Let Fear Be Your Creative Partner

My love affair with the written word started when I was just 13 years old. My eighth-grade English teacher aptly named Dr. Devine, had a way of sharing his knowledge and passion for the language that he made me swoon for words the way other students felt about their crushes.

On test day, you’d find every student tapping their pencils as they silently recited the following rhyme Dr. Devine taught us about the parts of speech:
writer's block
All names of person, places, things
Are nouns like Mary, Rome, and kings.
Pronouns take the place of nouns
I think, she sings, they work, he frowns.
When the kind you wish to state
Use an adjective like “Great!”
But if of manner you would tell
Use adverbs such as “slowly”, “well”.
To find an adverb this test try –
Ask how or when or where or why.
Prepositions show relation –
With our state or in our nation.
Conjunctions as their name implies
Are joining words – they are the ties
Which bind together day and night,
Calm but cool, dull or bright
Interjections show surprise…
Oh! Alas! Ah me! How wise!
Thus briefly does this jingle state
The parts of speech which total eight.

Pretty clever, right?

When he asked for a volunteer to diagram a sentence on the chalkboard, every student frantically waved his or her hand, stretching to make it higher than everyone else’s in hopes of being chosen. He was a special kind of teacher, and it was this first love that prompted me to study journalism and writing in college.

Through my undergrad studies and subsequent years as a managing editor of a magazine, I not only had the chance to see the power of words in action, but also the opportunity to bequeath some of Dr. Devine’s enthusiasm and wisdom onto fellow writers, helping them make writing a priority and build the confidence in themselves to put fingers to keyboard.

Most of the writers I mentored were brand new to the craft. They had a story to tell but didn’t think they had what it took to tell it. “But, I’m not a writer,” they’d say to me. “Um, you have something you want to say and you want to do it through the written word. That makes you a writer.”

That seems to keep a lot of creatives stuck — thinking they don’t fit some definition of “writer” they read somewhere or came up with on their own. No, you don’t have to be a published author to be a writer. You don’t need a byline in a magazine. You don’t need to have blogged for two years. A writer is someone with the desire to write. That’s it.

By breaking the process down for them, they quickly saw that, when taken in small, actionable bites, they were more than ready. Isn’t that the way with anything that feels scary?

It’s often that pesky inner critic that stops people from expressing themselves, or if you’ve been writing, makes you suddenly hit a wall. The dreaded “writer’s block.” But what if your block was less about stalled creativity and more about fear? (It usually is) I bet you’d approach it in a very different way.

It’s this perspective that really highlights the healing that can come through writing. Exploring the fear. What is it about moving your writing to the next stage that gives you pause? If you get closer to the finish line, does it feel scary to put yourself out there? Do you worry about criticism? About what people will then expect of you? You see, there’s a whole lot more to writing than just creating sentences.

So if you have a desire to write, whether that’s journaling, blogging, or publishing a book, be gentle with yourself. Hold a safe space for your fear or resistance so you can make it a creative partner instead of a nemesis. Hang out with other writers for support and understanding.* Because if you want to write, you, my friend, are a writer.

*I’ve got two spots available in my upcoming Writers’ Group Intensive starting next week. This small mastermind group of writers will meet virtually every week for six months for support, coaching, encouragement, and accountability. If you’d like to make a commitment to your creative craft, join us. For more information and an application, click here.

Photo credit: NathanGunter via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND


2 replies
  1. Becks
    Becks says:

    Thanks Kerri, this totally resonates with me. I submitted my PhD last year, having been told my very experienced supervisor that it was brilliant and a significant contribution to the field. Unfortunately, after a gruelling viva I was told I needed to rewrite it and take out lots of complexity. After much shock and grief I have returned to do the work, it has taken a lot to go back to it as I have been plagued with self doubt, procrastination and on a perfect sentence loop. Any tips? Thank you so much for your webinar, your book and hayhouse radio shows – they helped me clear time and space to do the work.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Hi Becks,
      Well, that’s a bummer about your PhD! I can imagine what a blow it was but trust that there is a bigger picture in play because there is. When the self-doubt comes up, offering yourself some loving reassurance. Instead of trying to push it aside or get frustrated, meet it with compassion. Little Becks is nervous!

      Procrastination is a form of protection and given the self-doubt, of course you’re going to procrastinate. Show your fear that you’ll take it in small steps so she can trust you to take good care of her.

      Finally, allow yourself shitty drafts. No such thing as “perfect”. Done is always better than perfect.

      Good luck!


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