I recently moved to a new state, and have spent the last few days getting myself situated in my new setting. One thing I've wanted to do is find a group to start doing critiques with, so I was very excited when one of my acquaintances in the area asked me if I'd like to join the one he was trying to get off the ground.
Yes, I was thrilled for about 30 seconds until he said this: "I'll give you all the info when I get everything going, but we really can't get a group started until I get over my fear of my own writing."
Fear is one thing that I think holds a lot of would-be-writers back. After all, choosing writing as your career is basically saying that you're okay with getting rejected 100 times before you get even one maybe. I don't think you can become a writer until you accept that fact. I might be wrong, but I don't think my acquaintance is really afraid of his own writing. I think he's afraid of what the rest of us will say about his writing.
For a long time that's the fear that I had. I never wanted anyone to read what I wrote, even though I dreamed of becoming a novelist. Then I had a realization: I was never going to get any better if I didn't let others read my work.
I've written before about the value of joining a workshop. As much as writing fiction is a solitary endeavor, you really need a community of supportive writers to push you past that first draft. Why fear what a writer friend may have to say about a piece you're working on? Of course it's going to be uncomfortable to have someone else read your story for the first time, but that goes both ways -- in a critique group, you're going to be reading the other person's writing as well. That should keep everyone honest without being cruel.
What else is there to be afraid of? A lot of writers fear inadequacy. What if my writing isn't as good as Stephen King's? Or that guy in my critique group? Guess what? No one is perfect.
Your writing should be an expression of who you are and how you see the world. Your first draft may not be exactly up to the caliber you want it to be, but taking it to a critique group and asking for feedback is one of the best ways to get better.
Another great way to get better at writing is to keep doing it. Maybe what you're working on now will never see the light of day, but maybe the next piece you write will be gold. You'll never find out if you let fear keep you from getting started.
How do you overcome your fear as a writer? Tell us in the comments section, below!