Unearth and move through your writing fear, and you’ll see a parallel movement in your life.
So, what are those six major fears?
- What will people think of what I write? (Content)
- What will people think of how I write? (Style)
- Who am I to write a book? (Lack of Credentials)
- How will writing this book affect me financially? (Scarcity)
- What will I have to give up in my schedule? (Lack of Time)
- What if I’m successful? (Fear of Change)
Writing is the topic of the list above, but what if you replace writing with something you are experiencing in your life? For example…
- What will people think of who I am? (Content)
- What will people think of how I look? (Style)
- Who am I to tell someone what they need to do? (Lack of Credentials)
- How will doing what I love affect me financially? (Scarcity)
Fear #5 and #6 come up for us in nearly every significant undertaking: “Time is already full; how can I add in one more thing?” and “Success means losing relationships, the parts of my current life I want to keep, moving to a new place, etc.”
To understand how fears work in the creative process, we first must know how the different parts of our brain work.
The right brain is the creative source, while the left brain systemizes how ideas will manifest, applying order and stability to inspiration to manifest it into reality.
Without input from the right brain, the left brain, without direction, will activate and amplify any little fear you have in its march toward constancy.
We have been trained in this society with a very left-brain approach to writing — linear and structured — and from that part of the brain, writing is an arduous struggle.
When someone is writing from the left brain, there are rivers of red marks on the page. But when a writer is writing from their right brain and telling stories and using creativity to make their writing come alive, there are very few edits; everything flows.
The process I use in my coaching puts what we’ve been taught in school on its head. I say throw out the outline. That will develop in time. Instead, I want you to play in the sandbox of creativity first!
My method encourages stream-of-consciousness or direct writing. Not just to get started but whenever you are developing ideas. What that means is to write everything you are thinking with no stopping to edit. If your brain starts to go places, go with it. Write down everything, including what that voice you hear telling you “this method doesn’t work” says. That’s your fears talking. So, write those fears down!
What you write in stream-of-consciousness is not necessarily going to make sense all the time. In fact, it will likely be quite messy.
But the more you do it, the more you start to see patterns develop, critical beliefs emerge, and statements of impact you want to share. All of those things begin to reveal your structure. Soon, you will start to see your writing make sense as you put a frame around your wild thoughts.
The refining process then moves to a left brain and right brain process, shifting fluidly between the left saying, “this needs fixing,” and the right saying, “here’s how to fix it.” Get those parts to dance in your writing, and you’ll see your life become a fluid and balanced movement.
So, just write. Don’t think about it; just pick up your pen and begin. The more you do, the easier you’ll move through your fears. And then start to see how your life changes!