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Letting the Fear Go
by Kathryn Lay

When I was a kid, I was really afraid my parents might split up. I was also afraid of heights (still am), losing my best friend, making bad grades in school, and spiders.

As a writer, I find that there are different fears I struggle with. But if I hold onto those fears, it affects my performance, productivity, marketing, and joy in my writing.

Common writing fears include:

1. Fear of writing it down. I’ve known many would-be writers who have a great desire to write, but are afraid to actually sit down and do it. What if it’ s lousy? What if it’s harder than they think? What if they discover that they really don’t have anything to say, or don’t know how to say it.

Letting Go:

No writing is carved in stone. The great thing about writing is that it’s most often rewritten. Sit down, get it down, then rewrite it until you feel good about it. Tell yourself that it’s only for you. Begin your writing career or enhance it by taking writing classes, going to a writing conference, joining a writing organization.

2. Fear of critique. You’ve got those stories, articles, or that book written, but you wonder if it’s ready to be seen by an editor. You know other writers who could look at it, but what if they suggest changes? What if they don’ t tell you it’s wonderful and worthy of an award? What if they don’t get it or the humor doesn’t make them laugh?

Letting Go:

Find one writer you really trust their opinion. Explain that you want their honest help, but you’re nervous. Remember that, even though you’ve poured your heart into your writing, they aren’t telling you that you are a horrible person because they suggest that point number 3 in your article needs to be fleshed out or because the ending to your short story is too easy. Finding a good critique partner or group is the best free help you can get. If it’s confusing to them, it’ll be confusing to an editor and you won’t be sitting beside the editor to explain what you mean.

3. Fear to market. I remember in my early writing career how scary it was to send out those first pieces. Later, when I found marketing fun and an adventure, I met a writer who told me she’d written four children’s novels, a dozen short stories, and several poems. But she was afraid to send them out, so they sat in her drawer. What if you get rejected? What if you get rejected five times on the same story? What if you run out of market ideas?

Letting Go:

Have a market plan and get organized. You’ve invested a lot of time researching, writing, rewriting your piece, so why would you not send it out? What does it cost but a little bit of time and some postage, often not even the postage with the many opportunities to submit by email? When you’ve written your story or while you are planning your essay or article, make a list of potential markets for that project. Check the Writer’s Market, writing magazines, writing websites. Look at bookstores and friend’s homes for ideas of magazines to market too. Begin your list with the best market and work your way down. Now, if it is rejected, you already know where you will send it next, and next, and next.

4. Fear of rejection. What if my piece comes back rejected? Does this mean the editor hates me? Does it mean they never want to see my writing again? Is it time to throw this piece of writing away? How many rejections DO indicate I should give up on a piece?

Letting Go:

Rejection is a part of writing. The real test as a writer is how you handle rejection. Is it a personal reflection on you as a person? No. Is it an indication you are a lousy writer? No. DOES the editor hate you? Why would they? Rejection is such a broad thing in writing that you have to learn to separate it from your writing, from your belief in yourself as a writer and from your confidence in that piece.

This is one reason why I have come up with a marketing plan for my pieces. If I find fifteen markets for an article, then after 2 rejections, I can still see that long list. Do I give up on a piece after a few rejections? Rarely. If I get any specific comments from an editor, I will look over the piece and perhaps rewrite. If I’ve gotten to the end of my list and still no sale, I definitely rewrite. But I’ve had essays or articles or stories sell suddenly after giving up. A new market comes along or I notice an editor has moved from a publication I sent it to before.

A piece might be rejected because of the content not being needed, the slant of the piece, or the editor’s needs or mood that day. My favorite rejection story is the personal experience piece that was rejected and, several weeks later I accidentally sent it back to the same magazine because I’d forgotten to cross it off my list. This time it was accepted. Why? Perhaps the editor rejected everything on her desk that day when it first came through. Or maybe the second time they discovered they needed something on this topic.


Letting fear control you as a writer is what can bring on writer’s block, marketing inability, lack of confidence. Trust your dreams and who you are. Take risks. No one is going to send a bomb with a rejection or tell every editor they know that you are the worst joke of a writer they’ve ever seen. Hone your skills, spend time marketing, find trustworthy critique, and treat rejection as an opportunity to learn or sell to a better market that may come along.

Don’t be afraid. Be excited. It’s more fun.

© Copyright 2006, Kathryn Lay

Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through rlay15@aol.com

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