Freelance writers deal with a lot of fears. We have to push through those to do this type of work.
But there’s something funny about the fears freelance writers have.
Funny peculiar, I mean.
To give you a sense of what I’m talking about, here’s a selection of actual comments I’ve gotten recently from writers:
“I’m getting started and I’m just terrified!”
“Of course, I’m dealing with the fear and the insecurity.”
“That whole fear thing keeps getting in the way.”
“I’m really scared to send this query letter!”
“The big, ugly monster in my head, fear, is my biggest obstacle.”
“I am a hopeful, yet scared-to-death writer…”
“I need to crawl out of the usual dark places and get writing.”
Did you notice what’s odd about all these statements?
They all leave out one key item:
Fear of what?
I think it’s revealing that none of these comments say what the writer is scared of.
They can’t even name or describe this fear. It’s just “the fear” or “I’m scared.”
It’s a big, amorphous blob of undefined terror. And it’s stopping so many writers from living the life they want, where they can pay their bills from writing.
Seeing all these comments together made me wonder what it is about this fear that makes it so hard to describe and name.
Here’s what I think it is:
Really, if you sat down and thought about it, you’d have to admit there is nothing to be legitimately scared of in the world of freelance writing.
Nothing at all.
Why we have fears
Let’s stop a moment and think about the feeling of fear. Why does it exist?
Early humans who acted on their very real, primal fears tended to live.
Fear helped us remember we shouldn’t go to the watering hole at dusk, because that’s when the lions go there.
We fear lions because they could rip our throats out. So we wisely avoid hanging out where the lions are.
It would be stupid to face down this fear and go hang out with the lions. Instead, we listen to this fear and avoid foolish bravery that would get us killed.
This is sane, rational fear that has the concrete purpose of keeping us breathing. And it’s good.
Why fear of writing is crazy
Fear is appropriate to life-threatening situations.
And the thing is, with extremely rare exceptions, your life is generally not put at risk by being a freelance writer.
What’s the worst thing that happens if you send a query and it doesn’t get you an assignment? Nothing happens. You get no answer. The end.
What if your article has a bad error in it and you have to do a correction? A week later, nobody remembers.
What if you fail to earn enough from freelancing and you end up having to move back with your parents, or take a day job for a while until you can save up and write some more?
A little time was lost. You had a setback. You survived it. That’s it.
What’s behind the scary curtain
Let me show you what’s hiding in the dark recesses of your brain’s unnameable freelance-fear chamber.
Here it is: Nothing. There is nothing to be afraid of, because no lives are at risk here.
Fear is inappropriate to the world of freelance writing. You’re taking a primal, life-saving emotion and experiencing it where there is no true danger.
Will you really starve to death if you pursue freelance writing? In any country with public assistance programs, that’s highly unlikely.
Will you be shot by a firing squad for being a bad writer? With the rare exception of writing in dissent of a totalitarian or Communist government, unlikely.
You’re trapped by phantom fears that if you faced them, would dissolve into the air.
You might make mistakes as a writer. Or write something that’s crap now and then. You might get embarrassed sometime.
But you would survive. You live to write another day.
I know because every possible mistake you can make as a writer, I’ve done it.
The real thing to fear
There’s only one fear freelance writers should acknowledge.
It’s the possibility that you’ll let your irrational fears about writing and freelancing keep you from being a successful writer.
You’ll live out your life and you’ll die, without ever realizing your dream of writing professionally.
When you feel those irrational fears creeping up on you, remember that.
No mistake you can make as a freelance writer will ever be worse than how you will feel at the end of your life, if you had the dream of being a writer, but you let fear keep you from it.
Can you name your worst freelance writing fear? Leave a comment, I dare you.