The ONE thing behind our trouble writing

divides day

Jump Writer! Jump!

Many of our writing troubles have one thing lurking behind them. Ok, it might not be the only thing, but more often than not it is the best thing to take a look at when we have been procrastinating, deferring, stalled, or zapped by a ray of almost-done-stasis-perpetual-motion-freeze-dimensionator.

And what is that thing?


But there is one surprising thing about fear in writing which we need to realize, and that is that quite often we will not actually feel this fear.

So it is necessary to actually go look for it. Let’s understand a couple things about these not quite present fears:

  1. They are about the unknown itself
  2. That once we find what they are about—they are not as scary

So we might be having writing problems but not actually realizing that we are afraid. Instead, what is top of mind is worry over our inability to get to work, or puzzlement at being perplexed about how to revise this piece, etc. Those are at the top of mind and we are not as aware of the fear underneath it.

It’s quite simple to check in on this, but it is not something we will habitually do. So make a point of checking in and see what is up with us emotionally, and get specific about it. Imagine that “I can’t figure out where to put this paragraph” is coming up. There may be several possible fears we can find. Go find what some of that might be it. It might be “I am afraid of messing it up” or “I am afraid it will not be good” or “I am afraid I will choose wrong.”

The big tip here is: focus very specifically. It’s not hard to get something in the ballpark. Then we can start to look at how afraid we really are to take the risk and put the paragraph somewhere. How bad will it be for us, if we choose the wrong place for the paragraph? We can then take a look at what our capacity really is for absorbing that risk and danger, what we can tolerate, for the sake of our art.

And most of the time the simple answer comes back that we can take it. This paragraph placement risk is something I can bear. When I didn’t really contact this fear, it kind of inserted a gangly interference energy in my process, but actually looking at it, I am quite fine.

In some things in life, it may be better to play it safe and keep everything regular and predictable and risk-free. But in the art and craft of writing, this is not the case at all. We must take risks.

We have to leap.

And leap. And leap. It is one continuous process of leaping.

We have to keep pushing ourselves into scary things and get used to that. Of course, each little step is not really that scary if we look into it, but each one is a little bit scary. It’s not like there isn’t a tiny bit of scary in there. There is. So this is the territory that writers explore. It comes with it.

This scariness is what writing is.

Part of us just habitually assumes that things ought to be safe. That safe is right state, and not-safe is the wrong state. This is a good thing living with wolves. Writing: not so good. This is assumption is running in the background while we write and it is holding us back.

Writing is not safe. Writing is risk.

Each decision forward is just a little like leaping out of an airplane to sky dive.


Risk-taking will make you more confident. It’s a stirring you can get used to.

When we are afraid, we will interpret these bodily stirrings as danger and warning signals, but when we develop a taste for risk these same vibrations of the body will be interpreted as thrilling and fun.

A writer leaps and jumps and risks.

Just don’t go on from that to looking for bigger hits than writing, like, real sky-diving. That looks actually dangerous, based on what I see on TV.