Fear of Writing

If you are afraid of writing--and many people are, especially when they first start out--these exercises may help to lessen anxiety.


1. Visualize and describe a private place where you feel safe to write. It may be anywhere--your real writing room, a spot outdoors, somewhere in another dimension. Visualize it in detail. Return to this place each time you begin to write.

      Student sample:

"My room is big and yellow. I am the only person who is allowed here. I feel safe in this room since there are bars on the windows to keep out every English teacher I ever had. Nobody can see what I write or how I write in this room."


2. Imagine yourself as a kindly, compassionate editor or teacher and give yourself advice on writing.


3. Write as badly as you can. Use every awkward construction, vague reference, or unclear concept you wish. Pile it on. Go on to double negatives, dangling modifiers, split infinitives. Lay into verbs that don't agree, references that don't connect, and the passive voice without end. Write across the margins and upside down on the page. Write until you like the feel of the pen in your hand, until you are having fun. Repeat this exercise every time you sense you are not in control of your writing.


4. Visualize your fear of writing: a teacher with fangs, a professor with a whip, yourself with a copy of Henry James, etc. Give them names and ask them their origins. Talk to these fears. Find out what they want. Show them to the door and lock it behind them.


5. Ask yourself: "Who is it that is afraid?" Then ask: "Who is writing?"


6. Try to locate the fear in your mind. Where does it come from, where does it dwell, where does it go when it leaves?  Feel the fear in your body. Stay still and experience the fear simply as sensation without attaching a story line to it. What happens?


7. Remember a peaceful scene after you sit down at your desk. Visualize yourself as your favorite writer. Pick up your pen and begin.


8. Take 20 deep breaths before you start to write.


9. Meditate for a few minutes, following your breath. Keep doing so as you begin to write.


10. Place inspiring statues or empowering photographs on your desk. Contemplate them as you write.



Adapted from Writing Yourself Home  by Kimberley Snow