Why We Still Need to Write, Even When We’re Scared

Why We Still Need to Write, Even When We’re Scared

Reader Comments (79)

  1. Yowsers, glorious post. You took it to another level with the social media thing, too. That’s so true … it’s not really being vulnerable … more egotistical. Yet, writing something that puts your heart on the table … that’s vulnerability. And it’s an unbelievably effective way of connecting with readers. Great job, Beth. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks, D. I love social media as much as the next gal, but I always wonder — why is it that the more time I spend on Facebook and Twitter, the lonelier I feel?

      • Being addicted to the social media platforms is becoming a bit more of a problem for our youth. There is less importance being placed on face to face communication. Can’t be healthy.

  2. well truly a great post , being afraid has always been one of my problem because of which most of the my posts are not detailed and promotion of our blog on social networking sites always makes us vulnerable and also cause a sense of fear in us to write articles on the topics which wont be liked much on social networking sites.

  3. A mentor of mind taught me that fear appears to be this massive concrete wall, but when you blast through it and look back that fear is typically “paper thin”. Makes the case for facing your fear and just doing it anyway.

    Great post, thanks.

  4. Brilliant. And so very, very true. It is the fear that’s missing in content marketing. I often find myself avoiding the very writing style or topic that I know defines me for fear that it won’t resonate with my market, or that no one will “approve” of the story or the slant. But it’s interesting because deep down I know that I need to push through that, break the wall down and quite simply, just go for it!

    This was the perfect article for me to read today. Funny how that happens.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    • You’re welcome, Katie! I wonder sometimes — is the fear we feel mostly connected to worrying about what other people will think? Maybe if I focus on trying to get past that, I’d feel less scared when I’m really putting myself out there.

  5. I believe that people who are scared to write are in the wrong line of work. You’re not going to accomplish anything worthwhile if you’re scared. You will only be successful if you believe in what you are doing and are passionate about it–which creates confidence. Scared is incompatible with passion. It means you have no passion for what you are writing about–you’re a wannabe. Writing something of quality that you believe in is hard–extremely hard, but not scary. If you’re scared you should give it up and concentrate on your day job.

    • I disagree. You can be passionate and still fear the reaction people may have to what you write.

      I write about parenting. I’m passionate and certainly not a wannabe because I AM a parent. However, I can write “safely” or I can share some very vulnerable information. Stories that scare me to put out there for fear of judgement.

      So if the idea of publishing them scares me, I know it’s truly something my readers probably need and can connect with.

    • I disagree, too – strongly. Why do I have to be 100% fearless to be passionate? They’re not mutually exclusive emotions. And I hardly think I’m alone in feeling scared — not based on the response to this post, anyway.

      • Thus to be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great. – G. W. F. Hegel

        To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. – Elbert Hubbard

    • I have to jump on the disagree train with this one too, Todd, at least if I understood the way you framed your comment.

      Most of the truly creative, accomplished writers I have ever met struggle with fear on a daily basis. They get scared because they care deeply about their work, have a distinct point of view, and realize that it may invoke criticism or controversy.

      My Dad has been a photographer for over 50 years, has won multiple awards, and he still gets nervous when he sends a client a photo. He gets nervous because he cares deeply what they think. He wants them to be delighted with the photo. He is not an insecure person. He loves his craft. He does it well. AND, he gets scared because he cares.

      You said “Writing something of quality that you believe in is hard–extremely hard, but not scary. If you’re scared you should give it up and concentrate on your day job.”

      Might it be true that you personally don’t feel fear, but not everyone is wired like you are?

    • I’m with Todd. Write with passion. This whole article is a ‘First World Problem’, meaning – it is ‘us’ westerners ‘navel gazing’ again. Were are not fighting in a war zone, 99% of us have warmth, shelter, clean water, enough food and money. Writing of course, does not ‘connect us’ physically, thats why writers are probably always trying to connect, because they (we) are sitting in front of a computer ‘in our heads’ instead of engaging physically with humans – as we have done for the last million years. Writing is not part of evolutionary DNA, physical connection is.

    • If it is too overwhelming, Todd may have a point and possibly public writing is unhealthy for you and it may better to do something else. I disagree with the “passion” aspect of this argument though. I don’t think that passion is what makes you fear, but I could be incorrect.


      I think that fear in your writing can be both healthy and detrimental but only because of the reasoning.

      A. If your fear is that of the quality of your writing, it can drive you to develop as a writer.

      B. If your fear is due to what reaction you may evoke, that can be a powerful motivator to “get it right” before you publish.

      C. If your fear is of the viewpoint shared, then it can cause the readers to grow as a result.

      D. If your fear is due to the topic shared it is almost always necessary and can ultimately cause a generation (and potentially those to come) to change.

      Fear serves many purposes.

  6. Great post. I believe when we write from a state of vulnerability our words are more powerful. It not only helps our growth but touches lives.

    Thanks for sharing your heart!

    • Agreed, Darlene. Brené Brown’s book talks about how EVERYTHING is better in our lives (not just our words) when we’re willing to be vulnerable. Have to read it yet?

  7. This was excellent, thank you! The blog is coming, “any day now” and I’ve been shaping what I want it to be, content-wise, in my head, for years now. What scares me most right now is that now I can’t just TALK about how great I want it to be, I have to make it so. Also scary, that the “higher-ups” will force it to be too self-serving and not as info-based, that I’ll write something that will offend part of our market share and if I DON’T offend a part of our market-share, that it’s too generic. Lastly, what if no one cares? :-0

    • Hey Chris Mader,
      I am reading my 1st book by Seth Godin…the Icarus Deception, and I just read what you are talking about. It is interesting read, I think you could benefit from it….Just saying….yeah, you may offend clients, you may even get fired . That could be the best thing that ever happened to you. Seth says…”WRITE” and keep writing until you get better, fear or no fear. Seth also say that when fear stops us from creating, it means we are on the verge of something good.
      Thanks Beth for a timely and TRANSPARENT post!!
      ~Will….wannabe writer

  8. After a scary week, this has calmed me down.

    We all get scared but after reading this, Beth, I don’t think you have anything to be scared about when it comes to publishing again.

    Such an incredible post and it really made my Friday – so thank you.

    Which of the following is scarier for you?

    – Writing for Copyblogger
    – Writing for bloggingwithbeth.com
    – Writing for a client

    • Rob – that’s an easy one. Writing for Copyblogger is definitely the scariest writing I do. Sometimes my hands shake. I have to stop myself from going down the “Oh my God, Brian Clark and Sonia Simone are going to be editing this” road in my mind. They are my writing heroes, so that’s a daily battle — no kidding.

      And since the CB audience is so large, I know I’m really putting myself WAY out there. Truly terrifying sometimes!

      • Haha I thought so 🙂

        Well, thanks again for controlling your shakey hands enough to get this post finished.

        Have a nice weekend.

      • I had to get a little bit drunk before I asked Brian if I could guest post the first time. 🙂 An audience this size is intimidating, esp. at first!

  9. Great article! The simple truth is that you will never attain greatness by trying to please everyone, and even if you tried, someone would take exception. So go for it! As long as we remain respectful of others’ opinions, sharing our own passionate causes is thought-provoking – and it’s always good to encourage dialogue.

  10. Anytime we feel fear about doing something like this means we are leaving our comfort zone…and by leaving our comfort zone is the only way we can grown and become something more than what we are.

    Go for it!

  11. Excellent post, Beth! Being honest and open and vulnerable creates deep connection both in business and life. This is a well-written reminder – thank you.

  12. Thanks for the posting this. I have been putting off writing a post for months. The post puts a period on one part of my life. That is scary to admit. But, in the last few weeks, I have been thinking more and more about it. I know that I will post it very soon.

    Here’s something I like to remember: You have to learn how to be in scary areas, make those comfortable, then go to the next scary area and make it comfortable. (Linda Seger)

    Every time you work through one fear, you put it behind you. I love that idea.

    By the way, I’m so glad you talked about Brene Brown. I tell people about her books all the time. She is amazing. Her willingness to let us see her vulnerability is such an important lesson (she is one of the reasons I know that I will soon write that post!)

  13. Thanks for the brilliant post Beth! This is an excellent subject. For me, writing has become a practice that lands me in a kind of pure interest that is deeper than all the other superficial crap that is also within me – the fear, the anxiety, the mind habits that annoy me at best and cause neurosis at worse. Writing is also a litmus test as to when I’m not leaning into that depth, but instead wallowing in the gunk that floats around on the surface. I have many voices I can write from, but the one that is willing to be transparent, to lean into vulnerablility, is the one that is also most free. It’s a funny thing really. That freedom and space that emerges when we lean into a subject that scares us is also free from that fear, and I think it’s because we are often touching into something universally human. We’ve moved from the personal to the universal in some sense, and so we are experiencing a bigger identity than we may normally occupy. Perhaps that’s why vulnerable writing is also the writing we most want to read. It’s not merely a personal fear at that point, it’s a human challenge that we are giving voice to, and hopefully contributing to some kind of shared understanding of. This kind of writing, over the ages, is at least one way we have evolved our values, how we’ve learned to relate to each other as fellow humans and gain empathy for each other, how we’ve gradually moved away from dehumanizing certain groups. I think it expands our consciousness, as writers and as readers. Thank you for the encouragement to lean into the fear, and also the opportunity to contemplate the significance of what we find on the other side of it!

  14. Beth,

    Thank you for addressing the vulnerabilities and fears we experience as writers. I’ve written about this on my blog, and I received a few comments saying that writing isn’t frightening. “It’s easy, just do it.”

    Well, my response aligns with yours: if you aren’t scared, then you aren’t really writing. Writing is pain, passion, and persistence. Those who don’t fear this are writing on the surface, not from the deep inner self.

    I love that you quoted Goldberg. She is amazing with her zen approach to writing. She said, “Go for the jugular. If something scary comes up, go for it. That’s where the energy is.” This is the way I try to approach my writing, finding meaning and words in dangerous passions. Even if it’s a blog post, it’s ripped from the heart.

    You mentioned, “We have to be willing to put our ideas, opinions, and deepest fears out there, so we can truly connect with our audiences.” This is true, and no real connection will happen with readers if we do not include our emotional selves in our writing.

    One piece I wrote on the pain of writing is: “The writing life: Passion for the pain of bloodletting on the page” at http://goo.gl/ZY00U . I address the fear you so eloquently describe.

    Thank you for your insights into an important, writer’s issue.

    Darin L. Hammond

  15. Excellent!

    I have done my share of video blogging about real estate and finance. Although I had over 10 years experience in mortgage lending, it was still scary to put myself out on the worldwide web.

    I’m now working on my new project to build authority.

    Copyblogger has been such a great resource and I’m looking forward to your future content. Thanks!

    – Chris

    P.S. I love the new site layout.

  16. Great post! I think writers do need support, which is why we congregate in places like this. Writing good content is not merely a mechanical process, otherwise machines would be doing it successfully. The ingredient that machines can’t provide is emotion, and providing emotion necessarily makes you vulnerable, whether you admit it or not. I just read this article on Business2Community about content scraping vs. content curation. http://www.business2community.com/content-marketing/scrape-aggregate-curate-create-some-definitions-0489212 While I’m a little iffy on curation still, the point is that a manual (human) ingredient is always required and content cannot be fully automated.

  17. Hi Beth,

    This is one of those superb posts that immediately makes you feel less ‘alone’ – thank you so much.

    Fear is such a powerful emotion, which dominates so much of our lives – it’s a demon that only loses its power when we look it in the eye and see it for the imposter it really is – as Goldberg says, you’re not going to die of it. If you avoid it, you empower it – far better to harness its creative energy, as you’ve done so wonderfully in this post.


  18. I have just seen this theory validated, again. I posted my first piece after the bombing here in Boston. Response has been great.

  19. This is a very helpful and timely post for me. Last night, I began writing what I thought would be a lightly humorous piece about my deceased father receiving a mail offer for prepaid cremation. But, the writing had a mind of its own and morphed into a very personal tribute to my late mother. I felt stress about publishing it but did so anyway. Then, I decided to get wild and share the link on Facebook. This felt incredibly personal and risky to me because none of my friends knew anything about my real family life and I wondered what the reactions might be. I received very positive comments on the post because the people who did read it connected with the honesty and tenderness that I had an easy time writing but a damn difficult time sharing.
    Now that I have dealt with the fear of sharing phase, I can deal with my fear of proofreading phase. Once I have written something very personal I can’t bear to make much eye contact with it and publish before much/any polishing takes place.

  20. Not to add confusion or too much off-topic, but look at Amanda Palmer’s poem and the strange backlash after the Boston bombings, mentioned on Huffpost here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/22/amanda-palmer-poem-dzhokhar-tsarnaev_n_3131925.html She definitely writes through her vulnerability, and suffered what other writers fear as a backlash against what they wrote. But the backlash was NOT the end of the line for her and she came out stronger for it. She didn’t try to fight with those who hated it, she just worked together with everyone and a new understanding of it is emerging.

  21. good stuff, I have been toying around with how powerful of s stance I want to take on my postions. I often write with a passive voice to avoid going for it. I am more passionate in conversation than I am in my wiritng… thanks for the encouragement to go for it.

  22. Excellent post.

    I’ve found that I’m often paralyzed by fear. It’s like the fear freezes me and forces me into inaction. This post does a great job outlining fear and how to push through it.

    Specifically, it’s the fear of failure that stops people from pursuing their goals. Something that helped me get past my fear of failure was a quote by Seth Godin. He says, “If failure is not an option, then neither is success.” This quote really opened my eyes to the benefits of failing, and how it is often times a better teacher than success.

    Thanks for the motivation, sometimes that’s all we need to get started and put our ideas out there for others to see.

    Keep up the great work.

    Jake Johnson

  23. I like the expression “write afraid.” It takes courage to expose the deeper more vulnerable parts of ourselves…and sometimes the not so presentable parts. I know I have been deeply moved by authentic writing. And I hope every once in a while, I put something out there that helps another feel they are not alone. One of the people who really does this well is Ann Voskamp at AHolyExperience.com. Thanks Beth!

  24. What an inspiring post, thank you for this. I am bookmarking to read again and again in the moments that I need reminding. Writing Down the Bones is another resource that reminds me…so lovely that you used it here.

  25. Great post thank you, Beth. I agree writing and connecting is scary, sometimes I think that we writers may be more scared of connecting than those who don’t write.
    It’s true, we do have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to really connect with other people, especially those who may read what we have written.

  26. Thanks Beth. This one has really made me think but I do want to challenge your premise.

    ‘Vulnerability’ is all well and good but it needs to be well defined for the content writer so as not to cross the line in terms of revealing too much about yourself, thereby endangering yourself or those around you.

    For obvious reasons we need to protect ourselves and our families online and yet we need to be human and express ’emotional intelligence’ to each of our target audiences, as suggested by the famous Daniel Goleman.

    I could tell people so much about myself that they either may not care to know or may not be useful or entertaining for everyone to know. Even if it is, it may damage my confidence to have the most vulnerable information permanently in the public domain.

    That said, I’m more than willing to share in your nervousness about writing as I am about to write my first networking presentation (this time on digital marketing for Business Mapper) since having a baby and I’ll have to balance credibility with vulnerability through what I write and say.

    All the best, Lindsey

  27. SO TRUE. no one wants to read writing that isn’t honest, passionate, and heart-felt. It’s so easy to detect. If you don’t believe in or care about your writing, no one else will either. People don’t want to read bland, emotionless posts. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  28. Thanks for this …I just started a blog a little over three weeks ago and I’ve already had a few moments of freakout. I had someone write to me “I love the way you blog to a totally anonymous audience” and I managed to view that as possibly catty (because I have no comments so far) …that’s how insecure I am about writing.
    Thanks for the encouragement !

  29. What a heart opening and courageous post, Beth! I have been flirting with the idea of blogging for years, and this post is EXACTLY why I want to blog, and exactly why I have not yet started! You nailed it perfectly, and I am now so inspired to gather up my courage and vulnerability and start writing today! I will print this post out and put it up on my wall!! Thanks for the inspiration!

  30. I like this Beth,

    I agree with your point on social media.

    I think you should write or create content on your site and then share it on social media. Dude from mashable does this all the time on G+.

    In other words let the title’s of your articles take the place of the one liners then write fearlessly to explain your point of view on important issues.

  31. Thanks for this post Beth,
    It seems that we all have struggled to put words down at some point but we still keep going.
    Trying to connect with our readers has become increasingly difficult when we are bombarded by text speak and social media that is anything but social.
    Its your passions and strong opinions that make you write something that is useful, entertaining and maybe confrontational. We wouldn’t all want to write the mediocre like everyone else now would we?

  32. People can hide behind the shadow of anonymity on the Internet, so some take advantage of it and say some really mean things.

    I once had a fitness blog where I (I’m going to make myself vulnerable now, haha) wrote about my weight loss journey. It’s gone now. I didn’t like putting myself out there. And I was afraid of hearing what people thought. Mean thoughts especially.

    Well, while my blog was up, it happened. And it happened several times by the same person. Of course, they commented about my appearance, choosing to express, stuff around the lines of that my face was ugly and that I was a pudgy dough boy, and that no woman could ever possibly find me attractive. This faceless stranger’s comments hurt me a lot. What bothered me the most was they kept coming back and leaving terrible comments.

    I ended up removing my pictures and getting rid of the blog.

  33. Sometimes that fear of opening up is the thing that ties us down, restricting us from making opinions known. It could be the make/break point of something that will be extremely popular.

  34. I recently wrote a post about the anorexia ward I brought my friend to. I was in a black mood. Angry. Bitter. I swore too much and my writing was scattered.

    Not fun reading.

    But I hit that “Publish” button anyway. Precisely because that post frightened me.

    I’m with you Beth. Sometimes we just need to publish what scares us. It doesn’t matter whether it makes for controversy or not. What matters is that we put ourselves out there. Our true selves. That’s what I want to read. Not some watered down personality that’s afraid to tell it like they see it.

    And if it gets a little ugly sometimes then so be it. At least it’s real.


  35. I too am working on something that is scaring me out of my wits. I needed this right now. Take a deep breath and go back into the cave. Thank you for posting this.

  36. Thank you for writing this! I totally needed to read this tonight. I think I’ve been struggling with this very subject as my entire blog theme deals with somewhat scary, raw topics. This was the little nudge I needed to keep writing – thank you!

  37. Talk about timing … did you write this just for me???

    I am currently working on a speech – my first public speech to a paying audience – based around how I was mute as a child. It feels so completely what I need to do right now; and after writing last night I realised that I was covering several layers over. I wasn’t connecting to my vulnerabilities and my true passion; and so my speech was lacking the oooomph I wanted. Today I’ve been struggling with allowing mySelf to connect with all of that.

    And then I read Your post. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

  38. So true. Exactly what I think. If you want to leave your mark and be memorable than you have to write through fear. You will have to be controversial sometimes without worrying how others will stereotype you.

  39. Thanks for the reminder, Beth. I’m going to use this as my mantra for writing. It’s true that when you get to the heart of what scares you, that’s where the juice is: the power, the energy.

  40. Thanks Beth! Great post.
    I appreciate your honesty in writing this post. Keep up the great work and thanks for pushing us content writers to dig deeper and write better.

  41. Extra special thanks for this one, Beth. I love Brene Brown’s work and “Daring Greatly” is in my top 10 list of best non-fiction reads. My wish for us all: “May you find the courage to offer yourself fully to what has heart and meaning for you.” ~ Dawna Markova

  42. As a writer, I couldn’t agree more that the places that scare us are where the juice is. When we sit down to write those places, sometimes the first draft is the therapy draft–getting the anger out or the pain or whatever. What readers want and need is not necessarily the raw, it’s the hope that comes from knowing we’re not alone in this scary life process. Writing in a way that communicates that hope means writing “real”–and often the writer has to be a few steps down the road to write “real” instead of “raw.” Readers don’t want to wallow, they want to connect. And, Beth, I’m totally with you on the limits of social media! Not only is it often not emotionally real, it’s removed from the senses too. I’m a human animal. I need the sight, feel, smell, voice of my friends!

  43. Thank you for having the courage to write this post. It’s incredibly timely in my own journey and I have now bookmarked it for future reference. Thanks!

  44. Just the other day I tweeted and posted this quote from Vincent Van Gogh on my Fan Page.

    “If you hear a voice within you say: ‘you cannot paint’ then by all means paint & that voice will be silenced.”

    The same holds true with writing – or any creative endeavor.

  45. Really enjoyed this post, Beth. Love Brené Brown! Applies very well to writing. It can be scary, but you’re absolutely right. The best stuff comes out when you suck it up and go ahead and do it afraid. 🙂

    Time to go write those blog posts…

  46. I’ve listened to a number of Brene Brown podcasts through Sounds True, and your post affirms much of what I’ve learned from her. Thanks.

  47. Here’s an example of an article I wrote, and which I posted on my blog, but I’m too scared to submit it anywhere: http://thinkinghard.com/blog/TraumaticFlashbacksAHypothesis.html .

    It’s about the most horrible things that happen to people, and how people react to it, and it’s a speculative theory (which means it could be completely wrong) based on my own very limited personal experience of such things. So it’s sure to upset someone.

    At the same time, it considers ideas which I think need to be considered, if we are to properly understand how people’s minds deal with the bad things that happen to them.

  48. This isn’t quite the same thing, but sometimes I can’t write because I am mentally tired, or because I can’t wrap my head around a topic fully. I know it would be better to keep writing, but I don’t always muster the discipline. Mwuap Mwuap….

  49. Social media is indeed a blessing in disguise for the human race. We got the minutest solution for all problems. The fear of writing is maybe unknown but indeed very important problem as well. As rightly said ” Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood”

  50. Absolutely true! For myself, I find myself in “paralysis by analysis” far too often. Wondering if my writing is going to resonate well enough… or if my keywords are right… or if I even make sense. I think writing is meant to be much more raw than that. I learned from Jeff Goins that it’s OK to JUST be a writer… and have no alterior motives. Do we need to create attractive content that will draw in readers to make money down the road? Sure. But it all starts, as this post says, by being completely vulnerable and realizing that we all resonate at some level with some people. Nobody will change the world on their own… just write, share, connect. It’s so liberating!

  51. I’m sitting here at my computer writing a very personal story of mine, my breath is getting shorter, my stomach is turning in knots, I feel afraid, vulnerable, … about to cry. I decide to google, “being a vulnerable writer” and your blog comes up. THANK YOU! I love Brene Brown, too, and am so happy you used her as your example. It connected with me and gives me more courage to keep typing away, and share my words, even if I’m freaking out about it. Deep breaths… here I go… 🙂

  52. Thanks for this wonderful post: I really enjoyed reading it.

    However, I really think there is too much of a fuss made over fear.

    Why should there be fear, insecurity and other hang ups?

    Indeed, it is possible to have a zen-like attitude when you are writing.

    “When you are carrying wood, just carry wood. When you are drinking water, just drink water. When you are writing, just write.”

    And let the words and ideas dance to the rythm of the beat without worrying about the outcome.

    Having said that, of course, everybody is wired differently. What is true for me may not be true for you. And we are all evolving, so there is always scope for improvement. Just a thought. Have a good one.

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