In today’s post, we’re answering one of the most common questions we get from writers: How do I get over my fear of vulnerability and put my writing out there? We got this question from a reader again recently, and she was kind enough to give us permission to share her question — anonymously, of course!
Dear Come Write With Us,
I’m a new writer who’s just getting started and I hope to get paid for my writing someday. I know I should probably start a blog or some kind of platform to put my writing out there, but frankly, I’m scared. Every time I go to hit the publish button on a blog post, I recoil with the fear of everyone seeing my words. My friends. My family. Strangers on the internet. How can I ever cope with the fear of putting myself out there if I get paid to write when I can’t even publish a simple blog post? How did you guys get over this feeling?
Thanks so much,
Always Anonymous 😉
When we first launched Come Write With Us, we were surprised at how often we would get this question, because it has nothing to do with the business of writing and everything to do with the emotional side of it. But when we thought about it, we realized those two issues go hand-in-hand.
It’s hard to make money writing if you’re afraid of putting your writing out there in the first place. After a while, we understood why this was such an important question for writers — it’s a major first obstacle to making money as a writer. Often enough, this is the obstacle that gets in the way the most for writers. They’re so afraid of the vulnerability — or the potential for failure that comes with it — that they downplay their efforts when it comes to pitching, looking for work, or starting a platform. So how do we get comfortable with putting our writing out there? We don’t. We do, however, get comfortable with sitting with the feeling. So how do you do that?
“Vulernability is our most accurate measure of courage.”Brené Brown
It helps to consider the possibility that vulnerability might be a good thing. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading research professor Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly, in which she writes about the virtues of vulnerability in greater detail. Despite how awful it feels, vulnerability serves a purpose. As Brown says, it’s “our most accurate measure of courage.” Traditionally, showing your emotions and feelings has been a sign of weakness. So it makes sense that you’d feel uncontrollably awkward putting your writing out there, especially if you’re writing about your emotions and feelings. But it’s also hard to put yourself out there and try something new because if you fail or you’re not perfect, you might be embarrassed. But that’s part of the process, and when you feel vulnerable, it’s a reminder that you’re alive and you’re growing. And there are other benefits to vulnerability.
It makes your brain work better.
According to Yerkes-Dodson Law, a state of comfort equals steady performance. When you feel stimulated, though, even when that stimulation is the minor stress of breaking out of your comfort zone, your performance actually improves.
In other words, feeling the vulnerability of leaving your comfort zone might just improve your cognitive abilities. When you decide to take a chance and put yourself out there, maybe via raising your hand in a work meeting to share a new idea, you’re not just doing the same old thing. You’re stimulated, and mental stimulation and cognition go hand in hand.
It helps you do the thing.
Vulnerability makes you uncomfortable, and sometimes a little bit of discomfort is a good thing. Inertia, the tendency to stagnate or stay on the same course, can be debilitating. It makes even the simplest task seem overwhelming.
A lot of people feel vulnerable when they deal with money, for example. Instead of embracing that discomfort and taking a look at their bank statements, they keep doing the same thing. They spend as they please and ignore their budgets altogether. It’s uncomfortable to look at your numbers when you know they’re probably going to reveal you’ve got money problems, after all. You definitely feel vulnerable. However, putting an end to that inertia makes you stronger, helps you grow, and, in the case of this example, can help you finally get your finances together.
It’s the same for writing. The longer you let this fear fester, the longer you’ll be saying, “I’d love to start writing someday,” instead of just starting. There’s an important caveat to all of this, though: too much stimulation can be so stressful that it has the opposite effect and causes a decline in performance. In other words, there’s probably such a thing as too much vulnerability. If you put yourself out there too much at first, it might make you retreat and never want to try writing again. If your “vulnerability hangover” is so bad you can’t function, you’re no longer getting the benefit of putting yourself out there.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t respond well to just jumping in the pool headfirst, try putting yourself out there gradually. Share a blog post with your family. Write a short story anonymously. Embrace the vulnerability a little bit at a time.
But the truth is, I don’t think you ever really get over the fear of vulnerability. If you do and you no longer feel vulnerable, there’s a good chance you’ve stagnated in your career. The same way failure is necessary for success, vulnerability is necessary for being a writer. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what’s scarier: putting yourself out there or never pursuing your writing career. What are you more afraid of: starting your writing career or never starting your writing career?