Writers: What Are You Afraid Of?

Photo by Ourania
Photo by Ourania

That I’ll only end up drowning in the sea of online voices. That no one cares. That I’m not interesting enough, attractive enough, young enough, clever enough, or technically adroit enough to catch and hold anyone’s attention no matter what I blog/post about, when, where, how, or how often.”

This is how Karyn Henley, an author I am working with described her fear of promoting her books. I had two reactions when reading this:

  1. Wow – how honest she was.
  2. How common these fears seemed. (even if we rarely share them publicly)

And it made me consider: why do we often hide these fears? From ourselves, and from the world, perhaps because they somehow seem shameful?

I have heard a lot of quotes akin to “the brave aren’t those without fear; they are simply those who feel fear, yet move ahead despite it.”

Too often we avoid talking about fear because it seems like an embarrassing debilitation – something that if we pretend isn’t there – if we don’t discuss out loud, that at least we can give the illusion that we are brave and unaffected. But bravery is usually FULL of fear in the mix. So let’s talk about it.

I think that the more we try to pretend that fear doesn’t and shouldn’t exist, the more we hurt our own chances to create whatever it is you dream about.

I have been talking to writers about this – what are their fears as authors. I mean the stuff that keeps them up at night. The stuff behind why we procrastinate, and why we do or don’t take actions to create or share our work.

Today, I would like to explore what I have been hearing. Here are a few of the fears we discussed:


This seemed to be the number 1 fear among writers: That no one will care, no one will read their books, no one will feel any sense of enthusiasm about this thing they created.

I think this is what people who put themselves ‘out there’ learn through experience… They, at first, worry about failure: people HATING their book. But the reality is that the WORSE thing is that you create and share something, and no one even notices. The conclusion is that it was so bad, it wasn’t worth anyone’s time to notice.

As one writer shared with me on Facebook:

“I think I’d rather someone hate my work then not be affected by it in any way.”


I wasn’t entirely sure where the lines were between these too. Basically it boiled down to a fear that “I am stupid or wrong or not good enough.” I suppose the line is this: an INTERNAL fear of not feeling worthy vs an EXTERNAL fear of taking the risk to feel you are worthy, and the world slapping you across the face as a correction.

The external stuff is what we would expect from any creative venture where you put yourself out there: “That people won’t like my voice/content/style,” said one writer, “and “It wavers between ‘I can’t write worth a damn’ and ‘no one will care about what I write’.”

For the internal stuff, it can become extremely personal. One writer shared: “Sometimes I think when things feel like they’re starting to work out, I sabotage myself.” The complexity of what goes on inside of ourselves can be dramatically more difficult to understand than external factors.

But it gets even more complex than that – it can wrap up into our public identity. As Karyn also shared with me:

“We [writers] often appear intrepid and expert in how we present ourselves, because we want to be seen as competent and worthy of attention. Inside, most of us are very insecure.”


Whenever someone signs up for my newsletter, I ask them what their biggest challenge is an author. This is a response I received earlier in the week that I have heard so often in the past: “[My challenge:] A new book launch, finding my readers without coming off as annoying.”

This one seems age old for anyone who is creating something considered “art.” That, if you do anything to “promote” it, you are somehow selling out, or becoming needy in the eyes of others. I have written a lot about this in the past, and my gut is that each of have considered this (or experienced this feeling) in the past.

This too can go deeper as well, as one author put it: “I fear engagement. There, I said it. Eeeek! Engagement is an intimate process. I am an introvert who can behave in an extroverted way when I have a clear need, goal, motivation.”

The conversation around introverts/extroverts is too involved to adequately cover here, but I wanted to at least mention it. My biggest concern with this one is if this fear of being annoying silences people, and prevents them from sharing their writing, and connecting with like minds. But, I know, that there is a big line between “I wrote this and think you may like it,” and an unending series of Tweets to “Buy my book, buy my buy, buy my book!”


Another author’s fear: “That I’ll invest loads of time I can’t get back, and it go nowhere.”

To me, this spoke about a fear of return on investment. Every writer has precious few resources, often split between writing, family, work, and so many other things. And what we invest in can affect how others view us. For instance, if we spend months & years building something, and then it flops, we feel “stupid” in the eyes of others. I’m not saying this is a rule, but the “fear of embarrassment” is such a big driver in my opinion as to why so many folks don’t take chances in their personal life or career.


This is one I am adding here myself because I believe that in general, people fear change. And because of this, a lot of smaller fears are wrapped up in the service of this larger one. This can play out in a myriad of ways for writers, since so much has (and continues to) change in how we share writing and communicate with each other due to digital media and the internet.


We are often afraid of things that we don’t fully understand. So the obvious solution here is to better UNDERSTAND what it is we hope to achieve and how they will come to be. Key to this is focusing on the human side of this, questions such as: “Who is my ideal reader? Where are they? What do they love?”

I had shared this in a blog post three years ago, but I think it is applicable here:
I am a huge fan of Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com, who interviews entrepreneurs. This is what he has learned when interviewing entrepreneurs who have written and published books:

“Authors don’t want to talk about their books after they’re published, for the most part. One of the reasons I heard is that they have this big vision for how big their lives are going to be, how much their lives are going to change after they publish their book. And they imagine their publisher is going to get them publicity, that they are going to get themselves publicity, they are going to be on Oprah, and then…”

“…nothing happens.”

“They have to hustle to sell their books, just like they have to hustle to sell anything. People aren’t paying attention to them. Once they realize that, and they push as much as they can, they don’t want to talk about the book anymore, because some of them are just a little embarrassed by how poorly it did compared to their vision. So they move on with their lives.”

Does that sound familiar to any of you? A big problem might be a lack of reasonable expectations on one’s own goals (beyond blindly hoping for “success” without a clear sense of what that looks like), and a lack of understanding of who they want to reach, and why those people would care.

When I work with an author, we first focus intently on their goals – getting very specific about what they hope to achieve short/mid/long-term. Then we switch gears to focus on their ideal audience, and learn about who they are, where they are, and what their core motivations are as it relates to books, writing, and worldview.

Whenever I consider that fear an author has in sharing their writing and developing an audience, I consider the value of LISTENING to their idea audience. This, as opposed to setting a strategy of just blanketing social media with updates about their book. (bleh!)

I recently watched a video of a designer from Nike – one of the people behind their innovative new shoe designs that are based off of woven threads, essentially a complex sock glued on top of a rubber outsole.

When I first heard of this, I thought it was a joke, and now that I have run in them, I am sold on an entirely new way that running shoes should be crafted. How did they move past the fear of what they have to lose in order to create something new? A classic Nike response:

“For us, having that single focus, which is our athlete, and listening to and observing them from the beginning of a project all the way through to the end is extremely vital.”

His talk is filled with other product design truisms, including:

  • “We begin our conversations looking back at our history – story is very important to us.”
  • “We fail [in order to] learn where our boundaries are.”
  • “We are always building and creating products. Build it as quickly as you can.”

But his reminder that when you are serving someone else’s needs, you focus intently on them throughout the process is a good reminder when it comes to how to share your writing in a way that feels natural and resonates. (BIG note here that I am referring to the process of SHARING your work, not writing books by committee. I 100% know that your writing is YOUR art, YOUR voice.)

Inherently, this is a process developing an emotional literacy of understanding your own goals and fears, and those of the reader.


One writer told me: “[I’m] working on writing my second book now, I fear it won’t live up to the first.” That, with any amount of success can often come the feeling that now you have something to lose.

When I asked the question on Twitter: “What is your biggest FEAR in terms of sharing your writing with the world?”, author Emily Gould shared this response:

@DanBlank that hordes of assholes will attack me for it without even reading it and I still won’t be able to make a living from it, I guess?

I had met Emily at a meetup a year or two back, and had a nice conversation about her work. But this week, I saw an intriguing profile of her in The New York Times, which shared a backstory I never new, and perhaps explains some of the context for her Twitter response to me.

What fascinates me about Emily’s story and responses is that it indicates that our fears don’t go away, they simply evolve as we evolve. As she moved from one phase of her career to another, as her goals and challenges changed, so did the risk and fears attached to them. And that the past can compound with the present to make a weird amalgamation of new fears remixed with previous accomplishments. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is.

Too often, I believe “new” writers assume that if they just get over some mythical hump in their writing career, that things become easier, at least on an emotional level. I haven’t found that to be the case when talking with writers. Everything is relative, and no “success” can stop us from being human beings who oftentimes run on survival instincts, and who have a difficult time processing a complex social world.

All this to say: I don’t think fear is a shameful thing that we must rid ourselves of. It is a natural part of taking the risks that writers do. And that the logical reaction to fear should indeed be bravery.

So tell me writers, what are you afraid of?



About Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers share their stories and connect with readers. He has helped hundreds of authors via online courses, events, consulting, and workshops, and worked with amazing publishing houses and organizations who support writers such as Random House, Workman Publishing, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer’s Digest, Library Journal, and many others.


  1. says

    Typos. Large dogs (I’m frail – if I get knocked over, it may be a big problem). Falling off my bike (I’m rather unsteady right now). Not being able to walk.

    And, of course, publishing and embarrassing the hell out of myself. In a million different ways.

    Not having the skills to do what I want. Producing tripe. Losing what’s left of my brain.

    I keep a Fear Journal of sorts – and I’m happy when I catch a new one for my collection.

    Sometimes just reading all the fears ends up with me going, “Yada, yada, yada – so what else is new?” and then getting to work.

    I think extracting them from the subconscious, where the prowl and terrify you, is the key: once they’re out there in the daylight in all their glory, fears are something that need addressing or ignoring, but less something that can cripple – because anyone who is old enough to write has been dealing with fears for a long time.

    • says

      I like this, although why anyone would go near a bike is beyond me. As for keeping a “fear journal,” OK, if doing this serves you in some way, so be it. I happen to like what neuro-scientist/linguist George Lakoff has to say about “framing the argument.” Get people to keep using words you put in play, and even those who use those words to refute your argument are reinforcing it. By repetition. I think this has some application to one’s fears: spend enough time dwelling on them, and they loom larger and larger. I don’t advocate a head-in-the-sand approach–you have to know what needs dealing with. But encouraging people to dwell on their fears doesn’t strike me as altogether useful.

      • says

        I like how you explore the sides of this! My gut is that the value of a fear journal may be determined by personality type. That said, NAMING your fears is useful. Also, putting them in their place. EG: don’t make your bedroom your “writing room” if it is stressful. You won’t sleep – because there is no safe restful place.

        • says

          Once it’s written down, the fear becomes BORING.

          While it’s still circling the drains in my head, it’s scary, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

          Ergo, write it down – so my brain doesn’t think I’m ignoring its warnings.

          Then, when that particular fear resurfaces, disguised as NEW, I can say, “Been there, done that, go away.”

          I’m getting very good at it.


      • says

        Barry: it’s very simple. I can’t walk around the block. But I can go for a half-hour bike ride.

        It gives me freedom – of movement, and from being stuck in the house.

        It uses so much less energy than walking (it’s flat around here, and I coast a lot), that I can afford it, even with CFS.

        In short, without that bike I’m getting very close to being an old woman in a wheelchair.

        It scares the hell out of me.


        • says

          You have to forgive throw-away lines from the likes of me. Bikes hurt my butt, that’s all. No, that’s not all: in the age of people texting while driving, or making calls, or listening to iPods, etc., I want nothing to do with bikes. But I’m an old man who’s not in a wheel chair–yet–so I think I can appreciate someone with chronic fatigue syndrome who relies on a bike to get a little fresh air and see the world.

    • says

      Interesting concept – to write them down. I know that is a great tactic for dealing with to-do lists, so it makes sense to do that with fears too. Thanks so much for sharing so openly here!

  2. says

    This post is very thought provoking, Dan. Fear of failure in the arts is so common and who among us hasn’t been through very similar thoughts. I like Alicia’s thought on keeping a fear journal. There’s nothing like identifying fears to reduce them. Sometimes having a character conquer his or her fear is really good therapy for a writer. I think you’ve nailed it when you say that its the expectations that enhance the fears. Disappointments are part of a writer’s life so if you fall off the horse, then you know what to do if you want to ride into that sunrise.

    • says

      Thanks. Context and timing can really play into this. Two failures could be “annoying” in general, but if they are back to back, a writer can begin to craft a narrative that the “ship is sinking.” Finding proactive ways to deal with this is pretty critical.

  3. says

    Oh dear, I have lots of fears. In some cases acting upon those fears was a good thing, like kissing my mother every time she left the house for fear she might get hit by a bus. But for the most part, I’ve made poor decisions based upon fear. I didn’t go to medical school for fear of high debt. I didn’t have more children for fear of them sucking away all my energy. These regrets run deep. Now that I’m older and wiser, many new fears have cropped up, but I no longer let them stop me in my tracks. I take my son driving (he’s 15) and pray an Ave. I pray for the good angels to surround us. Interestingly, I’ve not had fears about writing — oh, the usual insecurities about not being good enough, exasperated at my abilities vs. where I want to be, but I dive in and write and practice and study. I trust in the good Lord. He’s always come to my rescue. My only fear now is the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.

    • says

      Thanks Vijaya! The “older and wiser” comment in particular gets to me, because I try to listen to those who have been down the roads I am on, and do what I can to reduce any looming regrets!

  4. says

    I hate to gain a reputation for morbidity here on WU, but I think there is an ultimate lesson on facing your fears. It was painfully illustrated by the tragic loss of our dear friend Lisa.

    Lisa was fearless on the page. Like me, she wrote epic fantasy in an alternate historical world. She was exactly my age. She’d come back to writing later in life. She intricately crafted an entire trilogy before showing book one to the world. I was lucky enough to read The Wall of Knives. It was so close to ready. She was so damn close to taking the fantasy world by storm. Life is too short. Shortly after I heard of her passing, through the ache and sorrow of loss, one thought kept reoccurring: What will happen to her beautiful story?

    Lisa’s family and friends are going to see to the editing and publication of Wall of Knives. But I know there was so very much more to the story. So very much more potential in that awesomely creative, bitingly clever mind of hers. And when it comes out, I cannot give her the hug and high five she so rightfully deserves. The world of epic fantasy will be a bit less rich for her loss. We all feel the fears Dan so aptly describes. But how can facing these stand up to this ultimate reality? We live but once. We must strive to abolish potential future regrets.

    Lisa is rightfully still listed on the right sidebar of this post. Her spirit lives on in so many of those of us who knew her. The WU Un-conference will be dedicated to her honor; so apt, as she would have us not waste a single day, a single hour, on our journey to share our creations. Thanks for a great post, Dan!

  5. says

    I’ve made the decision to self-pub and continue the traditional path at the same time. The biggest fear of self-publishing is that you lose that filter of agents and editors who will save you from putting out something awful with your name on it. So the theory goes. Based on the number of terrible trad published books I’ve read, that filter doesn’t always work. Like most of you, I’ve got a small stable of 5 or 6 novels that will never see publication. Not only because they were rejected but because I know they’re not ready. Each one is a little better than the last, but…not quite there. So the fear is how do I know number 7 is the one that’s ready, especially if I self-pub? I think we have to learn to trust our instincts. We mature as writers after our long list of dissappointments. We know when our work is ready and when it’s not, mostly because of all those agents, editors, and other writers who have told us what is lacking and how to fix it. At some point, you hit a confidence level that allows you to take the next step. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You get rejected again? A few one-star reviews or none at all? It’s time to say “I’m a professional writer” and do that stuff that professional writers do. The fear doesn’t go away. You just learn to deal with it.

    • says

      Love this – thank you. It’s very much an entrepreneurial spirit that you describe here, and a key thing you learn when running a business is that you have to learn to MOVE THROUGH the roadblocks, not give them the power to deep six everything else you are building. And yes, that takes time to develop.

  6. says

    Right now my biggest fear is not remembering some crucial task in my commitments to blog, do a newsletter, write a book chapter, and give eight different talks in the next month. I wish I had a more systematic mind — or an administrative assistant again. Guess which one I want more?

  7. Denise Willson says

    I fear fear. Really. I worry I will someday tarnish my shiny badge of optimism and drown in ‘what ifs,’ ‘who saids,’ and ‘why mes.’ I worry I will someday forget how much I LOVE to write, how it makes me happy.

    Thank you, Dan, your post is a reminder for me, a reminder of all the things I don’t want to fear.

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth and GOT

  8. Brian Hoffman says

    Not being the youngest of writers, I’m a little afraid that I will come to the end of my days without writing all the stories that are swimming around in my head.

  9. says

    You hit my biggest fear square on the head with this: “no one will feel any sense of enthusiasm about this thing they created.” Even though I’ve had an encouraging amount of enthusiasm from early readers, I’m still waiting to find that enthusiastic agent, and that can throw a writer into doubt spirals that end with thoughts like, “I’m wasting my time” and “Wouldn’t it be easier to stop striving?” Intellectually, you still know that everyone strives and everyone spends a lot of time on projects that never make their way out into the world, so you keep moving. But the fear that you’ll never make a ripple, let alone a wave, is always there.

    • says

      Just worry about the little ripples. Each one REALLY matters. To me, you saying that a beta reader liked your work is HUGE. That is the focus, not the deficiency of “yeah, but no agents will sign me.” Readers readers readers.

  10. says

    Dan Blank–Thanks for your thoughtful discussion of fears facing writers.

    The first fear category you take up is “apathy,” and you offer a typical writer’s concern: that what he/she wrote “is so bad, it wasn’t worth anyone’s time to notice.” No, I don’t have this fear. My fear is that the new, technology-driven indie system competing with trad publishing makes mastery of marketing technique more important than writing good books. Of course lip service is constantly paid to “quality,” but the reality is that many mediocre indie books are succeeding. The reason? Through Internet technique, the author knows how to create a personal bond with readers through SEO, websites, newsletters, etc. The reader is stroked and attended to until she likes the writer, not so much for her books, but because she’s now a chum.

    Under “judgment and/or lack of confidence,” again you characterize a typical fear-plagued writer’s attitude: “I am stupid or wrong or not good enough.” I’m not saying writers don’t have momentary lapses of this sort–of course they do (like anyone else). But anyone who regularly succumbs to them–with or without advice from others–is not likely to succeed as a writer, or much else.

    “Fearing change.” Here, you speak to me. I do fear change in the writing world, and for good reason. I have real problems managing the psychological and technical aspects of self-promotion. As a consequence, I have hired others to help me. They helped themselves to my money, but did not help me sell my books. So, yes, this is a real fear: I can’t promote my work without technical assistance, but so far, that help is proving to be out of reach.

    • says

      Thanks for exploring this here. I suppose I don’t see as much of a “new, technology-driven indie system,” mostly because no one can figure out what the system is. Likewise, I think the concern of “quality” of what is published has always been around. In the 90’s, 80’s, 70’s and before that. I was doing research on the history of comics recently and of course came across LOTS of these same fears of quality from the 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. I just suppose I have a different perspective on this one.

      Likewise, for confidence, that’s a tricky one. I know LOTS of successful people in a variety of fields (both traditional “creative” fields and others,) who would privately admit to being plagued by anxiety that relates to confidence.

      I am VERY sorry to hear that you have invested in the services of others, and feel that expectations have not been met. As writers such as yourself do these things, I think that is where the topic of entrepreneurship comes into place – managing finite resources, how to invest, manage processes, etc. It is not a simple process here any more than it is for a restaurant.

      THANK YOU so much!

  11. Stephanie Hilliard says

    The apathy one really hit home with me. What if I write something and no one cares? I’ve had that fear of drowning in a sea of voices, of being just another cover on a shelf, if I even got that far.

    As someone starting out as a freelancer, my other fear is “what if I can’t make money at this?” I KNOW I can do a good job writing, but what if I can’t convince other people? What if I just can’t get the clients I need? I’m not just worried about letting myself down, I’m worried about letting my husband down because my money, or lack of it, affects both of us.

    I guess my other fear is the story itself. I know I can write, but can I tell a good story? Will people be glad they spent the time to read what I wrote because the story gripped them?

    • says

      There is so much in here, THANK YOU Stephanie. The financial concerns are ones that hit close to home, as I run a small business as well. At that level, it feels SO incredibly personal because this truly is the livelihood for my family. With so many of the business owners I have spoken to or researched, you learn about the complex backstory that goes on between their business and personal financial life. It’s a complex topic, as is anything having to do with money. THANK YOU again for sharing all of this.

  12. says

    If you’d’ve asked me this about 6 months ago, I’d’ve listed all these things I was afraid of or disappointed in or angsting about in my writing life; however, since I have completely uprooted my life, turned it upside down and shook out all the pockets, all those fears about my books and my writing seemed a little”silly” to me — don’t get me wrong, I still want the things from my writing life that I wanted before, and don’t misunderstand that I am saying that having those fears is “silly” – it’s not – it’s real and it’s difficult and this business is tough on the innards.

    But, I began to look outside of my novelist life – to the woman I am beyond my books and my writing and how well they do or do not do. I began to see larger things in my life that require my attention – I began to see the things that were hidden from me because I hid from them – all to do this thing we do. Being a novelist simply isn’t going to be enough anymore because we never are satisfied–no matter how much we achieve, we up the stakes.

    So, since we are always upping those stakes, it’s an endless process of dissatisfaction – unless, at least for me, I find that outside source from beyond my own writerly angsty crap and go out to a bigger more open space. It takes some of the pressure off. It allows me to be “something more” – I am allowing myself to be and experience something more from life so I can find satisfaction from that to offset the dissatisfied novelist life.

    yeah, I’m scared of a lot of things – I have a lot of fears, but releasing and just accepting and moving on and moving forward keeps me from banging my GD head against the novelist head-banging wall.

    • says

      This is incredibly deep: “I began to see the things that were hidden from me because I hid from them ”

      Thank you.

  13. says

    That I will be called out as an imposter. There it is. That all my years of dreaming and the last four years of real work, late nights, lost sleep, tears, more tears, and being brave in the face of this fear will be for nothing. Someone will call me a hack and I will know, somewhere deep inside, it’s true. I will retreat back into my hole, lose my mojo, and very importantly, my writing community.

    That is my fear. That’s the thing I have to step up to every day, laugh in its face, and write and work and cry anyway.

    Vaughn mentioned Lisa. Lisa and I talked a great deal about bravery and writing. She would have loved this post and admired each of you here for sharing your fears, and doing what you must anyway.

  14. Ginny says

    I do not like being the center of attention. I suppose it is becasue, being a twin, I was constantly the center of attention, but always had someone to “lean on” /deal with it. I am innately shy and imagine I am dragging my feet about publishng my short stories and novel because of dreading having to be a promoter which I am not.

  15. says

    Hello Dan,

    Apathy would be my culprit. Of all the things you highlighted, that one took my by the throat and squeezed, tearing apart some scar tissue.

    What I find most terrifying about apathy is that it doesn’t matter how high you climb the publishing ladder: if you start to miss the mark, it’s waiting for you like a leopard in the tall grasses. “Why isn’t anyone commenting?” “Why isn’t anyone at least telling me what they think?” Or, you’re having a conversation with a friend who bought your book and you don’t want to be pushy, but it hurts that all that conversation your book never comes up (if you have to ask, that’s not a good sign.)

    Vaughn – your words about Lisa really touched me, and it’s sentiments like that which keep me coming back. I have a story to tell, something unique to offer, and, even though in the past I’ve been embarrassed by putting myself on the line too soon, that doesn’t mean I should stop. Not just me, but all of us – we all have unique stories to tell. To go back to Marybeth’s post of three days ago, we’re in the stroke clinic, and I think we should cheer each other on.

    Ron – you also make a great comment about having to trust your gut. I’m on novel number four now, and, as always, optimism abounds. I remember the same feeling with novel number three. But I think your relentless spirit is THE spirit to combat the otherwise detrimental bite of apathy: set your sights on how you can move your audience, strive for it, and never settle for second best. Whether you are traditionally published or self-published, the final product will be the same.

    As a final thought, I’ve learned to heed the wisdom of Einstein and put in a good measure of hard work, hard work, hard work, and “shut my mouth”. Rice does not cook properly if you peek at it. Then, when all is ready, serve to beta readers, collect symptoms, make diagnoses, administer prescriptions (those on the WU Facebook group – the video shared yesterday about critiquing is a must-see!). Cook again, doing things a little different. Repeat as required until satisfied the story is doing what I intend. The end result: no apathy.

  16. says

    For the longest time, I was afraid that other writers would discover that I had dyslexia and they’d kick me out of the club. Then I learned that other well-loved, well-respected authors had dyslexia. You’d think that my fear would dissolve… But, no, that didn’t happen. There’s always something to fear. The trick is to channel the energy in this emotion to propel you onward.

  17. Amber Cartriana says

    Success – What if it is and then the world see’s who I am, what I look like, my age, learns about me, and becomes discouraged and that turns them away from my book(s)…and/or the pressure to pump out the others in the series quickly at the same quality and I buckle under the stress, or ZERO success and the emotional disappointment of that. 1st timer at agent search stage and procrastinating.

  18. says

    To paraphrase Pogo, “I have seen the enemy, and it is me.”

    My biggest fear as a writer is that I will become discouraged and let myself give in to all the distractions that are clamoring for my attention, tempting me to step away from my keyboard.

    As much as I’ve always loved to write, and felt compelled to put stories on paper, doing it well is hard work! I’ve experienced enough success with my novels to feel encouraged most of the time, but am aware of how easily I could give in to the many time-guzzling temptations around me.

  19. says

    “That I’ll only end up drowning in the sea of online voices. That no one cares. That I’m not interesting enough, attractive enough, young enough, clever enough, or technically adroit enough to catch and hold anyone’s attention no matter what I blog/post about, when, where, how, or how often.”
    Karyn Henley,

    How did Karyn get into my head?

    My intense fear is all the marketing/PR/social media stuff. How to do it “right”. Being consistent – I have ADHD, I struggle with being consistent with anything. Saying/blogging something that triggers a firestorm of flamers that will ruin whatever I’ve managed to build.

    You said:

    “When I work with an author, we first focus intently on their goals – getting very specific about what they hope to achieve short/mid/long-term. Then we switch gears to focus on their ideal audience, and learn about who they are, where they are, and what their core motivations are as it relates to books, writing, and worldview.”

    I would have a terrible time with the goals. But worse, at this point, is focusing on my ideal audience.

    Where does one find these people?

    I type various words related to my book into my search engine and what I get are *authors*. Loads and loads of places where *authors* that write in my genre – or any genre – gather online. I’ve not succeeded in finding where the readers are. I can’t listen to them, get to know them, find out what they want and are interested in because I can’t find them. Yes, authors are usually also readers, but I think we’re all looking for readers who aren’t also authors.

    (I’ll throw in here that I need to do more looking into groups on Goodreads – maybe more readers hang out there than the other social sites I’m on.)

    I’m not dreaming fortune. I’m not envisioning fame. I would like my books to sell and to end up with a good sized base of loyal readers. (Whatever would be considered a “good sized” base.) But all the marketing/PR/and social networking stuff freezes me. My publisher has a marketing/PR team and they are being great with encouraging me and trying to allay my fears. But I’m still afraid that I’m not going to be able to do everything that’s needed for my book to succeed and still have enough time or energy left to actually get the next book finished.

    And that’s scary.

    • Nancy Hatch says

      Pearl, you’ve nailed one of my biggest fears right now. I feel incredible pressure to get into the social networking/blogging/tweeting… universe, but as a dinosaur, I don’t have the skills, interest or time to learn all of this. And I’m afraid I will fail miserably, or as you mention, say that one unforgivable thing that will be quoted and derided forever. I’m afraid I have nothing interesting or important or different enough to say. There are already a million blogs out there that say it better. Who am I to add to the background noise? I’m afraid that if I finally give in and try to create a presence online, I won’t have any time or energy left to write.

      • says

        Hi Nancy,

        Yep, that’s a lot of where I’m at.

        At this point, I’m gonna give it my best shot and what results from it will be what results from it. My publisher has told me they will be pleased if I have a website I keep up, and have a presence on Facebook and Twitter that I post to as much as works for me.

        So far, for me, it really does seem that if I do social networking and blog posting I’m not getting much work done on my book writing. I just keep hoping somehow things will find their own balances.

        Look me up on Facebook if you’d like and we can share some more. :-)


  20. says

    So I’m in your head . . . and now you’re in mine! I’m reminded that a character in one of my novels said, “Fear and courage dwell together.” She said that to encourage me, I think. I just completed Dan Blank’s “Get Read” course, and I can say it was excellent, focused on finding and connecting with readers. My fears are still there, and I suspect they always will be. But I think their voices are not quite as loud as they were before. And I’m pretty determined not to let them win.

    • says

      Thank you, Karyn :-)

      I’ll check out Dan’s class.

      “My fears are still there, and I suspect they always will be. But I think their voices are not quite as loud as they were before. And I’m pretty determined not to let them win.”

      And that’s the best thing to do. Go for it, Karyn! And Hugs. :-)

  21. says

    What struck me sharply in reading your piece and the comments, Dan, is the fear of being irrelevant, of talking to an empty room, of not having made a difference as writers (and almost, in this context, to say made a difference as people), is so countered by the very living sense of writerly connection here, the relevance sifted and exchanged.

    My own fears, among all those listed here, scowl from their useless, taxing faces—what a bleak feeling, the consideration that you haven’t made a difference—but in the telling and exchanging of the empathy, there’s some kind of grace. So much of writing is connection.

    Vaughn, I didn’t know Lisa, but in your and others’ telling of her here, I feel some small measure of your large loss. Good lessons in stepping over, around or through our fears. Or as Alicia said, “Yada, yada, yada – so what else is new?” and then getting to work.
    Dan, thanks for the spark.

  22. says

    To an extent, I am afraid of not living up to my OWN expectations. I tend to bite off more than I can chew, and I am also genetically wired to succeed at all costs. I want to do well, but I don’t want to burn out while doing so.

  23. says

    Hi, Dan,
    I keep reading your e-mails and applauding, but I haven’t taken the time to thank you. This topic of fear is a big one. So many writing fears look ludicrous in the beginning, but they can gain credibility over time if we don’t clean out the psychological closet. I really appreciated this set of exercises from Carolyn Kaufman at QueryTracker for defusing the fears we collect:
    I hope it is okay to put in links. I worked through this process myself and added in Bible verses instead of affirmations in the last column because they seemed more solid to me. (Because I didn’t write them myself? ;))

    Thanks for your post and for the work you do!

  24. says


    Your post is a definite ‘cure’ for the things that ail and assail the mind of a writer. It makes no difference if you are a ‘born’ writer or a writer by choice – FEAR is always lurking about, masquerading as a defender from threats – real and imagined. I’ve found that books like Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg are a huge help in this area – at least for me. But basically, whatever healthy thing you can do for yourself that helps you breakthrough and keep writing AND sharing through publication (blog posts, books, whatever medium) is good. Thank you for being forthright and empathetic on this matter. (PS – My website is not going yet – in the works!)