Saturday, May 5, 2018

Don't Let Fear Stop Your Writing

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

Whenever I go to a writers’ conference, workshop, or critique group, I get to meet writers at all points in their writing journey. It always surprises me the doubts and the lack of confidence that many, if not most, of us have. No matter how successful I would label them. And the amazing thing is, they don’t have to say a word. It can be read in their facial expressions and body language. (See, show don’t tell.)

They stand off by themselves, usually in the back. They don’t make eye contact. They seem to be trying to look small or invisible.

Dr. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist, has written Presence, a book that really opened my eyes to a lot of things I’ve been doing that could hurt my own opportunities. As a college student, Dr. Cuddy was involved in a horrible car accident resulting in traumatic brain injury. She said it made her a different person.

Problem was she looked the same on the outside as before so most people didn’t realize what she was going through. After several years of hard work, she was able to finish school four years after her classmates.

She talked about this in a TED talk. The response was overwhelmed. So many others feel the same sense of being overwhelmed, of not belonging, or being an imposter. Brought on by, wait for it, stress.

Ever heard of it? Know anyone who may be struggling with it?

She talked about feeling powerless during her recovery and after. And that the opposite of powerlessness isn’t power but presence. Believing in and trusting yourself.

As writers, we’re often told to strap on our belts. Get to work. Get out there and . . . 

But the fear still haunts us.

In her book, Presence, Dr.  Cuddy gives us some tools to overcome that feeling of powerlessness.

2 Tips to Banish Fear 
1. In her first year as a doctoral student, she had to give a twenty minute talk. Now to some of us, that would be like giving them their favorite piece of chocolate. To the rest of us, we’d be praying that the ground would open and swallow us.

The fear so overcame her that she told her adviser she was going to quit.(Ever been there?) Her adviser gave her some great advice. (Make a note of this in your journal.)

“No, you’re not. You’re going to do the talk. And keep doing it—even if you have to fake it – until you have a moment when you realize you can do it.”

So what is your can’t? Can’t tell someone you’re a writer? Can’t let anyone read what you’ve written? Can’t speak in front of a group?

“I’m not any good.” The answer to that is practice. “But I’ll probably flop.” I’m sure you will. So?

A little baby takes her first step, then plops on the ground. Then laughs and toddles back up. Give yourself the same opportunity.

And practice telling others, especially people you meet for the first time, “I’m a writer.” (Go ahead and read that out loud. Feel pretty good, doesn’t it.)

2. I guess because she is a doctor, she likes to cite studies. And studies. And studies. But she explains how these support her findings. Some of the studies looked at body language and how our body language affects others view of us. They found that by slouching, keeping our arms close to our bodies and heads down, the viewer would have less confidence in us. Even before we opened our mouth.

Reminds anyone of a job interview or your fifteen-minute meeting with an agent or publisher. Did you wilt like an old bloom or did you sit up straight and show confidence.

When I was around twelve, I remember walking through the kitchen and Mom saying, “Tim, straighten your shoulders. Be proud of who you are.”

And we should all be proud of Whose we are.

Bottom Line
In each of our lives, we are going to face new twists and turns that we can call either fears or opportunities. How we prepare to face them will go along way in how successful we are. Writing is often scary because we don’t know what’s ahead. But we know who says He has a plan. If He made the plans for the journey, we can be confident He knows the way.

I for one don’t want to miss a step of it.

For more tips on improving your presence and confidence, pick up Presence by Amy Cuddy. And Don't miss her 30 Seconds on Power Poses. You can also Google Amy Cuddy: Thirty Seconds on Power Poses. Or her TED Talk. The part of the book on power poses was very good and I’m sorry I didn’t get to mention it. Her talk might give you a new connection with Wonder Woman.

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2 Tips to banish #fear from your #writing life - @TimSuddeth on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Tim Suddeth has been published in Guideposts’ The Joy of Christmas and on He’s working on his third manuscript and looks forward to seeing his name on a cover. He is a member of ACFW and Cross n Pens. Tim’s lives in Greenville, SC with his wife, Vickie, and his happy 19-year-old autistic son, Madison.  Visit Tim at and on Facebook and Twitter. He can be also reached at


  1. Great comments Mr. Tim. I love your tips. Could only add that, for me, the best way to fight the fear (of writing or any other undertaking it seems) is to give it to God. I struggle with this a lot, but am learning that many of us (writers) do, which actually has a calming effect on me. God's blessings sir...

  2. This is so timely for me. My 2nd novel is about to be released and I'm feeling so uncomfortable. I'd like to feel joy and freedom. Instead, I'm worrying. Is it good enough. What will readers think? I've gone through this before - and so - I know it's important to put those shoulders back and keep moving ahead. But that slouch - oh - it's nagging at me. Thanks for the post. Excellent!

  3. Preparation is a key. I think the advice given by the instructor to Amy was very good. Keep trying. Some things never really get easy, but at some point we realize we can do them. Donevy

    1. And isn't that a great feeling, to succeed at something you doubted you could do?

  4. Good that I learned to type without looking at the keys. Otherwise, as Niagra Falls flows down my cheeks this would not be legible. Less than thirty minutes ago I asked myself, “Why go to a writing conference?” I answered myself, “You’re not good enough. What do you have to say that anyone wants to know? Why spend time gong to Word Weavers or Toastmasters?’ I want to help and encourage others with what I learned through similar circumstances. Thank you for grabbing me by the hand and pulling me up. See you at BRMCWC 2018.

    1. I'll see you there. And please stop me and say hi. God has a way to get our attention, doesn't He?

  5. Thanks for the reminder, Tim, that oftentimes, we are our own worst enemies. We win or lost the "battle" in our minds long before anything else ever occurs. Thanks for sharing this book.