Is a Fear of Being Published Preventing You from Writing?

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Many writers are plagued by fear. Whether it’s a fear of not being good enough, a fear of criticism or a fear of success, some writers can be so haunted by fear that they can’t write a single word.

Add one more fear to that list: a fear of being published.

It’s ironic considering that most writers I know strive to get published. That is the ultimate goal of writing, isn’t it?

But I can see why some writers would be afraid to have their work published, and the reasons they give are similar to the list of fears I mentioned above.

* Fear of exposure. Your work might reveal some deep, dark family secrets, or more likely, show off aspects of yourself that you’ve keep hidden. Getting published means putting yourself out there, and that can be scary. What if someone somewhere sees you for who you really are?  

* Fear of criticism. Once you’re published, people will read what you wrote. That’s a good thing, right? The thing is, they may either love it — or hate it. Many writers focus on the negative reviews rather than the positive ones, even though there may only be one negative review compared to one hundred positive ones. It’s the thought of the naysayers that can scare you away.  Getting published means the you risk getting negative reviews.

* Fear of success. Because, after all, getting published is a sure sign that you are a successful writer. But along with publication comes responsibility. Once you publish one novel, readers expect you to publish more. What if you can’t come up with a suitable follow up?

* Fear of a new identity. Once you become published, you shift from being an aspiring writer to a published author. The new identity means you have to live up to new standards and expectations for your writing. It may mean a new lifestyle, complete with travel, public appearances and author readings – things you may not be prepared to deal with.

* Fear of being found out. What if you believe the published work isn’t good at all, no matter how many positive reviews you get? People might find out that you’re a fraud or a phony, and your novel was published through sheer luck, not talent. You might as well give up writing, or so you think.

For many writers, getting published is scarier than writing. Writing is safe because you can do that in the privacy of your home. You can work in isolation, and it’s just you and your story ideas. You can hide behind your laptop screen and play with words and stories all you want. You don’t have to risk anything.

But once you become published, all that changes. You have to take your writing more seriously than before. It’s no longer a hobby but a business. You have to treat your writing as a product.

Once you are published, you might have to view yourself differently. You are now a business person with creative talent and a product to offer readers. To continue that success, however, you have to keep writing and you have to keep putting your work out there for people to see.

No wonder writers are afraid of being published.

Thankfully, there are some things writers can do to assuage those fears.

1. Hire a good editor. A professional editor might cost money, but it’s money well spent if they can catch miscues, provide meaningful feedback and suggest improvements to your work. A good editor can help you create a product you can be proud to publish.

2. Join a writers’ group. If you aren’t part of a writers’ group, form one of your own. Getting support from other writers can help you through the rough patches of the writing process. When you finish that first draft or finally get published, they can help you celebrate your successes.

3. Take criticism in stride. This might be easier said than done since most writers tend to remember the negative feedback more than the positive. It doesn’t matter if those critical voices come from within or from outside yourself (such as readers and editors). There will be times when you should shut it out. The only exception is when working with an editor or agent who may offer suggestions for improving your work. Their feedback should be taken to heart. The rest can be dumped in the garbage along with your rough drafts.

4. Remember why you write. If you feel overburdened by criticism or fear the unknown as a newly minted published author, remember why you decided to write in the first place. It might help to put things in perspective.

Remember that not everyone will appreciate your writing. Just because one person bashed it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a well-written book. It simply means it wasn’t their cup of tea.

Focus on the people who do care about your success. Even if only one person comments that they enjoyed your work, hold onto that. Don’t let a fear of publishing hold you back from doing what you truly love: writing.

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