Climbing the Mountain: Finding the Courage to Write (Penny Rader)

Anyone else crippled by fear? I am.

If I share my writing fears, will you share yours?

My biggest fear -- what if nothing comes to mind when I sit down to write? That one's quickly followed by what if I never finish another book? Am I destined to come up with the first few pages of a story, maybe a chapter, only to have them languish without middles and ends? What if I never sell another book? What if someone does buy the book, but then readers who plunk down their cash hate what I've written...or make fun of me? What if everyone sees that I'm a fraud because I don't write every day? What if my writing exposes parts of myself that aren't all sweetness and light? Showing my real, true self to the world is darned scary.

I’m tired of letting fear get in my way so I did some poking around online. Below are a few quotes and articles that got my attention. I thought they might help someone else, so I'm sharing them here.

Writer’s Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the first draft as crap;
The courage to write the next chapter anyway;
And the wisdom to know it can all be fixed later.


Don’t feel guilty about being afraid of the blank page. Don’t think you aren’t a writer if you don’t rush to the computer first thing when you get up in the morning in order to face the empty page. Writing is hard work. Filling up an empty page with your thoughts, your pains, your joys, and your creative ideas takes immense courage. – Rachel Ballon, The Writer’s Portable Therapist

A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: “As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It’s not as wide as you think.” – Joseph Campbell

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.—Bene Gesserit, Litany against Fear.

Write what disturbs you, what you fear what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.—Natalie Goldberg

If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow. – Louis L’Amour

There is always the risk that you may disappoint yourself. That risk is there even for productive writers, as most writers don’t write as often as they would like. Because of this reality, you will need to practice self-forgiveness. – Eric Maisel, A Writer’s Space

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

The 6 Golden Rules of David Leisner (substitute writing for music)

1. You have practiced to the best of your ability. Trust your automatic pilot to do most of your work for you.

2. Do not judge what just happened or will happen. Only motivate and observe (non-verbally).

3. Do not second-guess any audience member's reaction to your playing, as your perception will probably be inaccurate. Please yourself only.

4. Be in the music, in the moment. Be on stage, not in the audience. Be in the giving mode, not the receiving one.

5. Single out one aspect of your playing that is the top priority among things you need to be reminded of at this time.

6. Enjoy! Let your emotions for the music be present. Let your excitement for the music be present.

(For the complete article, go to

Additional Links:

20 Inspirational Quotes to Make You Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing

Courage Is Doing What You’re Afraid to Do

Creativity Writing and Fear

Everyday Courage and the Writer

Fear, Courage and Superheroes: 5 Posts on Writing and Audacity

Fear, Courage, and Writing

Fear of Writing: Is It a Gene?

Fear: The Dream Stealer

Good Reason Not to Write

Is Fear Affecting Your Writing?

The Nasty Four-Letter Word That Keeps You from Writing

Put Your Fears to Rest

Shane Black Confronts Your Fears

Two Ways to Overcome Writing Fear And Recover Your Creativity

~ ~

What are your fears? How do you beat them back?


Elaine Morrison said...

Penny, wow. This is a lot of great motivation. I had been thinking along similar lines, maybe going to blog on the voices in our heads. No, not the characters, but the ones that tell us that we can or can't write. You've done a very thorough job of providing some tools to deal with the negative ones. Thanks.

Starla Kaye said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent! We all have these fears, published or unpublished. Some of us just ignore them and sit down and write anyway. Some of us (me) are afraid to face those fears. So I don't.

Great links as always.

Becky A said...

Fear, Miss Penny, is an unfortunate part of life. Whether we conquer fear, or fear conquers us, is the question. You have given us some valuable tools to help combat that fear, no matter what part of our life it torments. Thanks!
ps: A biggie for me is: Will I ever see the end of corrections so that my book will be "done?" Everyone that reads my stuff finds something different to fix. Most are legit and for me, that is depressing. (Can we say, POV-shudder!) However, Miss Elaine gave me a pep talk and a great suggestion. She said to focus on whether I have a good, readable story. Fix the basics, like obvious punctuation errors. Then let the editor, agent or publisher tell me what else they want changed, instead of everyone else. Fear evaporated! Yeah!

Reese Mobley said...

I always doubt my ability--chalking it up to the American Idol show. Did someone really tell those people they could sing?

Do I suck and my family and friends love me so much that they just "know" I can write? Or can I? I won't know until I submit, but there is that fear always lurking close behind. At times it can be crippling.

Rox Delaney said...

What are my fears? All that you listed, Penny, and a few more, if I'm honest.

There's a little internal editor in all of us. All it needs is a whiff of doubt, and it takes hold. Once that hold is there, it takes dynamite in the form of old-fashioned stubborn resistence to get it to shut up. My writer friends and I used to joke about chaining our IEs, gagging them, and throwing them into a closet. But basically just making myself sit down and write, no matter how crappy it might, will silence the IE, at least enough to move forward a little.

Thanks for putting names to those fears. It's a trick to learn how to overcome them...repeatedly, because they'll always keep showing up. And thanks for the great quotes and links!

Penny Rader said...

Thanks, Elaine. I hope you do blog on the voices in our heads. I way too many negative ones. I think they're crowding out the voices of potential characters

Penny Rader said...

Starla, I always thought you were fearless. :D

Penny Rader said...

Becky, I hear you on the will-my-book-ever-be-done thing. It took me a really long time to write my first book and to get it publishable.

Penny Rader said...

Reese, I know you can write and I can't wait till I can hold your books in my hands. :D

And I get what you're saying about AI. Some of those people are scary bad, but so many are scary good. I do get bummed when a singer I like gets set home.

Penny Rader said...

Note to self: put the IE in time-out, and if that fails, gag her and toss her in the closet. Gotcha! Thanks, Rox!

Infogypsy said...

Interesting blog - thanks for sharing it along with the quotes. I don't believe in motivation per se, since for me it lives in the world of 'trying.' But your blog addresses something very human in the game of life, to find freedom inside the various and sundry personalities and characters we inhabit.

Since I believe each of our realities is established by the conversations about life we live inside of, the game is to uncover the hidden, automatic conversations that keep us stuck - in our case as authors, to keep us afraid to write.

I've recently had a breakthrough around this and discovered an amazing freedom to write, whatever is there to stop me. By identifying the body sensations, the emotions, the thoughts and attitudes as specifically as I can, I then use technology to map a different set of emotions, body sensations, thoughts and attitudes into my process.

Believe it or not, it works amazing! The key is to know we're not our fears, or any of our feelings as human beings; we're not even our thoughts or our body sensation--but we have them. By being responsible for those separate pieces of our human identity, I have found fear does not stop me any more - or if it does, I just laugh, knowing I'm not my fear. Then all there is to do is to let it be, make a promise to write every day a certain amount and fear does not get in the way. Isn't it great what we humans come up against in life?

Helen Hardt said...

Great blog, Penny, and so true. One of my favorite writing quotes comes from sportswriter Red Smith: "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

I think we can all relate to that! Putting yourself out there is hard, and it begins with putting yourself on the page.

B.D. Tharp said...

What a lot of GREAT information and inspiration. And I love the quotes. Only a writer understands that fear and by continuing to sit down to the page do we overcome it. And it is so much fun when we do! Thank you, Penny.

Becca Dale said...

Some great links and quotes here. Thank you, Penny. I can relate. Sometimes fear gets so big it stomps on creativity. I especially worry that no one but my family will love my work and then my mother or someone who has no clue about writing tells me what all I am doing wrong, and I am sure that if I do not have at least the blind support from family/friends then no one else will appreciate my work either. I've found the only way to overcome this is to shut out everyone but my characters and let them run. Freeing them frees me.

Penny Rader said...

Lynne, what sort of technology do you use to map a different set of emotions, etc?

Penny Rader said...

I've heard that quote, Helen, from a writer friend. And another one about staring at a piece of paper until drops of blood appear on your forehead, or something to that effect.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks, Bonnie! I do get a charge when the words actually show up on the page.

Penny Rader said...

Welcome, Becca! Thanks for shut out everyone but my characters and let them run. Freeing them frees me.
I'm going to put that into my notebook.

Nina Sipes said...

An excellently executed blog! Hits where we live, entertains, informs, is cogent, and coy. Well done!

Fear? What's the good of it? To make us do a good job. If we had no fears, we'd be happy with three asterisks and an underline while we played with our toes. Embrace it, it works FOR us.

Nina Sipes said...

However, I too am smitten by the most awful fears--all along the lines you spoke of. Somedays they win, somedays I do. I call people and talk to them to try to size up my fears. You'll laugh at this one. I like my life. If I became a famous writer, it would screw it up. So, I have to be careful not to be famous. So far that's been absolutely no problem--but it does show you how utterly ridiculous fears can be.

Nina Sipes said...

Anyone else afraid of fame? Change?

P.L. Parker said...

Lots of great motivationals. Fear is only what you let it be. Focus on what needs to be done and forget the outside forces.

Pat Davids said...

I have no fear of fame. I love being the center of attention.

That's not really true, but if I act that way no one will know differently.

Act as though you are a winner and you will become one.

Act as though you are brave even when you're scared and you will show others courage.

Act as if you don't care about people and you will become lonely.

Right now, I need to act like I have another book in me and get busy writing.

Anonymous said...

Penny... thank you for some tools to address something which I have been refusing to acknowledge by calling it, instead, NTF (aka "no time for").

Penny Rader said...

You crack me up, Nina. Yeah, I get the fear of fame thing. Money would be nice, but what if someone wants to interview me? (shudder) What do I say? Yeah, I suffer from the on-and-on-and-on disease, but when it comes to important stuff? Then my brain freezes.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for stopping by, P.L., and for the advice.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks, Pat. I especially liked I need to act like I have another book in me and get busy writing.

Penny Rader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penny Rader said...

Glad to be of help, Nan. I love your Snoopy pic. Too cute. And inspiring, with the floating letters floating. I love that visual...plucking letters from the air, creating words and characters and stories.

Penny Rader said...

I just realized the "Put Your Fears to Rest" link doesn't work. It worked two days ago. (sigh) That will teach me to print stuff when I see it. Sorry about that.

Nightingale said...

Penny, you summed up my fears. Ah and the big R word -- rejection. Like everyone, I take rejection as calling my children ugly. Enjoyed the blog and thanks for the links.

Mary Ricksen said...

Like everyone else is basically saying the fear is not in the writing, it's in failure. No one wants to see something they put their heart into, be rejected, even worse. Overcoming that fear. That's the quest.

Bess McBride said...

What a lovely blog, Penny! Thank you for the inspiration. :-)

Penny Rader said...

Welcome, Nightingale! I agree that rejections are a huge fear factor. Nothin' smarts as much as being told your baby is ugly. And the fear can grab you by the throat the moment you drop the ms in the mail box or hit send, if it's an electronic submission.

Penny Rader said...

Quest. I like that, Mary. I'm on a quest to defeat my fears. Thanks!

Penny Rader said...

Thank you, Bess! I hope you found something helpful in it.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks to everyone who commented and shared encouragement and wisdom.

That's another thing that can be scary: leaving comments on a blog, wondering if what I say will make sense or be helpful, or will I get to typing so fast that I goof up the words or leave some out and don't realize it till afterward.

Thank goodness there's a little trash can on many blogs so I can delete my comment, if needed. Almost like a little re-do button. ;D

Penny Rader said...

I just stumbled across this post, 5 Steps to Overcoming Page Fright:

Sorry, I don't know how to make it do a the hyper link thing in a comment.

Teresa Reasor said...

Thanks so much for sharing all the links and quotes.

My RWA chapter used to give Courage buttons to those people who submitted their first manuscript. Maybe we should have given them away to those who just finished them.

This business is all about persistance and courage.
After almost 20 years of writing, I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I didn't write. But every time I finish a manuscript and start submitting again, I go through those same anxiety issues.
The key is not to give into them.
Write on,
Teresa R.