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Why You Need to Write What Scares You

What would you write if you knew you couldn’t fail? I promise I’m not setting you up for failure. There is a very good reason I’m asking this question.

Which writing project scares you most?

Humor me.

For one moment, let’s play pretend.

No, we’re not visualizing success. These prompts will help you find the scariest writing project you have. Trust me: there’s a method to my madness.

Pretend you have the writing ability you’ve always wanted.

Relax; there are no time constraints.

There’s no one around. No one to peek over your shoulder, to put down your ideas, or to make unkind comparisons.

In fact, your loved ones support you completely. 

The weather is perfect; there’s no background noise or distraction.

You can write as easily as brushing your teeth, as putting on your shoes, as opening a letter. 

Feel the confidence: you can simply sit down (like you always imagined authors did)  and WRITE. 

Feel that relaxed warmth in your heart? That calm surety?

Now answer this question: what story comes to mind?

That’s the one you should be writing.

I can hear you now: “Are You Crazy? That was just pretend! I still have all those problems!”

Yes, I know.

You don’t feel you have the skill, at least not yet.

You have crazy time constraints, life stresses, family issues, a day job.

The weather is probably Fubar.  Peace and quiet are far away.

And confidence? Hahaha! What’s that even mean?

Yes, I know I hear you. I have those problems, too.

Let’s go back to the question: the story came to your mind during this exercise is the one you need to write now. Yes, even though reality seems to be screaming “NOPE.”

I promise I’m not setting you up for failure. There is a method to my madness.

Why the Heck Should You Write What Scares You?

  • When you write what scares you, you’re forced to face your weaknesses as a writer—and identifying them is the first step to overcoming them.
  • When you write what scares you, you’re forced to find new ways to communicate the themes and journeys in your story—which makes your story deeper and your writing more vibrant.
  • When you write what scares you, you find yourself occasionally up against temporarily “impossible” odds—which enables you to accurately and effectively show your written characters facing impossible odds, too.
  • When you write what scares you, you grow as a writer.

“I’d heard writers say you should write what scares you, and it always seemed like a nice idea. But now that I’ve experienced it myself, I can tell you with absolute confidence that the fear is worth it. Acknowledge it, accept that your project makes you a little nervous, then write it anyway.

Because at the end of the road, when you’ve conquered your fear and have a shiny new WIP to boot, the feeling of accomplishment and wonder makes it all worth it.”
—Author Ava Jae

Maybe it’s a novel with a bigger premise than you’ve ever previously tried. Maybe it’s a memoir that shares things you haven’t shared publicly before. Maybe it’s short stories, when you’ve never managed to tell a brief, succinct tale.

Whatever it is, whatever writing project you have that scares you, you’re allowed to be scared.

But that doesn’t mean waiting until you’re not scared to write.

If you only write when you’re not scared, your growth will be slow.

If you write when you are scared, your writing will stretch you. If you’re afraid, it means you’re writing something that you actually feel—and that means it’s going to be more powerful than anything that doesn’t scare you.

Here’s your challenge this week: name the writing project that scares you. 

Names have power. Naming something is always the first step to conquering it.

Is it a novel? Is it a new genre? A personal tale that you fear people might judge?

Tell me in the comments.

Or, if you’d rather keep it private, send me an email.

Face this mountain and name it. It’s time to tackle the writing project that scares you most.

By Ruthanne Reid

Ruthanne Reid is one of those pesky fanfiction authors who made good, and thus eschews most labels. Except for being a Generation X-er (or maybe Xennial, according to some guy’s webpage), a musician who loves music but also carries a ton of baggage about it, a self-taught graphic artist who designs her own covers, a spoonie who wrestles Fibromyalgia not unlike yon Hercules and the Nemean lion, a Christian who hesitates to use the word because too many of them are crazy but Jesus is pretty great, a rabid shipper who’s too smart to lay out precisely which ships because of the wars, and an avid reader when she isn’t busy caretaking for some pretty ill folks.

You know. Unlabelable.

Currently a resident of Long Island City and a loving mommy to one current cat and numerous future ones, Ruthanne is happily married to a fellow geek who loves good stories and great games as much as she does. Between the two of them, they own a lot of things that need to be plugged in.

3 replies on “Why You Need to Write What Scares You”

The thing that scares me right now is the short story I’m writing. It doen’t even have a title yet. I’m stuck on one of the characters and don’t know where to go with him. I know if he should love my main character or not because he is her superior officer.

This sounds like a story with lots of layers. I love the little bits you’ve told me here!

Don’t worry about the title for now. You won’t have to name it for a while, and the title might change for publication, anyway!

Have you considered doing “character interviews” with these imaginary folks?

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