To be a successful freelance writer, you need to be truly fearless. If you’re afraid to put yourself and your writing out there, you miss out on opportunities that might have brought you more income.
In mentoring many writers, I have yet to meet one whose problem is that they don’t write well. More often, their problem is self-confidence. Fear is holding them back from marketing aggressively — from going after the gigs they really want.
If you feel hobbled by fear in your writing career, this post is for you. Today, I’m going to provide you with 10 concrete tools for vanquishing your fears. I hope at least one of them will help you move beyond fear in the coming year.
- Live the fear. If you can find a way, try to experience your worst fear. The exercise will end that fear’s power over you. An example: I began my writing career as a starving teenage songwriter. I’d head off each week to an old stone office building on Hollywood Boulevard to have my songs shredded by my writing group. If our instructor sensed I was feeling timid, she’d say, “What are you afraid of?” I’d say something like “Everyone will laugh at me and I’ll be embarrassed.” And she’d say, “OK, let’s do it!” Then I’d sing the song, while all the other group participants laughed at me, quite loudly. Usually, I’d end up laughing too, because it was so obvious that a) that would probably never really happen and b) so what if it does? You don’t die of it or anything.
- Lighten up. I find a lot of fear comes from taking ourselves too seriously. Try to have a sense of humor about the mistakes you make in writing — say, misspelling a word in an 80-point front-page headline, as I did during a stint editing an alternative paper. Articles will have errors. Personal essays will be ridiculed. But in the great scheme of things, it’s still pretty minor. We live to write another day, and people’s memories are short. When things go wrong with our writing, we can either laugh or cry about it. Choose to laugh.
- Get a perspective. Back when I was that starving songwriter, I used to have terrific stage fright. To loosen up, I would think just before I went on that whether I rocked or bombed that night, I could be certain that one billion Chinese could care less.
- Break it down into smaller steps. Do you feel overwhelmed and frightened by all the options out there, and by everything you know you should be doing to move your writing career along your desired path? When you feel this kind of fear, stop looking at the big picture. Take your big wish list and break it down into this month’s to-do list — what could you reasonably get done in the next 30 days? Suddenly, the marketing plan or the writing assignment seems doable.
- It’s not about you. So many writers are crushed if they send off a query and don’t get a yes. To which I say: Your view is too self-centered. There are a million possible reasons for the lack of response that have nothing to do with you. That editor may have had a death in the family, quit their job, or just be too swamped to read it. Stop fearing personal condemnation and realize you’re just searching the universe for the fit that’s right, for both you and the publication.
- Stop experiencing rejection. Rejection is just a feeling in your head. Make a decision not to react to a “no” on a query as a rejection. Not getting this gig may turn out to be positive in so many ways. Maybe that editor would have been a terror, or that project would have kept you from taking a much better one that was coming shortly. Trust that you will find a match between your talents and the marketplace.
- Know that freelancers rule. People with full-time jobs are the ones who should be scared — millions of them have been laid off and have no income. In the past five years of freelancing, I’ve never lost all my clients at once! We are perfectly positioned for the 21st Century economy. Experts believe this is not a temporary, recession-era trend, and that more service jobs will be done freelance in the future. We’re the ones with job security.
- Get rid of negative beliefs. Did you know that as a human being, you have unlimited potential for personal growth? We read inspiring stories of human endeavor every day, and yet think “that couldn’t be me.” But it can! Banish “I can’t” from your vocabulary, and simply vow to get out there and try.
- Learn more. Do you have a feeling deep down in the pit of your stomach that you don’t know enough about the type of writing you’re trying to do? And that makes you afraid to put your work out there? If so, there’s a remedy for this — take a class. Join a writing group and have your work critiqued. As you learn more, you’ll gain confidence that you’re qualified to handle better-paying writing assignments.
- Get spiritual. Do you believe in a higher power, and that you’re not here by accident? Then you probably feel this higher power is arranging experiences in your life for your benefit — these events were put there on purpose for your character development. That means if you screw up an assignment or don’t get one, it’s because you needed to learn a life lesson from that experience. When you think of it that way, you have to ask: What am I afraid of? In my tradition, services often conclude with a hymn that contains the well-known phrase “into Your hands I commit my spirit” and ends: “You are my God; I won’t be afraid.” Harness your faith in the Source to banish your fear.
What do you do to vanquish your fears and move forward with your writing career? Leave a comment and let us know.
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