In this episode
Authors experience common fears: lack of confidence, rejection, and criticism, to name a few. Derek shares his thoughts on how to face them head on and push past those blocks that keep us from doing our work.
Season 1 Episode 10: Derek Lewis on Banishing Fear as a Writer
What are some of the common fears authors experience?
Most commonly, they’re worried that they’re writing their book for their ego, for vanity’s sake. But I consider this a good thing. I believe that a book project should have some ego in it because if you are pouring yourself into a creative endeavor and your ego isn’t in it, it means that it doesn’t really matter how it turns out and you’re not truly invested in the project.
But if you have some ego, some pride in it, you’ll have a deeper emotional connection. You’ll be more invested in the quality of the book and in its outcome. So, instead of worrying about whether you’re doing this for the right or wrong reasons, you should embrace the fact that it can be both.
- Accept that you can write a book that adds tremendous value to your industry and at the same time, allows you to create something that you’re proud of.
- Writing a book is an act of creation. Because it’s something that we want to be proud to share with the world, we shouldn’t be afraid that there is some ego in it because there is. Admit it, acknowledge it, and keep in its proper place.
Another fear: lack of self-confidence
Authors are afraid that they’re not up to the task, that they don’t know enough to write a book. It’s an understandable fear.
Writing a book is daunting. It’s not like writing a blog post, a report or sales copy for a brochure where there are set parameters and you know how much you need to write.
Even if it’s just a business book, we expect to be engrossed in them, that they’ll capture our interest and our attention and ideally, our imagination. The best business books are as good as reading a narrative non-fiction or even a novel. Whenever you sit down and you stare at the blank page, it’s pretty overwhelming.
Another fear: the blank page
They don’t know how to go from having nothing to having 200 or 300 pages. They forget about their decades of professional insights, expertise and experience, it all goes down the drain. That, coupled with just the sheer volume of information they believe has to go into a book, paralyzes them.
How can authors boost self-confidence and tackle the blank page?
- From the beginning, don’t worry about how long your book has to be. The book is going to be as long as it needs to be.
- Don’t worry about creating a perfect product from the start. You can’t sit down and just start writing, “Once upon a time” and then just write straight through to the end until you get to, “They lived happily ever after.” Nobody writes a book like that. Don’t expect that it’s just going to flow out of you smoothly and perfectly, and that the muse is just going to channel straight through you. Get rid of that idea. Just focus on just getting the stuff out of your head and at least on to paper.
To take a notepad and pen everywhere you go. Ideas can come to you at any time, so use that notepad to capture them. You don’t have to write the whole thing in the notepad, but just write enough so that whenever you get back to your desk and you sit down to write, you can open up your notepad and pick up from that point.
How can aspiring authors use notebooks effectively?
Write down everything. When you capture some of those spontaneous or random ideas that float through your head, you’ll be prepared whenever you sit down at the blank page to actually put something on there instead of just starting from nothing.
It can be anything: a fact, an idea, a story, a quote somebody said to you, anything that you think would even remotely go into the book. Scratch it down on your notepad or a platform like Evernote. Write everything down.
Using external catalysts can also help get your ideas out of your head.
- Have conversations with your peers, your old bosses, your old coworkers, your old clients, and customers.
- Reach out to some journalists in your industry, thought leaders, and authors of books that you’ve read that impacted you.
- Consider finding someone to mentor that’s coming up in the industry, and who’s interested in the topic. Do a trade: you mentor them and in turn, they ask you questions you can answer as a like-minded professional.
- Have real-time conversations, face-to-face are ideal.
- Record your conversations (with their permission) so you don’t miss anything, and have them transcribed.
Those conversations will often spark something that you hadn’t been thinking about before or weren’t sure that you were comfortable with putting in the book.
Another fear: how the book will be received
This is the fear most authors express at any point in the process. They worry that their words on paper won’t sound as good as they did in their head; that no one will want to read their book, or criticize it heavily.
All writers go through this. I go through it myself whenever I send a new author some chapters I’ve written, whenever I write business guides, and I dealt with it when I was writing The Business Book Bible.
Here’s how to deal with this fear:
- Focus on the reader for whom you’re writing. They’re hungry for what you have to say because it helps them solve that one big problem that’s weighing on them. Have that person in mind when you’re writing.
- Recognize that no matter what you write, there will always be people who criticize it, who think that it’s not worth something, who think that it isn’t backed up by enough evidence.
- Put criticism in the right perspective: the loudest critics are those who are the most insecure about their own personal issues. The criticisms that they have about your book are really masking the insecurities and inadequacies that they have in their own profession. If you write a book, I promise you are going to have people who are jealous that you’ve written a book and they haven’t. Don’t dismiss someone’s suggestions/criticism of your book, but find people who are going to do it with the right intentions.
Seek honest feedback from a peer, friend, or family member because they’ll want to see you succeed.
Focus on the people who need your book because they’re the ones who are going to be buying it in the first place. The person who is going to criticize your book probably won’t pick it up and if they do, they likely won’t read the whole thing.
Last words about fear?
Fear is valid, but it’s something that we have to mitigate internally. In my experience writing and ghostwriting books, I can tell you that those host of critics, naysayers and detractors that (clients) were so worried about didn’t materialize. People are so worried about their own lives that they really don’t have enough time to worry about yours.
Don’t worry about whether your book is perfect The person who needs your book and the value it will bring to them far outweighs the criticism of the few people who are going to think that your book isn’t good enough. Don’t let the noise stop you from sharing your book with the world. Go out there and write your book.