Reader Mail: Anxiety about Writing
All, I’ve been wanting to post reader mail responses more often, but it keeps falling through the cracks. Hopefully I’ll be able to make this more frequent in the future.
My assistant Peter received the following message and passed it on to me. The sender gave me permission to post the exchange here, but she and her friend asked for names not to be included.
I have a huge favor to ask of you. I just want to tell you a little bit about my best friend. [Name] is Brandon’s biggest fan. He raves about Sanderson’s work and got me into the Mistborn series.. Which was nothing short of extraordinary. [Name] is also a fantastic author—he emulates Brandon with his own voice and it’s truly astounding. Recently, he’s completely stopped writing because he’s afraid of what other people are going to think of his work. I don’t know if there’s any way to do this, but if Brandon could send me a little message that I could pass on to him—I think that would probably do the trick. [Name] is the best person I know and he has an incredibly story just waiting to be told. I’m willing to try whatever it takes to get that story out into the world.
Here is the message I wrote in response—and the same goes for anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation, when you’re so anxious about what other people will think of your writing that it’s keeping you from continuing.
I hear that you’re having some rough time in your writing, mainly related to worries over what people might say about it.
Dealing with insecurities like this is a very individual process, and so I don’t want to be presumptive and act like I have the answers. But if it helps, every author I’ve ever known has had these same feelings. I was so worried about it at first that I didn’t even tell my roommates—my very best friends—that I was writing books until I’d already finished three.
For me, the transformation happened slowly. But the more I wrote, the more confident I became—not in the writing itself, but in my enjoyment of it. In those early years, it mattered less and less what others thought, as I wasn’t writing the stories for them. I was writing because of the pure enjoyment I got from creation.
Putting this first made me much more able to accept the idea that people would be critical of my work—because that was secondary, like someone looking over my shoulder and commenting on my choice of dinners. If I’m enjoying the feast, what does it matter what someone else thinks of how I’m cutting the food?
As I said, this is individual. But my advice: Don’t treat the book or story you’re working on as the main product of your time writing. Instead, look at your enjoyment, fulfillment, and progress as a writer as the primary reasons you write.
Best of luck to you!