Don’t fear the Reader

Rural England - hardly the wide open space of Vancouver's roads


Visiting England engendered many feelings, but the uppermost was fear: Fear of the roads. Two years of driving on the wrong side of the road in an automatic does not prepare one for driving faster on the left in a stick shift.

The wonderful surprise was the ease with which it all came back. Yes, I stalled trying to get out of the car park, but I didn’t panic driving down tiny winding country lanes, twenty miles an hour faster than I’d drive through downtown Vancouver.The gear changing happened without conscious thought, the car pulling itself into the correct lane coming off the roundabout.

Sometimes it’s good to take on a challenge, to throw out everything you know and are comfortable with. I’m a playwright, but some of the stories that turn up in my head don’t want to be plays. Writing a short story, or a fragment (like “Smoke“) or a screenplay can be freeing. It can also be terrifying, but each challenge presents new opportunities to learn.

Being a writer is all about overcoming fear. Fear of ridicule for saying “I am a writer” is probably the most common. Fear of rejection goes without saying. Fear of criticism, of derision, of lawsuits, of pity….all these are part of the baggage of a writer.

But perhaps the one fear we should cherish is the fear of NOT writing. Sometimes I imagine reaching my twilight years and regretting all the stories I had in my head that I never set down. Imagine the sadness of saying “I always wanted to be a writer but….” It doesn’t matter what follows that last word, the tragedy is in the life not lead.

What fears have you overcome to get where you are? What fears do you have to battle daily? Are there things that have scared you so much you HAVEN’T overcome them? I had to face my fears of humiliation and criticism to write an e-book on writing plays for Community Theatre, even though I’d been writing plays for Community Theatre for ten years. If you like, you could download it from and tell me if it was worth the effort.

13 responses to “Don’t fear the Reader

  1. Today I told two strangers I met in a cemetery I was a writer. 🙂 I gave them a ride out of the rain to their house, and they told me good luck with my writing. I’m starting to get over the whole “aspiring” thing.

    Nice job driving stick shift on the wrong side of the road! I don’t think I would like that.

  2. Thanks Jess! How’s the cemetery work coming on?

  3. I’m afraid that my writing will stink, I’m afraid the mystery will solve on page two, I’m afraid I will never sell a copy, of course after I’m afraid it will never publish, I’m afraid I’ll never get through a 2nd manuscript….but you know what? I’M WRITING ANYWAY!!

    • Yay for Tiffany! AND CAPS! In our family we have a saying “Eat the elephant one bite at a time” which is quite gross, but if y0u read back through Mrs Dim’s blogs you’ll get the context. Anyway, one word at a time, grasshopper, one word at a time!

  4. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. In elementary school, when asked what I wanted to be, without hesitation I always answered the same.

    Yet, fear of being told I’m not good enough kept me from trying to do anything with my writing (other than entertain myself and a few close friends).

    Not quite two years ago, I applied for a freelance position at a startup magazine. It was the first time I tried to get over my fear. I ended up writing a regular feature for the magazine.

    So, now, I am working on my first novel. There is still a lot of fear there – fear of letting others read what I’m working on and hearing the inevitable critique. But I AM pushing past it. Better than not writing any day. 🙂

    • Sounds like you’re right on track. Stephen King says write the first draft of your novel with your door closed – in other words, you write it first for you, for the joy of discovering the story. The second draft is for the reader, the editor, the nitpicker. If you leave that door open in your first draft, all those folks will be looking over your shoulder making unhelpful comments. It’s YOUR novel, you go! But it sounds like I’m preaching to the choir. Looking forward to reading about your future success.

  5. But perhaps the one fear we should cherish is the fear of NOT writing. Sometimes I imagine reaching my twilight years and regretting all the stories I had in my head that I never set down. Imagine the sadness of saying “I always wanted to be a writer but….” It doesn’t matter what follows that last word, the tragedy is in the life not lead.

    I think I fear this the most. I might just print this up and put it over my computer to remind me when I get worried I can’t live up to my dreams.


  6. My cure for fear: white knuckle. Do it anyway even if you’re afraid. We can do it slow immersion (little by little) like how I overcome my driving phobia or the shock method–go sky diving when I’m terrified of heights. However you wish to do it, you have to do it even if you’re afraid.

  7. I fear for my daughter and what the future holds for her in this crazy, mixed-up world I brought her into.

  8. skippingstones

    I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, and yet I’ve always written. I’m new to blogging, and of course I love it. Go figure, huh? Still not ready to call myself a writer. I think it’s the fear of being “found out” – that I’m claiming to be something that I’m actually not. Still, as I visit around in WordPress and see just how many “regular people” like me have Writer in their personal description, and as I publish more of my own posts, I gain more confidence that I can eventually claim that title for my own. Or should I say, acknowledge it.

    • It’s funny the amount of mental baggage that comes with being a “writer”. I found a similar problem when I used to be a juggler. Introduce yourself as a writer, and people will immediately ask what you write. It may not be meant as accusatory, but that’s always how it sounds. When I was a juggler, people would say “Ok, juggle something.” Never, on meeting a plumber, do I ask them to fix a leaky tap to prove they’re plumbers. When a guy says “‘I’m a brain surgeon”, he’s not interrogated about brain surgery procedures.
      You get my vote as a writer. You write therefore you are a writer. You may not be an author yet, or a playwright, or a columnist, but if you write, you are a writer. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Pingback: Talking out of my….hat | Damian Trasler's Secret Blog – Do Not Read!

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