Advice & Tips,  Writing

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

Nervous womanMost of us suffer the fear of rejection or failure at some point in our lives and it seems for Writers, this fear is in the genes. How many of us have been writing for years and have never done anything with it?

Is it because we invest so much in our stories that we cannot bear to part with them? They become our babies and it’s like giving our child away and the other person might not handle it with such care as we do. Or is it the fear of rejection? If someone tells us it’s rubbish, what a blow that would be. We love to write and if it’s no good, how can we justify carrying on? So much better to keep at it and lock it away in the safe drawer.

I say, what if you’re good? What if you are the next bestseller or brilliant at magazine articles or short stories? You will never know unless you take the next step.

Having had my fair share of personal rejection which gave me a distinct lack of confidence in anything I did, the fear held me back for many years and yet writing has always been my dream. I learned from two big events in my life, that eventually gave me the courage to take that leap of faith.

The first was around the sad time of the 9/11 tragedy. On the day that the world was coming together for a minute’s silence, I was to take my motorbike test. I had failed the first one, for as soon as I discovered my examiner was a policeman, the nerves took over and I went to pieces. This time, although it was the same man, things were different. Who cared if I passed or failed, in light of the recent events. Nothing was more important than the tragic loss of life that had shaken the world. Nothing else mattered, none of those niggly unimportant fears and worries. Needless to say, once I realised that, I passed.

The second time was more recent, when my teenager’s ‘allergy’ turned out to be cancer. There is nothing so devastating as the fear that your child is going to die and having to help them deal with all their own fears and the ups and downs of the illness. It made my writing fears insignificant by comparison and I came out the other side a far more positive person and ready to take on the writing world and that’s what I’m doing.

Don’t wait to learn your lessons in life, take that leap of faith now. What really is the worst that could happen? Your ego bruised perhaps? There are so many brilliant writers out there that don’t know it and so many opportunities on offer these days.

Rejection hurts, own it for 5 minutes or even a day if you have to, then move on. Rejection cartoonTreat each rejection as a chance to improve or a new marketing opportunity. I keep a log of the magazines I want to write for and I list what I’ve sent to whom and if it’s rejected, I amend or improve it some more and send it to another. What one person likes, another may not and it’s not always easy to know what they will like. I first set myself a goal of getting one story published in a woman’s magazine by the end of that year which gave me seven months. Four months later, when my first story was accepted, it was such a surprise, because I didn’t feel it was one of my better ones, but they obviously did. If I can do it, you can too.

I showed another story to a well-published writer and it moved her, but none of the magazines I sent it to were interested. It doesn’t mean it’s rubbish, they may have saturated that theme or just bought something similar. I may have even marketed the wrong magazines.

I’d just like to say – keep plodding, keep learning, keep improving and most importantly, keep sending it out there – you will eventually reap the rewards, while doing something you love.

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominic/


  • aoife d

    Motivational as always Helen. You’re writing from the heart. X

    My theory: Wallow and acknowledge.
    Go through the (e)motions and give things a place – accept.
    Self pity and rumination = slow destruction of the soul. Best avoided eh!
    Learn from your mistakes AND achievements. We seem to forget them all too quick.
    And most importantly be honest with yourself. No?!!!

    • Eleni

      Thanks Aoife and yes being honest with yourself is probably the hardest part when it comes to criticism, but I have found that once I’ve wallowed, I agree with most criticism and I learn from it and become better. x

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