Common Fears about Writing: What’s Holding You Back?

When we put ourselves in a vulnerable position (such as, let’s say, launching a book, or deciding to write one), it’s natural to have fears (Tweet).

In my editorial work over the years with authors, creatives, and solopreneurs who are writing a book, there are some common fears that show up over and over again. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Rather, these are the ones that seem to plague writers most often. The key is to recognize your fears so they don’t paralyze you from moving forward with your project. Doing so enables you to overcome them. (More on that later.) Four of the most common fears related to writing are: fear of failure, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and analysis paralysis. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Fear of Failure

No one likes rejection, no matter what form it takes. That’s essentially what this fear comes down to, isn’t it? We’ll write a book and no one will buy it. There goes our self-worth down the drain. When we have a fear of failure, we convince ourselves that our book will be awful and no one will buy it, so why even bother writing it?


Perfectionists have trouble hitting “Send” or “Publish.” We (and I say “we” because this is the one that gets me every time!) hold onto even an email for far too long because we want it to be juuuuussssttt right. Error free. AKA perfect. Well, let’s be real. Virtually no copy (whether an email, a blog post, a book — you name it) is perfect. Why? Because human eyes are imperfect. Even the best editors only catch about 95-97% of errors. (And also: Spellcheck is not the answer.) So perfectionists hang onto a draft thinking that they’ll go through it one more time. One more time becomes two more times. On and on.

Imposter Syndrome

Who am I to be writing a book about anything? I'm no expert. Does that sound familiar? If so, you might have imposter syndrome. You feel like a fake. You may not be a trained, professional writer, but you are a business owner with a story to share. You are an expert. You just have to convince yourself that you can be a writer, too.

Analysis Paralysis

This is more commonly called overthinking. You think of all the reasons why your book won’t be great, why you shouldn’t write a book, why you’re not an expert. You overthink to the point of being paralyzed to make progress. So you don’t. You stay stuck, not moving forward.

“For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. - Mary Kay Ash (Tweet)

Do any of these fears resonate with you? There is good news: Once you’ve identified your fear, you can analyze its root cause and then create a mantra to help you overcome it when you feel it creeping in. Here’s my system. (Obviously I’m an editor and publishing guru, not a psychologist, so keep that in mind.)

Step 1: Identify the fear.

Step 2: Explore the root cause.

Step 3: Visualize success.

Step 4: Create a mantra.

For me, it’s perfectionism that really holds me back. (Step 1 - check.) I can pinpoint the moment perfectionism became something that I struggled with. I went to Catholic school for elementary school and had a teacher (Sister Frances) who told me I would never be able to work in books when I grew up if I could only get a 95% on an English test. (Step 2 - check.) That stuck with me and held me back for a long time. Finally I decided that a nun from 20 years ago wasn’t going to prevent me from doing what I wanted to do. I love seeing clients holding their finished books and selling their ebooks. (Step 3 - check.) I studied harder and still study the craft to this day. But I also recognize the limitations of humans. My error rate is consistently 2-3%, which is above average, and I am more than happy with that. (So are my clients!) When I miss an error or make a mistake in a post or email of my own, I remind myself (with a Post-It on my desk, always in view) that pencils have erasers for a reason. (Step 4 - check.) No one is perfect!

So tell me: Which fear do you most identify with? Maybe it’s one not even listed here; there are definitely others. Are you willing to put in the work so that it doesn’t hold you back? I hope so!

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