The Gremlin That Ate Your Fear of Writing . . .

He’s always hungry. Please feed Gremmy.

The Gremlin That Ate Your Fear of Writing

THIS GREMLIN LIVES on a diet of nothing but icky, sticky fear of writing. He’s insatiable, hungry and very grumpy. Too many writers hang on tightly to their fear of writing, which makes it impossible for him to snatch.

The trick to effective confession is to be ready to let go of your gunk. And once the gunk is gone, to fill the vacuum with something more heavenly. Having fun with writing is the closest to heaven a writer can get.

Gremmy loves regulars. If you have a backlog of fear, bookmark his cave and visit him often to confess.

Ready? Set? PURGE!

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66 thoughts on “The Gremlin That Ate Your Fear of Writing . . .

  1. Tiffany Kim

    Yeah yeah, I know! You probably recognize the sound of my footsteps by this point, but I can’t help myself. You’re kind of cute, and it always helps me feel a bit better when I stop by, give you something to chew on, and take a load off my chest. We got our first story assignment today, and I ran with it. Well, Brutus took it right in his jaws and ran out the door so fast, I didn’t even register he was gone till I heard the door slam!
    I was thrilled by the prompt and even more exhilarated when I took it in a direction I had not even thought about in my first few moments of contemplation. Jazz band led by the Devil made up of some of the Deadly Sins? Gold digger goes after one of them and finds out too late she’s fallen in love with the wrong guy? No fluffy and happy ending? A dabble into a genre I don’t usually write, from the perspective of an unlikable “protagonist”? I’m taking many risks here.
    Then the fear hits me like a freight train coming down the track faster than the speed of light. What if I offend someone? What if I write it wrong? What if it’s a lame idea that people think is more boring than watching paint dry? Who really does that, anyway? All those what-if questions make Brutus whine and bark. I made a promise to him, Gremmy. So here I am, asking these questions of you and hoping you answer with a loud, disgusting, and earsplitting burp, just for me. Would you do that, please? Thanks Gremmy. Now I must go because I made a promise, and I’m going to keep it. I write for nobody but me, with a metaphorical pen in my mighty fist, and (as one of my most recent protagonists likes to say), “I’m a (wo-(man of my word!” Write on!

    1. Gremmy

      * BURP *

      Ahhh, thanks for that juicy snack. Tasted like Dunkleosteus burger with pickles on a catnip-seed bun. Haven’t had one of those in so long.

      Just so you know, you’ll have to try a lot harder to offend anyone around here. Did you know I’m chartreuse-colored with flabby, wrinkly thighs? Yeah. It’s almost impossible to offend me. And the chick who put me in this cave thinks writers are something special, so she’s pretty hard to offend as well. I’d say just let the freight train go *splat* and keep typing.

      Gotta go now. Definitely need a nap after all the carbs in that catnip-seed bun. Don’t know how those cats get so energized. Annoying little beasties. They don’t even taste good.

  2. Tiffany J. Kim

    Psst, Gremmy! Over here. Sorry to be creeping here into your cave like this, in the early morning hours. Hey, at least it’s not the Witching Hour, right? Well Gremmy, I have a confession to make. I’ve been writing a lot lately, and really getting into this creative writing class and the creative process as a whole. I know I pushed Mr. Grim Reaper right down into the depths of your gullet last night, but for the most part, we’ve been friends and I’m writing him as a protagonist in one of my stories. Well, how does that even relate to fear? you ask. You’re here to eat my fear, so let’s get down to business, since it’s late and all. Well, I had a nightmare that I shared something deeply in the class about something intimate (something about a fight that Beau and I had). I called Nick up, had our usual phone chatter about the class, and in the midst of that conversation, I told him in painstakingly meticulous detail all about the fight and all about what I didn’t like about my husband, and in fact, I let it be known that I was just putting on an elaborate act but I didn’t really love him. I just saw him as a condo, dinner, and the like. This was a plot point stolen out of my story, because in my story, the protagonist has taken the form of a young boy and is going through the motions of being human, but isn’t truly feeling any of the feelings he purports to portray. So I guess in this instance, my writing has become so much a part of me (I’ve been passionately writing my story to a point where I’ve eaten, breathed, and now dreamt my writing), that it has scared me a bit. Plus, having once had a situation where I shared too much with another man (and an untrustworth one at that), my fear was convincing me to run from this course, shut things down, and especially not plunge ahead with my story, which has been giving me a boatload of joy. So yeah, interesting and not in the way you would expect, right? I guess fear of writing can come in so many forms. So many forms indeed! I think you should give me a prize for feeding you the most by the end of this course, as I am sure I’ll be back soon enough. Don’t you worry. This won’t be my last visit to you, Mr. Gremmy, sir. I actually think this might be interesting to observe and see how my fear evolves (and hopefully, with your help), is able to leave my system at some point. Anyway, I’m feeling a lot calmer, and I think I’ll be able to sleep, so thanks for taking this bit away from me. Hopefully you didn’t mind me waking you up. Good night, Gremmy. Sweet dreams!

  3. The Grim Reaper

    Behind my curtain of shadows, she hides. Within the folds of my black cloak of clouds, she seeks protection. Beneath my shade of silent darkness, she takes refuge. And with my cold scythe, she thinks I’ll deliver retribution. She hopes that I will etch her imaginative words. If they are rejected or mocked, it won’t matter. She seems to think that my unmoving, dispassionate soul; will parry the blows so her heart does not shatter. What makes her think I can write, the words that she longs to express? It is not my talent, my job, or my mission; To pen love, joy, anger, or deep sadness. She doesn’t seem to understand, that my writing is prosaic; the epitome of ennui! It’s an unfortunate thing for her to believe, that Death can write better than she. But in doing so, by fleeing and hiding and not having the nerve; I took the praise; all the pride and the accolades she deserved. She couldn’t stand on her own, and acknowledge her work, so she took many a pseudonym. Ah! It stirs something, even in my own stoic heart; the sad tale of one Tiffany Kim.

    1. Milli Thornton

      This was spooky and atmospheric and dredged in dread. When I saw The Grim Reaper as the one who came here to post, I was already shivering a little. Maybe just my eyes were shivering when I saw that name, but as each cold and stony word dropped into my mind, I think my soul started shivering too. However, I didn’t dare check because I didn’t want TGR looking my way.

      When I came to the words “Ah! It stirs something, even in my own stoic heart; the sad tale of one Tiffany Kim.” I had such a deep chill run through my body I was shocked that a self-proclaimed “prosaic writer” could make me feel so much. And I was surprised that such a prosaic writer could choose each word so perfectly to build a chilling tale that kept me riveted to the screen. I was horrified, and yet I could not look away.

      “The epitome of ennui” is a turn of phrase to be admired for its dash, were it not here to sound the death knell for a woman who dares to write and yet has needed to protect herself from hurt. I can only speak it in a whisper, for I, too, fear this presence, but I daresay this one who styles himself The Grim Reaper would not have the courage to himself live through and survive what he calls “this sad tale.”

      TGR even admits to his own hypocrisy: “I took the praise; all the pride and the accolades she deserved.” Why would one with such an unmoving, dispassionate soul want to steal something as warm and life-giving as praise?

      Fie on you, Reaper. You’re nothing but a boring has-been who hasn’t managed to vanquish his prey, but who boasts as if he has. Methinks Gremmy will find you an acrid thing to swallow.

    2. Nicholas Jackson

      I couldn’t stop reading this! You drew me in immediately by making the grim reaper the author of this anecdote. From there, I was drawn right away to the second phrase, “Within the folds of my black cloak of clouds, she seeks protection.” I loved how you were able to use this identity along with the amazing choices of words that you used to convey something so dark and terrifying. I, too, found the last line, “Ah! It stirs something, even in my own stoic heart; the sad tale of one Tiffany Kim” to be quite powerful.

  4. Nicholas Jackson

    Your Anecdote 2 Looking for Your Root Cause

    As we enter this anecdote, I’d advise you to dress for cold, dear reader, and if I’m saying this, you know it’s serious as I, like my dad, don’t get cold easily. We’re going on a trip back in time which will take us into the cold, gloomy sections of the forest of memory. You’ll probably want a flashlight as well since it’s hard to see past some of the gnarled tree roots. In fact, let’s hope that I remember the way, too. I wouldn’t want to get us both stranded twenty years in the past. Okay, here we go. It’s still relatively light out as we’re traveling through 2012, 2011, and 2010. We’ve been walking for a while now. You may not have noticed since the trail is relatively easy. We did pass a few dips and cliffs early on along with several roiling waterfalls, but so far, we’ve navigated it well. It’s not quite like Dumbledore’s Pensieve in Harry Potter as I didn’t have to pull a hair from my head to get us here. Ah, there’s 2008 that just passed us by as we continue walking down this path. Thankfully, it’s also not the same as side Apparition which would have been very uncomfortable. I shudder to think of what that would feel like if you had had to grab a hold of me as Harry did to Dumbledore. While I don’t remember the exact scenes, I can’t forget the discomfort that J. K. Rowling described when Harry went through it. Sorry to take us on this tangent. The point I’m trying to make here is that we are, fortunately, traveling in a way that is much more comfortable. What a year that was. I can see flashes of wonderful moments with Amber, my girlfriend at that time, but the path is curving to the left and downward, so we’ll have to leave those behind. Oh well. Oops. I should have warned you. As we get further into the past, the slope will become steeper. Try not to wander off too far as you’ll end up in a tangled mess of stinging nettles if you stray to the left or right. Okay, I just had to get that out of the way. We’re walking through 2007. Again, what another spectacular year. Sorry. That root came out of nowhere, just like that letter that I was on academic probation because I hadn’t completed enough units that quarter. This was actually a great example of fear of writing that could make a good story one day, but for now, the short version is that I was taking a course where the professor didn’t give us a due date for our final assignment. I did eventually finish it, but let’s just say that I took that a little too much to heart. If you blinked, you missed the first trip I ever made to Amberr’s, an amazing weekend that I won’t forget. We may have been walking too quickly, but if you listened carefully and sniffed the air, you would hear the chatter we were having and smell the hamburgers sizzling on the grill. Now, we just passed some very happy times in the French House, one of the best years in a dorm/house that I had at Stanford.

    Ah, I can tell that we’re close now. Looming ahead of us is Serra, one of the dorms where I lived, and ended up feeling lonely and a bit depressed. The trail is quite uneven here, and as we’ve made our ever steeper descent, the temperature has dropped by at least ten degrees, and it’s quite dark ahead of us, but I can see the cave where Gremmy lives, and he’s salivating over what’s coming. It’s your lucky day, Gremmy. You actually get a two for one special as there are two anecdotes that I felt should be included where I felt crushed by criticism of my writing from others. At long last, we are here in the first one in November of 2005. At this moment in time, I’m a sophomore at Stanford and am in a course that all of us were required to take. The name of it is PWR which stands for Program in Writing and Rhetoric. As the name suggests, it is a course/series of courses, one that we would take as freshmen and another, the one where we’re sitting now, that we take as sophomores, designed to improve our writing and use of other forms of communication. As we sit in the standard chairs that so many university classrooms have, our assignment is to critique first drafts of writing from our fellow students. The professor is out of town today, but even with him gone, there’s no burning desire to misbehave. At this point, I don’t remember all the names of the people in my small group, but there is one that sticks out, Yaron (I forget the spelling.) He is someone who, like so many who critique writing, gives what he thinks are entirely constructive suggestions. He and the others are looking over my first draft of what will eventually be my final project about spyware, one that ended up being fairly good, but we’re still a long way from that. While I don’t remember everything that Yaron said when he E-mailed me later, a lot of it was crushing in that he effectively ripped my writing to shreds. The main point I got was that he didn’t think I was even making an argument. “Spyware is bad. There’s no one who will disagree with that” was essentially his comment. There was one other very harsh comment, though, that stood out and still does to this day. He wrote, “the fact that one of your main sources is Wikipedia shows how unconvincing it is.” I certainly didn’t feel too motivated to write for a while, and I think that that crushing critique reinforced this idea I had that I wasn’t a good writer. Before then, I had actually been somewhat interested in what I was doing, but after that, writing and completing this project felt more like a chore and something to get turned in by the due date.

    We’re making one last stop which will take us to a point six months before the PWR story. I’d love to take you back to that Giants game that I enjoyed with my freshman dorm that comes right before this, but that will have to wait. In this anecdote, I’ve gotten an E-mail from my professor, Katherine Preston, who wants to have a meeting about my performance in her class, Edible Botany. I’m already nervous as I think I have a very good idea about what she wants to discuss. Sure enough, once we’re seated at Pete’s Coffee, she mentions that she is concerned since I am not at a point where I’ll get a passing grade. She points out that my writing appears to be rambling, but this wasn’t the comment that was deflating. While the rest of the discussion was tense but productive and finished well, the crushing remark came toward the end. This particular comment was more of an aside, but she remarked that my writing didn’t seem like that of someone who was finishing their freshman year of college. At this point, I had already been anxious every time I got feedback from professors and students as most was well-meaning but occasionally harsh. This comment, while probably intended to motivate me, certainly didn’t help. This passing aside along with the PWR story helped reinforce the idea that writing is an obligation. It needs to be perfect and be done within narrow and rigid boundaries. It isn’t something to be enjoyed, and in my case, it was something to be avoided
    Ah, I feel lighter now. This is good since we’ve got a long way to go back up the path to 2020, and carrying that burden is only going to weigh me down for who knows how long. At long last, we’ve returned to the craziness that is 2020, safe and sound. Thanks for joining me on this ride back in time!

    1. Milli Thornton


      You made this feeding session with Gremmy enjoyably artistic with your choice of how to portray it. I was happy to know you felt lighter at the end. I hope it did help to purge it and give it to Gremmy. Honestly, I can’t see what they’re saying about your writing. I find it to be quite the opposite of their stuffy critiques.

      – Milli

    2. Tiffany Kim

      Hi Nick, this was an awesome and very unique way to tell your anecdote. I loved how you guided Gremmy back through time to a place deep within your memory. I likened it to you peeling back the layers of an onion to get to the soft and vulnerable center, where these tragic memories were locked away. I’m sorry you were told that Wikipedia was unconvincing. I remember being discouraged from using Wikipedia when I was in school, too, but it seems to be one of the most prolific sources being used, and now it has given birth to so many other Wikis. I’m sure you could even find one solely dedicated to cybersecurity! Way to go for feeding this to Gremmy and purging it from your system.

  5. Tiffany Jinny Kim

    What did I tell you? Here I am. Back again. I just didn’t think I’d show up so quickly. Well Gremmy, today I handed in my writing assignment. It gave me so much joy to write it. My fingers were flying across the keyboard like someone had set the keyboard on fire and my fingers couldn’t leap off fast enough. I posted the assignment, didn’t edit it, and somehow even let a few typos slide. Well, after I sat there for awhile, after I had a chance to percolate that idea of realizing my writing had gone out there into the world, the fear hit me, and the fear is making it tough to let me feel pride and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment I should feel after handing in good work. I was inspired to write my interview with one of my dear friends as the reporter. I was really happy about it. I thought I caught his personality on the pages pretty accurately. Then I had the idea to share it with him, and for some crazy reason, I thought that would be a good idea. I sent him a text to say something very generic like, “Hi: thank you for encouraging me to take the creative writing course. You unknowingly became the inspiration for one of my assignments. May I share it with you?” After that, I seriously broke down, with tears and the room was spinning and I had trouble taking deep breaths, and I literally thought I was going to throw up. It was my fear coming out in a torrent of emotions, convincing me not to just revel in my work, and also convincing me that if I did show it to this person, I’d probably irreparably damage our friendship and find myself being the pariah of my workplace. So fear today is stopping me from feeling the things I thought this assignment was supposed to evoke like pride, accomplishment, joy, and a willingness to connect with others. It’s highly likely that this one won’t be seen by anyone but Milli and my friend Nick, and maybe my husband and that friend, so I really hope that giving you this fear again will help. Thanks Gremmy. I hope this helping doesn’t make your world spin or cause you to hurl all the fear you ate back out into the world. That would be bad for everyone: both for us and for you.

  6. Tiffany Jinny Kim

    Hey Gremmy,

    You and I need to talk. I’m not sure where you’ve been, but I sure could have used you years ago. My fear of writing hit me when I was about twelve. That was when it took the form of the voice of the man I admired most: Dad. It told me that all of the things dancing in my imagination were mere child’s play. Dragons? Ha, what could possibly give me the idea they might exist? Faraway planets where the trees were made of cotton candy? As if! And don’t even get me started about sweet love stories where everyone lives happily ever after. Bit by bit, that strong and authoritative voice, (the one that told me to grow up and stop being such a little kid), made me retreat into my shell. Instead of writing stories during class, (so at least it looked like I might be taking some notes), I read. I read the words of other writers, and somehow, I hoped that by reading, I would be able to satiate my desire to write.

    As time went on, I thought about writing again, but the fear had me convinced that even if my writing was good, nobody would believe I had penned the words, so I would often adopt pseudonyms when writing online. Strangely enough, my pseudonyms were always male. James and Jacob were the most common ones. By often assuming a pseudonym, I didn’t own my writing and never knew how I could take credit for it. My fear forced me to be alone with my pride, if there was ever any pride at all. I wrote about many things, like PTSD after returning home from war, but because of my fear and shame, James ended up getting the accolades that should have been mine.

    My fear of writing also manifests itself in trails of unfinished stories and novels that are cluttering my computer. I have a romance novel that I have been puttering about with for three years. My fear has convinced me that if I never finish it, I’ll never have to deal with the rejection. Fear also has caused a huge clog in the creativity channel of my neural network. I often find myself unable to think of any ideas, cliche or otherwise. The only pieces that are easy to write are the uninspired government documents that are expected of me on a daily basis.

    Finally, I have realized that my recent fiddling with AI Dungeon is also a manifestation of my fear. Damn, that fear is trickier than Loki. The premise of the website is that interactive fiction stories can be generated with the use of AI and the power of your imagination. It can generate plotlines, and as you write, it will contribute its own ideas to your “story”. If you don’t like the ideas, you can push a button, and wham! Your story could go in an entirely new direction. I was having fun, but also being convinced that the AI was the driver of these stories. Fear convinced me that if a plot idea did come to me, it was only because the AI had generated it.

    Essentially, fear has robbed me of confidence and conviction to own my writing as my own. It has convinced me that if I write, it should be dry and procedural in nature, or if I wrote anything creative, it should be veiled by a pseudonym so I could never fully bask in the glory of my accomplishments. Fear has also convinced me that if I have any ideas at all, they are stale, prosaic, and uninteresting, or at the other extreme, too wild and ridiculous to be worth turning into a story.

    Well, there you have it, Gremmy. Here’s my fear for you to enjoy. I’d love to say I won’t be visiting you again, but if my fear is anything like me, it’s going to be a determined, multidimensional, clever, and creative thing. It will assume many pseudonyms of its own, take on various personalities, speak to me in a soothing, rational, angry, anxious, mocking, and pragmatic way, so I’ll be back. If it’s larger-than-life and causes you some indigestion, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    1. Milli Thornton


      I love how you opened conversationally with “Hey Gremmy, you and I need to talk,” making it feel as if he’s squatting there right in front of you. To me, this signaled that you intend to own this experience. It’s not just an exercise. You’re here to get down to business.

      One thing that forcibly strikes me as I read your first paragraph is the quality of your writing and self-expression. Your father shut you down but somehow he didn’t stunt your growth. You sound like a person who’s been writing all the time for years. Your writing is clear and your punctuation impeccable. Your voice is lively and powerful. But I’m not talking about power in the typical sense. I’m talking about the power of creativity and expression. Which is True Power, instead of the type of power people use to suppress other people.

      Even more amazing how you much you’re owning your experience here in Gremmy’s cave, given that you would adopt pseudonyms when posting your writing online so you didn’t have to own it. This is a major step forward in your healing. I can feel it already. It’s about your willingness and deep desire to do this. There’s even a kind of fierceness coming through in your words, as if you’re not going to be beaten down into your box anymore. Bravo!

      I empathize with you about having all those unfinished stories and novels languishing on your computer. I think many writers can relate to that scenario. It’s one of the things that can haunt a writer with self-recriminations and that can be very corrosive. But you’ve been damaged and you can’t be expected to function at full capacity until you’ve had a chance to heal. So take some moments to be gentle and self-forgiving for those unfinished pieces.

      You come across as a very imaginative person who, at various points in her life, has no doubt been teeming with ideas. So I can only imagine how painful it is to have a huge clog in the creativity channel of your neural network. (Great way of putting it, by the way. Very evocative.) The good news is that writing on a regular basis—which the Fear of Writing Online Course will make you do for eight whole weeks—is the very best way to unclog that channel. I can’t wait to see what happens when some of that backlog of ideas shakes loose.

      I was very sorry to hear about the Loki effect with the AI Dungeon writing. It sounded like you were having so much fun with it, and I saw that it was helping you get into motion, which is an important part of the process. But you’ve revealed that, even with a benign pursuit such as AI Dungeon, fear has robbed you of confidence and conviction to own your writing as your own.

      I can’t help marveling at the way you express yourself, even when describing your losses as a writer. I love your choice of language, and the vivid way you put your points across. In fact, when you wrote this –

      “Fear has also convinced me that if I have any ideas at all, they are stale, prosaic, and uninteresting, or at the other extreme, too wild and ridiculous to be worth turning into a story.”

      – I thought it was so well put it deserves to be treated as a story idea. It actually even sounds a bit like a log line for a movie. Your story can be about a writer experiencing these two extremes, and that could look pretty dramatic if you milk it for all its worth. So copy that sentence into your Ideas Folder and save it for when you’re ready.

      As I was writing my book (which you and Nick will be using as the student manual during the course), I found it cathartic to write fictional stories centered around my main character’s fear of writing. It was like a purgative when I could give my fear to a character who could act it out in ways or in settings I might never have been able to. So keep that trick up your sleeve. Maybe it’s even something you could work on bit by bit using your private blog inside the course. But, of course, only if you feel like doing it.

      I absolutely loved your closing paragraph! It made me laugh out loud! I admire your pluck in coming up with such a kick-ass way to address and describe your fear. This alone gives me faith that you’ll be successful in learning how to turn the tables on it. I just have to quote you because it’s too good not to quote:

      “I’d love to say I won’t be visiting you again, but if my fear is anything like me, it’s going to be a determined, multidimensional, clever, and creative thing. It will assume many pseudonyms of its own, take on various personalities, speak to me in a soothing, rational, angry, anxious, mocking, and pragmatic way, so I’ll be back. If it’s larger-than-life and causes you some indigestion, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

      Again, it reminds me of the premise for a movie. There’s a lot you could do with that if you wanted to. I’m not saying to make it into something you have to go all the way with. But you could play with the dramatics of it. I love that visual of Gremmy getting indigestion. I can see his pudgy green body bulging with a lump that bounces off the inside walls of his belly. He’s burping and farting, trying to get your fear to pass through, while muttering cuss words about this girl Tiffany whose fear takes on multiple personalities.

      I know it’s probably a bit early to say this to you—and, if so, you can think about this later. What I found out, in retrospect, is that the things that wounded me eventually ended up offering a huge silver lining. My own fear of writing definitely led to some very fulfilling outcomes. But if someone had told me that at the time when I was suffering agonies of fear of writing, I would not have believed them.

      The secret lies in how it pushes us to overcome. Even though you were writing here about some very painful things, I can hear some of that push coming through in your voice already. It’s like a daffodil seed sprouting and pushing up through the dirt to find the sunlight.

      – Milli

  7. Nicholas Jackson

    This little anecdote takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. No, I don’t mean that it had anything to do with Star Wars, but it may as well have been in that universe since it happened 21 years ago in 1999 when I was in eighth grade, a year where so many things went wrong, but this had to be the lowlight. As eighth graders, the major assignment we had to complete was an eight to ten page paper about a famous person in history. It was supposed to include a biography of that individual, their contributions at the time, and how whatever they accomplished contributes to life today. Now that I think about it, I already found the project overwhelming before even starting. The fear was already setting in as procrastination in the early stages. This is somewhat ironic as I chose to do a report about P.T. Barnum, one of the far more zany characters you’ll find in history. You’d think, then, that a project about someone like that would be enjoyable. You would sadly be wrong.

    In the beginning, things started to go south when I procrastinated with ordering the library book I needed. I eventually did so, but there was apparently some mix-up as it took them a longer time to send it. By the time the book came, all my other classmates were well into the planning/writing process. My parents and the History teacher, Ms. Derwin at the time, worked out a solution which seemed fabulous at the time as the delay wasn’t entirely my fault. I could turn in my paper the day school started after winter break. Well, that turned out to be anything but fabulous. During the break, I did everything to try and avoid writing this after I finished reading the book, a biography of P.T. Barnum. Since it was the holidays, doing so was very easy with so many other distractions.

    Finally, the day before school was to return came. It was at that point that I realized that I had to seriously write this paper. My mom had been gently prodding me throughout the holidays with offers to help edit, but I’d only jotted down a few sentences and tried to stay distracted with some of the great new toys and music that I’d gotten for Christmas. Like I said, it was finally Sunday, January second, and the paper was due the next day. I guess I thought that inspiration would magically hit me like a bolt of lightning. It didn’t turn out that way at all. After many editing sessions with my parents, we finally had the biographical section done. It took us until ten at night to get there, though, and there were still two more sections of this giant paper to go. Finally, hours later, I remember my mom saying exasperatedly,
    “It’s twenty to one. What are you going to learn from this?” My sullen response was, “not to wait until the last minute.” I still don’t know how I was able to function that day in school.

    In the end, I remember turning in a paper which ended up getting a passing grade, but the fear of the project caused me to wait so that what could have been potentially better and more enjoyable was extremely stressful and only passable. In fact, I still remember some of the interesting things that my parents suggested. My dad, for example, mentioned that modern advertising techniques were heavily influenced by Barnum. Mom also pointed out that he helped bring the mega concert to the US (yes, we will definitely have those again.) I couldn’t stop to think about and enjoy that. It was all about making that deadline. That’s the most drastic example for me, but fear of writing has caused similar incidents like that where I procrastinate until nearly the last possible moment even if the project is enormous.

    1. Milli Thornton


      Thanks for feeding Gremmy so generously with this anecdote from the eighth grade. I know he’d be having a field day with this. Thanks for taking the time to make such a thorough account of it. I hope it helped a little to purge this by writing about it. I can totally understand how overwhelming and exhausting this experience was for you.

      – Milli

  8. Alexis Tulloch

    Motivational Article 3 of 8: Is Your Comfort Zone Beckoning?
    (Fear of Writing Online Course)

    What is a Comfort Zone:
    It is somewhere I run and hide or or something I indulge in and where I find comfort. Sadly it is often false comfort but nevertheless it’s comfort at the time

    That it is a monster is another thing! Often the monster is only recognised after the event and then it’s too late the deed has been done. To say I only had one monster would not be true. They are specialised and know exactly how to plan their strategies to do a takeover bid when the vulnerability kicks in.

    The comfort monsters know what I like or indeed what I am addicted to so when the need for comfort sets in, and depending on my mood and what I am engaged with, it will slink in. Before I know it it has fully engaged with me and I am diverted into pacifying my comfort needs.

    A typical strategy is when I go shopping for a ‘few essentials’ and find myself looking down the chocolate biscuit aisle aided and abetted by my comfort monster. I rationalise and say I’d better get some goodies in for my guests and visitors. I can’t really offer them a cup of tea without a biscuit. It’s the Scottish way of doing it! I was brought up that way. Of course who consumes the the mega portion of the biscuits? Ah, but most of them were around 99 calories and having one every day or other day seems reasonable and permissible or is it.

    Then there are the days I am online and looking for a particular book, DVD etc on Amazon. It’s like the monster has been let loose and wants to devour everything in sight and tells me this is a good thing to have and I will enjoy it as will my guests and I can loan it out. All sounds good and full of rational justification but to what end other than to meet a comfort need in the moment.

    There is also the people monster where I used to want to continually be connected to people. If not face to face then over the telephone. Thankfully its not as bad as it was.

    The bottom line is that comfort needs are often met by unrelated things that in truth will never met the real need. The challenge is to find out the core issue linked to it. The monster on the other hand is not interested in that but rather to keep me in the comfort zone addictive behaviour. It’s instant gratification and keeps the pain or whatever at bay in the moment.

  9. Antoinette Anderson

    I love the descriptive words that you have used to wiggle out this wormy Monster in me.
    Actually it is a multi-faceted devious slime ball, that even now is trying to create smoke screens of avoidance!
    Because of its shifty character it’s quite difficult to describe, but the most obvious one is ‘aloneness.’ It likes to be left alone and cuddle itself by itself, if it could it would not ever move from its hiding place of self comfort.
    It has a favourite place called ‘the sludge pit sleep in.’ And once in there, it gets deeper and deeper into the sludge slime that envelops the whole body, then the brain, sinking deeper and deeper into a dysfunctional default of nothingness; time and purpose lose all meaning.
    Another facet is called rubber rounds. Round and round it goes giving the impression of action, but really it’s doing nothing just gobbling up time in an endless roundabout of distraction.
    When this slimy monster tires of that it loves to think about tomorrow. It has a huge bag of tricks called “do it later,” then tomorrow maybe, and even agrees to do it another time!
    Sometimes it likes to dress up and go public, and talk about how entitled it is to have its own way!
    But mostly it likes to slink silently away into its own sludge pit of self comfort.

  10. Angela Marra

    Motivational Article 3 of 8:
    Is Your Comfort Zone Beckoning?
    Monster comforts zone and I are well acquainted. He has a very domineering sort of character when he is in full action. Yet he doesn’t seem to show his face because I obey his orders very well. There is a very clear boundary outlined by the Monster comfort zone and if you keep within that boundary he is happy and content to leave you alone. So, life seems like a breeze but your spirit becomes grossly depressed and compressed by the mundane boundary set out by monster comfort zone. My spirit knows it was created for more so it soars with great wanting to break free and defy the boundary of MONSTER COMFORT ZONE!!! OHHH but the shear horror the sheer terror of the thought brings into the scene the friend of monster comfort zone………. MR FEAR!!!! Mr FEAR is big and huge and has a very large black cloak. He has sharp claws and sounds exasperatingly scary that your bones start to rattle. Mr FEAR has the fiercest sound, but I have discovered on some occasions when I have managed to get MR FEAR silenced That he has no teeth. Can you believe that!! I do confess though, I had a little help. It was a gift I received from the True Lion of courage. He loves to give these gifts if I appeal to him directly.
    Monster comfort zone and Mr Fear keep this very tight under control within the boundary set out by them and woe to anyone who dares to step out! In these days, I have been having quiet talks in secret with the true Lion of Courage, making sure Monster Comfort Zone and Mr Fear never find out. He has seen the tyranny of it all. He has seen the crushing and unproductive consequences of the cohering manipulation of Monster Comfort Zone and Mr Fear and has given me direct instruction to come out of that boundary. I know I have to come out and face those two evil tyrants. I remember that if I ask the true Lion of courage he will give me another gift to step up and out of that zone and not live there anymore. So out I come and face the giants heee haaa!!!!!!

  11. alexis tulloch

    Week 2 How to Reap an Abundant Crop
    Your Anecdote 2: Looking For Your Root Cause

    True Anecdote
    Internally demoralised about your writing (and what caused it)

    The context of this anecdote is related to a book myself and 3 colleagues planned to write, which would be a working a Handbook for Preceptors and Preceptees’. The Preceptors’ were qualified Registered Nurses who worked alongside student nurses (Preceptees’) in the Ward setting to facilitate the learning outcomes the students had to achieve during their clinical (practice) placements as they progressed their training to become Registered Nurses.

    The content of the Preceptor Handbook would be based on research findings extrapolated from data collected from a pilot study carried out between Education staff and clinical staff.over a 6- 12 month period. The content would be supported with relevant theory.

    The education input included the training of preceptors in the classroom setting and how they were able to apply their new found knowledge and skills in the practice setting (ward) with the students.

    It would include the systems and processes that were put in place both in the wards and the education establishment to facilitate the implementation of the programme for the students and the Registered Nurses.

    The Writers’ Contributions

    The uniqueness of the Handbook was the collaborative effort of both Clinical and Education staff working together both in the planning, training, delivery and evaluation of the whole project. To our knowledge such a collaborative project had not been done before in the UK or at least if it had it had not been published in the public domain! So we thought it was a first and was a hole in the market that needed to be filled.

    The Demoralizing experience

    The overall content of the book had already been done and each contributor was already working on detailed content. The potential publisher asked for an outline of the book and content of each chapter which we provided.

    The publisher informed us that they had sent it to an expert (‘supposed’ in my opinion) for review. I knew the Professor and knew that our School of Nursing and Midwifery was really leading the field in both the education and training of Clinical staff in Preceptorship Programmes and we were ahead in our collaboration with Clinical staff in its implementation.

    The feedback came from the Publisher to say that the ‘expert’ stated it was a non starter or words to that effect.

    What caused it?
    Ofcourse one can only surmise because no feedback was given with regards to what was actually wrong with it, how to change it, develop it further etc etc., There is such competition and jealousy in the academic writing field so I don’t think that helped. What we were writing about was key at the time in the Nursing education field. It seemed our little school had got in there first and it was not liked!
    Sadly we had all been working on it for over a year and so we were all devastated.
    I was heading up the writing project and I with the team just dropped it all and got on with the rest of our lives. No one around us seemed to bother even our Director of Education or the Director of Nursing interestingly so there appeared no incentive to press on with it.

    As I am writing this account I am beginning to see with hinds sight there were other avenues we could have pursued and other publishers we could have approached. I am now seeing that my own internal responses of never being good enough and that it wasn’t perfect so what can one expect came into play so there was no fight in me to press of and sadly the rest of the team just agreed and we let it dropped.

    It should not have happened but it did and I guess there are hundreds more who have fallen into the same hole.

    The sadness is that apart from myself and others being deprived of developing our creative imagination in writing a whole generation of students and clinical staff were deprived of a potential very good and useful handbook!!

    1. Angela Marra

      Dear Alexis,
      Thank you for sharing this story which I did not know. You wrote it in such a manner that took the reader step by step to understanding this complex process. I am sorry it did not get published. But glad you are able to see things differently now.
      I can almost see you writing a textbook on healing!!
      Amazing Alexis.

    2. Antoinette Anderson

      It’s a painful story Alexis.
      And clearly so etched on your mind, as you are still able to detail the whole event so very precisely.
      I felt a shock as you described how you and the whole team, who clearly were committed and engaged in the project for a whole year, just dropped it and got on with your lives!
      But I feel so encouraging to see how you were able to reflect back on some of the things you could have done. But more important I feel, are the insights you have gained through writing this anecdote
      You write of your own ‘internal responses of never being good enough’ and that ‘it wasn’t perfect so what could you expect”. Being left with no fight in you, after the expectation of such high levels of internal performance. Is a devastating blow. I could almost feel the punch myself.

      You end with sadness and what sounds as regret. Do you think that by writing this down you have given it up the Gremlin to eat up?

      Alexis Thanks for sharing this story with us, I feel that I am getting to know you in a fresh way, and am gaining new insights, into the ‘real you’. And there is so much more to come, which is exciting. I know how you struggled with this one. So you have done well just to push through. Well done my friend! Keep going you’re doing great!

  12. Angela Marra

    Your Anecdote #2: Looking for your root cause
    I don’t have many memories at school in terms of writing creatively. I did not do well at school so I can’t imagine I wrote amazing stories that got me great marks. The real time I remember really being crushed and demoralised was when I was in my first job I did in Italy. It was not my first job in my life but it was my first in that country and also in an admin job. I worked as an assistant to a secretary to a conference organising company because I spoke and wrote English.
    The lady I worked for was German but was extremely experienced in coordinating medical conferences. She was a chain smoker which was difficult for me being a non-smoker. She was kind though willing to teach with patience. There were others though that were very competitive and nasty. My main job was to insert addresses into the database. I could hardly speak Italian and found this incredibly overwhelming. I was then asked to go over to the hospital to a doctor to take minutes in English. I obviously was not someone he was expecting and was annoyed at my way of using the computer. He immediately started to belittle me and to insult me as if I was a piece of rubbish.

    This doctor came to the office at a later date and was very adamant to get me fired as he was paying them to get a professional medical conference off the ground and would not have me, incompetent to have anything to do with this. I was asked to leave. I have not really had any confidence in my writing skills since then. Since this time, I have had bosses and supervisors correct my work with a red pen just to add to the humiliation.
    I have not really had any experience except for the time already mentioned in previous writings, where I have had to write creatively. So this is really going to be great and interesting to see where all this will lead to. I trust that the creativity will come forth with a gushing thrust and bring life into my writing.

    1. alexis tulloch

      Dear Angela
      Thank you for sharing these painful experiences with us. I can understand the overwhelming feelings you experienced. I have been there myself and it seemed a nightmare. Trying hard to get to grips with something and just digging myself into a deeper hole!
      I am sorry that you had such a cruel experience with the Medical man who wanted you fired. I have not experienced this but I can understand why it knocked your confidence.
      I love your rising optimism when you say you ‘trust that the creativity will come forth with a GUSHING THRUST and bring life into my writing..
      I am standing with you in that and look forward to that gushing thrust where you won’t be able to hold it back because you imagination and creativity is just flowing so freely from you through your writings. May it be dear friend
      Keep going Angela you are doing well!!

    2. Antoinette Anderson

      Dear Angela
      What an overwhelmingly difficult experience for you to face and especially because it was your first Job! Horrendous, I can just feel how crushed and demoralised you must have felt, because not only was it your first job, but it was in Italy as well!, which, I understand, would have made things so much more difficult for you. Much more so then if it would have been in a different culture. I am so sorry Angela that you had to go through this awful humiliation, in this horrid way.. I do remember you once telling me about it, a long time ago, But by writing down this anecdote, you have been able to add really important details and to describe the emotional impact that this experience has really had on you. I love the way you were able to give up the memories and build up on the excitement and expectation of the release of creativity.
      I must say it again Angela, thank you for finding this On Line Course, and thank you to Milli for writing such an amazing course. We are all beginning to unlocked and release some deeply painful experiences. Thank you for sharing yours, and together I look forward to seeing the flowering and ‘gushing forth of creativity in and through you.

  13. Antoinette Anderson

    Anecdote # 2

    I can’t say that there was any one incident, that dried up
    my creativity to write.

    But like a form of ancient Chinese torture, it was drop after drop after drop.
    A constant dripping of negativity, indifference, criticism disapproval and harsh judgements.
    These insidious pin-heads of torture fed into my own already crumbling core place, depositing in me with every painful drop a poisonous concoction of hopelessness, worthlessness and in inertia.
    Eventually, the constancy accumulated over time and formed a cyst of sulphur spewing forth, of self accusation and self judgement. This twisted self infliction transformed my creative joyful child heart to become dulled and heavy, picking up only the vibes of a mantra of self hatred and self rejection.
    I slowly sunk down, lower and lower under the weight, to the bottom of the pool of despondency, slowly slipping into mud. There I lay hidden, and hiding, year after fruitless year.
    BUT NOW!
    I arise.
    Life in me is longing for LIFE to be expressed through me.
    Movement, sound, colours of imagination, expressions in me popping up like popcorn bursting about out in jumping for joy!
    ITS ME living in the LIGHT!
    Watch out World
    ITS ME, sprung to LIFE

    1. Angela Marra

      Dear Mom,
      Thank you for sharing this horrid torture with us I can just feel it in myself….eek. I also see though that the life-giving energy inside of you is reaching out and springing forth to bring a wonderful burst of creativity and boy the world will stand amazed. Thank you Lord!! I celebrate with you… yeee haa Go mom go !!!!

    2. alexis tulloch

      Dear Antoinette
      Thank you for sharing your horrendous journey which left you feeling at the bottom of a pit in despondency and hiding. I am so sorry that your had years of relentless negative responses, indifference and criticism which resulted in turning in upon yourself. As I read it I could feel some of the pain you were expressing. However that sadness turned to joy when I can to the ‘BUT NOW!’ in your account. It was like you were rising up from the ashes, shaking it off and allowing Life to stream through your very body to the core of your being. As you described what the life in your body was longing for I could see it all rising up within you and there was no stopping it. The break through had come. How positively wonderful. Like creation I am standing on tip toe waiting to see the release that is on the way. Go for it my friend in a forward momentum with no looking back. Well done!!

  14. Angela Marra

    Your Anecdote #1: The Gremlin That Ate my Fear of Writing.
    The effects that the fear of writing has on me is to make me feel incompetent. Actually, that is the main strongest feeling. Not good enough. I guess I try to shy away from writing because I don’t like to feel the negative feelings associated with it. That is quite interesting, it has given me insight to my son’s situation with maths. I get very nervous especially at work when I get asked to write a letter or a report. I know my grammar is not great and my spelling is worse so I think myself into a state of frustration that inevitably I make terrible mistakes that just confirm and enhance my self-doubt and the cycle of belittling and self-doubt continue.
    I don’t think I fear when I to allow myself to write creatively if it is for me or for an exercise. Or at least I think that we will see what happens here…. I think I am afraid of exposing my writing to others like on a website for fear of rejection or ridicule. I guess I fear man’s opinion. I think that is why I know I would like to write Bloggs but have had fear to do so because just the thought of all the comments that this technological culture is breeding the ability to tear each other apart with awful abusive comments freely given with no consequences with the expectation that to make it big you have to stomach abuse? Not sure I want that…
    On the other hand, I have a longing to write things that I know I have inside but never give myself space or the slack to just be and write. Either rushing or just procrastinating or making excuses so I don’t bother at all. What I’m starting to see is what I have just described here is actually how I treat myself, I’m either running away or making excuse to be with my internal me…… fear of being with myself!!

    1. alexis tulloch

      Dear Angela thank you for writing this very thoughtful and insightful account of the ‘gremlin that ate my fear of writing’ assignment. You have done so well to be able to express the various elements that have and do affect how you perceive yourself and your ability to write. You have been very honest with yourself and have dug deep and come up with some revelatory insight – ‘fear of being with myself’ . Its a great start Angela . Well done my friend. I am very proud of you. Cant wait to read your next contribution.

    2. Antoinette Anderson

      Wow Angela,
      “Fear of being with myself!”
      What a marvellous discovery to have made, as you opened yourself to think through your fears of writing. You have so clearly taken yourself down a path and with each step there is a a nugget of self discovery that you may want to pick up on down the line.
      It’s so great to be sharing this journey with you and Alexis.
      I look forward to our relationship deepening as we journey down this road of creative discovery together,
      Thanks for making it all possible.

  15. alexis tulloch

    Your Anecdote 1: The Gremlin that ate your fear of writing

    I have never felt I had confidence to write for pleasure. I have written many things related to my professional life as an Educator which included academic writing, multiple reports, educational curriculum documents etc etc.

    When it comes to writing for fun and calling on my imagination and creativity its something I haven’t really explored?

    I am now finding myself asking the question ‘really Alexis, is that really true?

    As I am writing this I am checking myself because much of my educational writings especially in developing curriculum for new courses required a lot of imagination and creativity and actually looking back I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thoroughly enjoyed working with educational and clinical experts to gain their expert knowledge and experience and discuss with then how programmes show be developed and run.

    My job was then to put it all into educational speak and create an attractive, workable programme to develop professionals at various levels. I did this many times for a full range of degree and masters programmes over the years. They were innovative and very creative!

    I never really considered it in terms of using my imagination and creativity but in the light of what I have read already on this course I guess I have not recognised it as such!

    Wow! This is revelatory!………amazing!

    So fear is not a real issue right now but rather curiosity and challenge

    1. Antoinette Anderson

      I am excited for you!
      Out of the pages of past success comes a beautiful treasure of discovery about your self.
      This gift literally unravels as you write your story. Then suddenly at the end, this explosive pleasure as you discover a part of you that never really went missing.
      It just got caught up in an academic context.

    2. Angela Marra

      Dear Alexis,
      It is amazing how when you took the time to reflect and ask yourself questions as this course is asking us to do you noticed an amazing truth. How amazing that you could see you have been creative all along!!
      What I got was that not all creativity is the same, it is expressed differently by different people as I have seen from your piece of Gremlin meal, he must have enjoyed that!!!
      It is very exciting to be doing this, it will be awesome to see what emerges from each one of the A Team.
      Thank you for your honesty and well done for getting it to the Gremlin forum.

  16. Antoinette Anderson

    Fear is not near the surface of my emotions, therefore I deduce that this gremlin has sunk deep down lurking in the depths, hoping never to be exposed.

    I remember the Joy and excitement of writing a creative story that won class room acclaim, and high praise from my teacher when I was about 12 years old.

    The next memories I have of writing are feelings of shame, failure, judgement, stupidity, can’t spell, run hide no one cares.
    I realise that under the crushing blows of critics I have been shamed into silence, only ever writing two poems and odds and ends simply because there seemed no other way to express what was in me at the time. Whenever I’ve tried to emerge and share what I had written the inner critic shouted louder.
    So now even the desire has all but drown in the murky pool where Gremlin lives.

    Thus far and no further!
    I arise up and out of the pool of despair, spit out the poison I’ve swallowed and stand up tall.
    I reach out to engage with joy and light, dancing on sunbeams sliding down rainbows, rescuing my child again, to fly high and free in freedoms victory!

    1. alexis tulloch

      Dear Antoinette
      This is an amazing account! You have been digging deep and begun to unearth the roots of your fear of writing. I am sure there is more to come but bless you for being willing to go there and face what you can remember, painful though it be.
      I love the way you use such expressive and descriptive words and phrases to rise up from the ashes as it were and begin to establish yourself in a manner that will indeed bring victory and freedom to the beautiful creative you that’s temporarily locked or hiding away. Well done my friend. Keep on going and I look forward to your next contribution.

    2. Angela Marra

      Dear Antoinette (MOM)
      I am very excited that I and Alexis will be seeing a rescued creative, victorious person emerging from the murky pools of Gremlin land. The journey has been marked out clearly by your statement “Thus far and no further” giving me the feeling that it is HAPPENING FOR REAL. I am glad that you could share the painful stuff but I know for sure what is emerging can be seen already by the fun use of words at the end of your piece.
      What a blessing to have the possibility to explore another unknown area of all of us on the A team.

  17. paranoid

    Being the first big exercise in your book I need to face my fears and feed gremmy.
    I suppose my biggest fear is that of getting my work stolen. I know how silly it sounds–even as I write this–but every time I sit at my computer to write I think of all the stories of computers being hacked and all the information stolen. So why would I pour my heart and soul into my best work when I’m one computer virus away from someone else claiming it as their own?
    I’ve tried writing pen to paper but the way I write involves going back and filling in more throughout, so it’s a mess on paper. Also my typewriter skips if I write too fast so that’s not a very easy way to write–yes I did just say typewriter.

    I’m in love with your book<3 thanks for helping us struggling writers.

    1. fearofwriting Post author


      Thanks for coming straight from the book to feed Gremmy. I loved your handle (Literally…no…Literarily paranoid) and Gremmy found that particularly delicious.

      It does sound like you need to do your writing on the computer. I wonder what we can do to help you overcome the fear of someone hacking your computer and stealing your writing? You could research free virus protection and get some extra protection for your computer. But I’m also wondering if there’s something underneath that fear? Please let me know if you uncover it as you read the book.

      Warm Wishes,

  18. Kimi

    I can’t begin to describe how deep-seated the Fear of Writing is in me. I’ve had it for most of my life, even though I’ve been creating stories since I was 5 years old and playing with dolls. My school district had a Young Authors program and I would so look forward to participating and finally be given the chance to write. It didn’t occur to me at such a young age that I didn’t have to wait to be given an assignment in order to write. I was always making plots and stories in my head, though. I’ve always had plots and characters floating around in my head. Sometimes even full-length novels! But with most of them, not one word has touched the page.

    The fear is debilitating and it makes me so unhappy! I wish I could love writing and that it would give me the same pleasure stuff like video games do. I want writing to be the thing that I wake up excited to do. I want it to be the thing that I do that makes me procrastinate on everything else instead of everything else being the things that make me procrastinate writing. I want it to be the thing that helps me relax instead of the thing I dread to do.

    I’ve felt the same competitiveness others describe. I compare myself to writers all the time and it completely drains my confidence and self-worth. Even if other people like what I write, I still feel like it’s not good enough or that I won’t write anything on that level again. It’s the Fear of Failure and the Fear of Success all wrapped up in one sordid package.

    I picked up your book a while ago but didn’t get around to reading it until just recently (procrastination, ahoy!). Then I read the chapter “Suffering Comes With the Turf” and realizes that you were describing (quite eloquently, I might add) the story of my life. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one out there with these crippling self-doubts.

    There’s hope that I’ll get out of this funk somehow and that I’ll be able to have the confidence and the comfort in writing that I want. Nothing would make me happier! I feel like one of the things that especially holds me back is the Fear of Editing. If I’ve managed to write something down, the hardest for me is to go back and edit it. Some people say, “Just get it down now and you can go back and fix it later!”

    Not in my case! Looking back over stuff I’ve written gives me a visceral feeling of unease. I’m afraid there won’t be anything I like, that it will be unsalvageable or childish. That I won’t be able to think of the right ways to “fix” it. It’s all or nothing with me. It has to be perfect the first time or I’ll never want to touch it again. That line of thinking is extremely unhealthy but I don’t know how to stop it, either.

    With all of these half-finished or unexplored ideas in my head, I start to short-circuit. There’s stuff I want to work on (like fanfiction!) but I know I should be working on my mystery series because I can actually make money off of my original stories. Then a guilt cycle begins that’s almost impossible to pull myself out of. I have so many ideas and nothing gets written. What does get written sounds (to me) nowhere near as good as what other people can write.

    Thank you for letting me feed Gremmy. If he’s still hungry, I’ve got enough Fear to give him a feast.

    1. fearofwriting Post author

      Dear Kimi,

      Thank you for using your radar to find Gremmy and feed him. He adores the crunch and flavor of substantial contributions such as yours. He just loves it when his dinner is full of intelligence and detail, even though he’s not very smart himself. I can hear him burping right now, trying to digest some of the wonderful words you used that he didn’t understand, such as “visceral.” (He loved the word “funk” and could relate to that one totally.) You were very expressive and your comment was beautifully written.

      Even though I’m always happy when writers find this page, it’s also bittersweet because the stories are so tragic. Yours makes me sad because you’re so full of genius waiting to come forth. I can just see you back when you were five years old, creating stories in your head while you played with your dolls. You’re a born writer. I bet you light up inside whenever you see the word “writing,” even though it probably also gives you mixed feelings.

      I’m incredibly sad that most of the words in your head for your stories and even novels have never hit the page. I hope my book will help. Please keep reading. There are things in the book you need to know. You can heal that fear of editing, but it will take a different approach. (I’ll explain a bit more in a moment.)

      I understand the guilt cycle that gets triggered whenever you think you “should” be working on your mystery series so you can make money. It’s a double-edged sword. You can’t make money with your stories unless you write, but you can’t write those stories because you’re paralyzed with fear.

      I recommend that anything about your writing that feels or sounds like a “should” be put on the back burner for now. Those “shoulds” will kill off any spark of creativity that manages to wriggle through the wall of fear, even when it’s for a cherished project such as your mystery series.

      The cure I found is to have fun and drop the shoulds. This cure has worked on dozens and dozens of writers since I published the first edition of my book back in 2000. You’ll find the cure if you keep reading. But you have to be prepared to try the Storyteller Writing Prompts. They’re silly and and wacky and fun and totally in the opposite direction from perfectionism. They’re not meant for anything but your own pleasure, which is designed to take all the pressure away. You don’t have to edit them, or get them published, or show them to anyone. Just write them for fun.

      Perfectionism is part of the fear and many writers suffer from it. If you start using the writing prompts and set yourself the goal of just fooling around and making a mess (pretend you’re in a sandbox or at a playground) you’ll eventually start to flow with your writing. It probably won’t happen if you just try it once. You have to keep at it. There are 112 prompts in the book so you’ll never run out. (Or, if you do, just write to me and I’ll give you more!)

      I’ll send you something by email that will help you keep going even when you feel what you’re writing is slop. That way you’ll have an extra safety net for using the writing prompts.

      Please believe me when I say it’s possible to recover from fear of writing. I wrote my book because I had horrible, debilitating fear of writing. After hearing me lament about it so often, a friend made a comment (“You would be good at helping others with their fear of writing”) and that’s what triggered me to write the book. But writing the book didn’t cure me. I had to use the Storyteller Writing Prompts from my own book, over and over again, to learn how to relax my perfectionism and have fun. I have never regretted the effort I put into doing that. If I hadn’t done that, I would probably still be all gnarled up with fear. Instead, these days I get to write what I feel like writing and make some of my writing dreams come true. I want that for you, as well.

      I hope you’ll try it. It hurts my heart to see someone with so much promise such as yourself going through this agony and being unable to live your writing dreams.

      Kimi, thank you for reaching out. I hope this becomes a turning point for you.

      Warm Wishes & Hugs ~ Milli

  19. Izzy

    I am utterly paralysed by competitiveness and fear of failure when it comes to writing creatively.

    Partly, I think, it stems from my English major – as someone just starting to read literary criticism and theory, the creative process is made to seem like this ineffable and miraculous mystery which only geniuses (genii?) can fully access. I’ve seen people say things like “the only way to get better is to practise!” but my response is always to assume that even on the first try, most people will be better at writing than myself after lots of practice.

    I’m also fixated on one particular person in the year below me at school who already writes at a VERY high level (as in, winning national competitions and having her work on national TV and radio), and I compare myself constantly to her, slavishly emulating and despising her at the same time. If people younger than me are producing work at a higher standard now, what do I possibly have to offer that’s new, interesting or original? Moreover, I see the types of people who are usually considered creative and interesting (often on websites such as Tumblr) and beat myself up over having absolutely nothing in common with them. I’m beginning to think I’m just not the right type of person to produce good, profound literature. It’s actually kind of taking over my life at this point.

    As people are starting to get attention for published books at a younger and younger age, and self-publishing becomes a steadily more viable way of disseminating work, at 17 (and out of practice) I already feel like I’m ‘past my prime’ as a creative and as an author. But I want to write – I want to have fun with words like I did when I was a kid. I don’t want to freeze up and feel physically ill every time I open a blank page.

    I opened your website, read the criteria for having a Fear of Writing and immediately gasped: “That’s me!” Thank you for making this comforting website exist, and please help!

    1. fearofwriting Post author

      Hello Izzy,

      I’m glad you found my website and thanks for reaching out. I don’t want you to freeze up and feel physically ill every time you open a blank page either. It’s a terrible feeling.

      The person in the year below you at school who already writes at a very high level—winning national competitions and having her work on national TV and radio—does sound intimidating. It’s easy for me to feel inferior to her as well, even without my knowing her. I can see why it affects you so much.

      It’s difficult not to compare ourselves to other writers. But the effort of switching your focus away from that onto your own needs and desires can be incredibly fruitful. That’s really the only way to break out of the trap of comparison, which is like a cancer for creative souls. You have to purposely work at switching your focus.

      There are a number of ways you can do this. One is to limit your exposure to the ones you’re comparing yourself to. For instance, if you’re constantly looking around on Tumblr at all the great writers, then you’re going to feed the cancer. Whereas, if you’re busy practicing your own creativity, you won’t have time to feel drained and defeated by all that.

      Of course, then there’s the problem of how you feel whenever you sit down to try to write. You’ve got all that negative backlog of stuff going on in your emotions and that makes you feel hopeless about your own ‘pitiful’ sentences. I know exactly how that feels. That’s why I wrote my book and created Fear of Writing. I could barely write a paragraph without despising myself enough to want to quit. I empathize with you. It’s such a painful place to be. But there’s definitely hope of not living that way. I’m a happy writer these days, even though I never could have believed back then that it was possible.

      You have to go in search of your own inner key. I spotted it right away in your fourth paragraph when you said “I want to have fun with words like I did when I was a kid.” That’s the shift you need. It will require you, at least for a while, to let go of the lofty ambition of writing meaningful literature and just write for your own entertainment and fun.

      Would you rather be a prodigy or enjoy life and enjoy your own creativity? Being a prodigy (like the student you mentioned) can get you a lot of attention, but attention from the world isn’t always as fulfilling as your own inner world of the imagination.

      Whenever I look out at the world to see what I “should” be doing, I immediately stop enjoying myself. But when I’m connecting with my fictional characters and watching them unfold their own stories, I’m having a blast. It’s a feeling like no other. It’s like the best kind of drug or candy you could get, but without the side effects.

      If you were born with a desire to write, then you definitely have your own original stories to tell. The trick is in allowing yourself to develop your own writing voice, without pressuring yourself to do it at someone else’s speed.

      Plus, it’s true. The more writing you do, the more your writing voice will develop its own unique flavor. Calling it practice may already suck the fun out of it. Maybe you could come up with a different word that doesn’t connote the drudgery of practice. How about exploring? The more you explore your own stories, the better writer you will learn to be.

      I hope that helps a little. You definitely have my support and I’m cheering for you. I will email you with some other help.


      P.S. Maybe you’re doing better than you think. Your expressions about your fear of writing were so persuasive and evocative, you totally put me in touch with how it feels. I mean, in a very powerful way that hit me in the gut. If you can have that much effect with your written words, maybe you’re onto something. Try putting some of your strongest issues and emotions into your fictional characters and see what happens. If you enjoy being funny, try also letting your characters mouth off with some funny stuff. It can be very therapeutic.

  20. Paul-Phoenix

    I do have a fear of writing, but I’m not a writer.

    See, I don’t really have much interest in reading. And learning grammar at the age of 25 has proved difficult and dull for me. I have trouble paying attention and focusing on an online grammar lesson. Procrastination is often. It’s became quite a vicious cycle. Because I can’t focus on my writing lessons, I don’t know how to write well. Because I don’t know how to write well, I have a fear of my own incompetence preventing me from ever writing a story. Yes, you could say that it’s my own fault that I’ve gained such fears. I think I might have an attention-problem.

    So why do I want to write? Am I even interested in writing? Well, it’s because I like storytelling, and writing just happens to be the most convenient way of doing it. I like creating stories, just not necessarily the act of sitting down with a book. I’ve got a story in my head for almost a decade now, and it’s evolved (and devolved) into a very different beast today, for better or worse.

    Over this decade, I’ve had several writer’s blocks. I’d write a few chapters for my first draft, and never continuing because I either got distracted or I didn’t have confidence that it would make a very good story. I did try and publish a shorter version of the story on this website called “”, but after just one negative feedback, I shortly came to give up writing again. I didn’t know how to improve, and I certainly didn’t know if I’d ever improve.

    Today, I’ve developed quite the firm belief that I could never write as competently as even your average writer just starting out. Yes, it might seem like I write well now in explaining my situation (some have even commented that it’s impressive for me to do so, coming from an Asian, a Singaporean Chinese). But writing a story with narrative structures and describing story-settings is quite different from writing a blog post or a response comment. Fiction-writing has its own set of rules in ‘hooking the audience’ that I could just never grasp.

    So yes, I do have a fear of writing today. I’ve ran out of ideas on how to improve my story, and I’m at a stalemate.

    1. fearofwriting Post author

      ​Hello Paul-Phoenix,

      Thank you for so honestly sharing your experiences with your fear of writing.

      I was puzzled about why you say you’re not a writer. You have all the signs of being a writer: beginning with the desire to write and including angst and fear about not being able to write the way you want to. Maybe you’re being too hard on yourself?

      Or Perhaps you say you’re not a writer because you’d rather be known as a storyteller.

      I can relate to your boredom with grammar lessons. However, your idea that because you’re not doing well with your writing lessons (and because you don’t like to read) automatically means you’re not a good writer is not really accurate. For someone who’s only 25, I find you remarkably lucid and expressive in writing.

      I do take your point about the numbers of other people who’ve also been impressed with you in this way, and how that doesn’t help you in terms of feeling competent with your fiction writing. But I don’t think you’re a lost cause. Not by a long shot.

      It takes practice to develop as a fiction writer. This is true even for people who start off with a natural affinity for grammar. My first novel, written when I was 28, had a good story line and good characters but the writing was not good. I kept writing anyway, and through practice I improved greatly over the years.

      Writing also became easier with practice, which can feel really good and take a lot of the fear out of it.

      As for the negative critique someone gave you at the Young Writer’s Society, please don’t let that make you give up! First of all, if you submitted a first draft of your story, that may have been the wrong timing for you. Also, the person who critiqued it may not have been qualified to give a critique. Or maybe he or she didn’t even “get” your story. (This is a pitfall with critiques coming from people who don’t have an inborn interest in the genre your story’s written in.)

      Here’s an article that might help put that experience into perspective:

      The Perils of Taking Writing Advice Too Far

      I’m very sorry to hear about your stalemate. Feel free to come back here and continue the discussion. Perhaps having someone to talk to about it will help loosen the block.

      Warm Wishes ~ Milli

      1. Paul-Phoenix

        Thanks, Milli. I wasn’t sure before if I should buy your book because it did sound a little too good to be true. No offense intended. 😛 I mean, a self-help book that would instill the love of writing in anybody, even someone like myself who doesn’t treat writing as anything more than just a casual hobby, it did seem a bit dubious at first. But after hearing what you have to say, I think I do have more interest and trust in your book now. I’ve placed an order for the book several hours ago on Amazon. It’s a bit pricey thanks to the shipping fee, but at least I now know it will probably be worth it. It’s arriving next Friday though, so ugh, I still have quite a while to wait before I could tap into your advice. lol

        The reason I claimed that I’m not a writer is because… well, writers write. You know how the saying goes. ‘True writers’ have an obsessive urge to write every single day. They can’t put the pen down because they MUST write. It does seem kinda ridiculous for certain people to consider that no one can just take novel-writing casually, but it does make a lot of sense. I’ve never had that urge nor do I write everyday. And of course, as I’ve said, I’ve not taken a great interest in reading books either (at least not in the past), and that’s a much more negative trait a person shouldn’t have if he’s to call himself a writer.

        On the other hand, maybe you’re right about me being just a little too hard on myself. Even though I didn’t write a lot over the past several years, I did used to find writing stories fun in English class. I even wrote some of the best compositions in my class… even if I did slip into purple prose very often. Now that I think about it, tapping into my imagination and just writing whatever came to mind was indeed kinda fun back then… I guess the years of trying to have ‘great writing’ did sap me of my interest. And as far as my interest in reading is concerned, I could always build up a reading habit. In fact, I just finished some light literature last month – and I didn’t even fall asleep reading it. 😛

        I do hope you’re right about the writing practice. When you’re not really brilliant or talented at anything, it is kinda difficult to see the positive side sometimes, even if you did improve. All these rules about fiction-writing (passive voice, show don’t tell, describing a setting, etc.) still seem intimidating to me, but hopefully, your book could take away my fear of this unknown, mystical craft and help me take my first step towards finishing my first short story. 🙂

        I’ll probably return here again very soon, especially with your book being delivered to my home as we speak. Hopefully, I’ll find some great insights and even share my first completed story with you in the future. Guess we’ll just have to see.

        – With thanks, Paul

        1. fearofwriting Post author

          ​Hi Paul,

          Thanks for coming back. I enjoy talking to you. :~)

          Thanks also for trusting enough to buy the book. I know what you’re saying about it sounding to good to be true. And you’re right to suspect. Just reading the book won’t give you the full benefits: you have to do the writing that the book provides.

          Luckily, it’s fun writing and there are plenty of tips for how to get around the usual road blocks and write stories that are more effortless than usual.

          Continuing to do that fun writing from the book is the key (alongside working on your own story over time, of course). That’s what will effect the cure long-term. And it works for the reason you said:

          tapping into my imagination and just writing whatever came to mind was indeed kinda fun

          As opposed to having a piece of your own writing that you’ve got a lot of agony attached to so every time you try to work on it you hit all the obstacles and bad feelings. It’s pretty hard for anyone to progress under those circumstances. Instead, doing some fun writing where you just get to stretch out and write as much purple prose as you want :~) can be refreshingly the opposite. And might even help you ‘feel like’ writing more often.

          In your second paragraph above where you talk about what a real writer is supposed to be like, you’re doing the common thing of What Does the World Think. How Does the World Say It Should Be? I try to encourage closet writers to start thinking more selfishly. “Who am I as a writer? What’s right for me?”

          You can be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to follow the rules or fit some mold about what a writer Is. In fact, being creative is exactly about that: being who you really are and expressing with your own unique voice in the ways you feel most moved to do it.

          So there, World! ;~)

          I hear you about how long it can seem to wait for a package to arrive from Amazon. That bugs me too! In the meantime, while you’re waiting, I’ve got a free report that I offer on another website called “Fear Secrets for Writers: What to Do If or When Fear Strikes.” It’s adapted from the book so that would give you a little taste of the support you can get from the book. If you’d like that report (it’s just a 2-page PDF in large font; a quick read), you can go to the Contact Us page here on and ask me to send it to you.

          Let me know when your book arrives. And if you need any inspiration along the way for sticking to it, feel free to ask!

          ~ Milli

          1. fearofwriting Post author

            P.S. Paul, I should correct one thing. When I said “You don’t have to follow the rules” I was referring to this idea that you have to wake up with a pen in your hand every morning and be writing every day from sheer desire or else that means you’re not a writer. Of course, if you eventually want to get published, you have to follow the rules to present “clean copy” (good grammar, no typos, etc.) But there’s plenty of help in the world for that, including editors who can do it for you, so for now you should give up worrying about those future rules and just connect with your creativity and start to enjoy it. It’s a gift you were born with, and I suspect you have a lot of creative potential. Good luck!

            ~ Milli

            1. Paul-Phoenix

              Hi Milli. I’ve got a question about a story I’m working on.

              I’m currently still working on my first draft, and the progress has been ‘sluggish’ to say the least. It’s always been like that too, since I tend to overthink my first draft. I’d worry about a sentence not sounding smooth or fluid enough after writing for a mere minute, and that leads me to editing my first paragraph before I’d even completed the first draft.

              The thing is, I find the ‘showing’ rule in writing to be incredibly difficult. It’s much easier to ‘tell’ than ‘show’, and I’ve had a lot of blocks caused by this golden rule. I could rarely spin a fluid sentence that shows what is going on in the scene. Some experienced writers I know could seem to pull up a sentence like that with ease. For example:

              Here’s an excerpt from a short story I published online last March:
              “Slove grasped for the light. The flickering bulb shone its feeble glow on the young man’s dead eyes, its dying incandescence barely illuminating the rest of the single-room apartment. Throughout this hollow space, the terrible living conditions would have bothered a normal person.”

              I received a rather negative critique from this, and one of his ‘corrections’ involved that particular paragraph. Here’s his correction:
              “Slove grasped for the light. The bulb flickered against the man’s dead eyes, barely illuminating the rest of the single-room. What could be seen was trash, enough to make a sane man mad.”

              Dang, that even rhymes! I could never write like that.

              When I showed this piece of writing to someone from an online therapy site last night, his advice was “K.I.S.S.”, or “Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. Write more like Hemingway, and less like Shakespeare.” The idea was to trust in the reader’s common sense and not over-feed the adjectives. I felt it was a great advice. But I have to wonder… is it really that simple? How much detail should I include in a scene before I ‘over-feed’ the reader? How much detail is enough? I know it’s important to paint a vivid picture through your descriptions, but I’m just not very good at visualizing a scene in text-form. I’d know what it looks like in my head, but putting it in a smooth sentence without it sounding awkward or cluttered can be quite the task.

              What’s your input on this?

              1. fearofwriting Post author

                Hi Paul-Phoenix,

                Thank you for the thoughtful question. I will answer it by email when I send the PDF for “Fear Secrets.”

                ~ Milli

  21. Closetwriter

    I really enjoyed reading the other comments because it reminded me again that I am not alone in this nagging fear of writing. It’s so prevalent that when I’ve been searching for help on it I simply started googling “writer’s fear”. My fear has kept me locked up tight in my “closet”, horrified at the thought of even telling people that I love to write fiction. I’ve always written. I used to say I started in the sixth grade when I worked on my first book. However, my mom gave me an old memory box and I uncovered all of this elementary school writing I had no memory of. In a school journal for the fifth grade I even outlined a plot for a 9/11 novel to my teacher! I laughed when I read about my “research” I had started for that project. For us writer’s, I think it must be in our blood.

    Honestly, I think I have done a great disservice to myself by hiding my writing out of fear. It’s such a major part of my identity that I am shocked I can let people into my life without sharing it. Eventually some people find out that I write, but I usually just leave it at that. I don’t tell them that when I say I write, I actually mean that spend hours into the night hunched over my computer. That since I can remember I have always found myself trapped in my head, my stories coming alive, my fingers itching to get at the keyboard. That sometimes when they’re talking to me I’m struggling to focus on what they’re saying over the oftentimes blaring dialogue of my characters. Perhaps the most pathetic part of this all… I can count on my fingers how many people I have given any of my work to.

    My sophomore year I won a writing contest that my school had all of us enter. I missed a day because of sickness and when I came back, everyone had read my story. Everyone stopped me in the hallway, exclaiming, “I can’t believe you write! It was so good!” I should have felt excited. But I felt sick. I felt humiliated and panicked. My fear has kept me in the shadows. It has kept me from networking with other writers, learning how to handle criticism, and most importantly learning along with them on our shared journeys. It has kept me from sharing work with people, even when it has offended them. Worst of all, it is keeping me from finishing my book. I have many books that I have written hundreds of pages on over the years, but I always delete them. I know, it hurts to even type. I always start over around 300 pages. I’ve come so far in getting disciplined about writing. I can see the finish line for the first time… but I am frozen. I’m where I need to be to finish my book but it feels like there’s something stuck in my chest when I think about it.

    What am I afraid of? Too many things to count. I’m afraid that this book that I have poured everything into, restarted for years, will simply suck. I’m afraid I’ll pry myself open, deliver myself to the world, and it’ll have been a mistake. My books are so close to my heart, it seems there’s so much at stake. I’m afraid that when I’m finished I won’t have anymore books to write. What if I say goodbye to my characters and I never create another good one? I will miss writing. There’s so many struggling authors. Surely I, of all people, cannot get anyone to read my book.

    I know that when it comes to writing fiction, there will be likely be more people who don’t like it than do. I know that if my book means so much to me that no one should ever be able to diminish it. But, I want it to be good. I want it change people the way it changes me. I’m not just writing for entertainment. I’m writing to make a difference. It almost makes me feel like laughing to even say that! How can I make a difference? I know the answer. I have to press on. I have to decide who I am as an author and grow comfortable with my identity. I have to start networking and even seeking out the constructive criticism I need to grow. I need to get thick skin and suck it up….But I’m just so timid. I’m paralyzed in the fear of finishing my novel.

    1. fearofwriting Post author

      ​Hello Closetwriter,

      Back on February 1, you left an amazing, heartfelt, and sometimes saddening comment about your fear of writing on my page “The Gremlin That Ate Your Fear of Writing.”

      I’m very sorry I didn’t respond to your comment. WordPress did not deliver a copy of your comment to me by email so I didn’t know it was there. I just saw it today when another commenter came and left his own long, heartfelt comment.

      Would you like to come join the discussion? Sometimes it can help just knowing you’re not alone. You actually made that point yourself when you talked about enjoying reading the other comments. But that was still kind of isolating for you because there was no discussion going on at that point.

      Please feel welcome to return and join in. There’s myself and Paul-Phoenix, so not a big crowd. But enough to make a friendly little group :~)

      Warm Wishes ~ Milli

      P.S. With your level of fear and sensitivity, I would recommend you don’t go against yourself to try to get critiques and then just “suck it up.” You can do a great deal of damage to yourself this way, in the name of trying to improve. I know by painful experience because I’ve been down that road myself. I’m now much more careful when contemplating getting a critique for a finished work. Here’s an article I wrote in the hopes of saving a few writers from this kind of agony and long-lasting damage:

      The Art of Getting Critiques That Don’t Suck

  22. Lynne Nichols

    I guess the most demoralizing factor for me with writing is that I talk about it all the time, but never really do it. I’m great at writing for a specific purpose such as a poem for a friend or a retirement speech, greeting card messages or objectives for curriculum, but the kind of writing I dream about never even gets started. I think this may come from not believing I have anything interesting to say.

    Self-motivation has never been a strong suit for me which is why I signed up for this course. I am hoping to break through this idea that writing has to have a specific purpose and deadline, like a poem for a friend’s wedding. I want the act of writing to be motivation enough, not that I will get in trouble at work or let someone else down.

  23. Lynne Nichols

    The fear of writing has impacted me in several ways. Self-doubt and self-judgement are two fears that have ruled my life for a very long time. You know the saying, “those who can’t, teach”? I have bought into that theory for most of my career as an intermediate and middle school literacy teacher. Even when I have received very positive feedback on things I have written from friends and family I failed to take it to heart and passed it off as them being polite.

    Finally, a very close friend asked me to read a poem at her wedding. When I asked her which poem I would be reading, she replied, “The one you write.” This scared the hell out of me! To write a poem and then read it in front of the entire congregation seemed overwhelming. I rolled it around and around in my head for a very long time. Then after seeing an interview with Maya Angelou on television, I finally had an inspiration for the poem. I wrote and rewrote until I had something I was comfortable with, and it came out great! I had people ask me for the poem so they could read it at weddings they had coming up.

    At the end of the school year last May, I decided it was time to hang up teaching. I felt I was too “old school” for school, and that test scores and common core were taking the heart and soul out of teaching for me. All of a sudden my best excuse for not writing was gone! I was always too busy and too tired from teaching to be able to write.

    After hearing about the Fear of Writing Online Course, and hearing complaints from friends about listening to me whine about writing, I decided that having some structure might just be the ticket. I am already feeling the procrastination that is a symptom of my self-doubt/self-judgement fears and this is only the first assignment! So, Gremmy, you are welcome to my personal enemies, self-doubt and self-judgement.

  24. Bloggoneit

    What had started out as an exercise to exorcise the real demons as to why I have not been writing my whole life, ended up as a 3,000 word essay with no end in sight. Perhaps it’s the beginning of the book I will write before I die.

    I decided to pounce on the second best reason as to why I’m not a writer. Truth be told, the real reason is extremely private and cannot be fed to Grimmy so I decided to stick with story #2 and pretend that it led to my undoing.

    Like the people before me and the children after me, I’m going to pin the blame for the one thing I really want and never followed-through on my mother. She’s an easy target. As a single mom, she was both my mom and my dad at the very same time. Must have been as confusing for her as it was for me.

    My dad did his own brand of damage to my writing but that’s a lengthy story for another time (see paragraph one).

    Like many other middle schoolers during the 70’s, I kept a journal. We didn’t have any i-anythings and there were only three channels on TV so there was plenty of time to ponder the mysteries of life. It was in this journal that I explored all kinds of feelings and thoughts. Being a 7th grader, there were plenty of thoughts running through my head on a daily basis—especially as an introvert who would have done anything to “be like the other kids.”

    But there was no chance of that. After all, I was growing up dirt poor in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. I lived in a rental house with my mom and my sister while other kids I knew lived in stone mansions on acres of land with live-in housekeepers (later, I learn how to bribe the aforementioned housekeepers. Again, a story for another time).

    In 7th grade, the house I lived in had a shop in front and we lived in the back. The store was not ours and was run by whomever owned the place. The house was enormous and somewhat pleasing to the eye but then there was this store, like a cancer, in the front where women’s undergarments were sold. There is nothing worse for a middle-schooler than to be living behind a place where underwear is sold. The only thing worse, I think, is if the front of the house had been a proctologist’s office.

    This house was such an embarrassment that I never allowed anyone to visit. I made endless excuses as to why a friend couldn’t come over. My mom was sick, my sister was sick, the dog was sick, or any other more detailed excuse. I think making up excuses became a kind of verbal writing. Some tales were so tall, I’m not sure what person would believe them.

    I spent a lot of time in my room writing in my journal. I poured everything out of me onto the pages, and there was a lot to pour out. I was like one of those desktop waterfalls that never stops running until its supply of electricity has been cut off. I spent hours writing because there was nothing else to do. I left nothing out because I felt it was a safe place to put anything and everything. No person, event or feeling was spared my undulating pencil.

    One day, after walking home from school, I went to my room. My room was on the third floor of the embarrassing house but trudging up all those steps meant that I was getting further and further from my dysfunctional family. If there had been a fourth or fifth floor, that would have been even better. I was going to my room in the sky.

    After being home for about five minutes, my mom came upstairs and said, “We need to talk.”

    Uh-oh. Every time those words were uttered in my house, my stomach’s contents would liquify and try to escape.

    I sat on my bed with the brand-new bedding that looked like an orange, yellow and brown rainbow and waited, slightly annoyed that someone was bothering me in my turret.

    “Cathie, I know you value your privacy but I’ve been concerned about your recent behavior. Because you won’t talk to me, I went to the next best thing.”

    My mind raced, wondering what was the next best thing? What could she be talking about? Did she call my best friends? And then she let me know.

    “I read your journal and saw that you have gotten mixed up with marijuana.”

    “WHAT? YOU READ MY JOURNAL? I asked you not to read my journal. It is PRIVATE! And, no I haven’t had any pot. Some of my friends have been smoking, but not me,” I wailed in a pleading voice.

    “Well, I don’t think that’s true. Your behavior has been off for a while and I think you’re doing it so you’re grounded for at least a month.”

    I sat on my bed with my mouth wide open. So many emotions went through me as I looked down at the ugly wooden floors. I couldn’t believe I was being grounded for a month for NOT doing something. My brain frantically searched for what I could have written, and recalled writing something in my journal about wanting to try pot but I knew when I wrote that sentence I didn’t really mean it. I was trying to act cool in my journal that nobody but me was supposed to read. How sad is that?

    After my mom left, I stared at my wicker basket which held my journals. At one time I had looked at the basket as a solace. It was a comfort in my crazy world but after what I had just been through, I knew I would never write anything again. It was safer staying in my head and remaining there.

  25. Sarah

    The following is a practice in Naming the Fear. Hmm. What is the fear? So that I don’t feel at war with myself, I’m going to go back to the idea of my Protector throwing bolts of fear at me…but what does it feel like? What is the name of it? Funny. The more I sit here and try to think of what it is exactly, the less I can describe it. Is it anxiety? Doesn’t that sound silly to me now! Why should I feel anxiety? This is odd.

    Ok, so let me take another route. How does the fear manifest? When I bring my fingers to the keyboard, they freeze. Any whiff of an idea gets tossed aside as unusable, not worthy of consideration. I think I’ve gotten so good at doing this that I’m not aware when it happens each time. THAT scares me. If a habit has become so ingrained that you don’t even know it’s there, then what chance have you at changing it?

    Back to the feeling. How does anxiety feel? The freezing fingers. The tossing of ideas, one after another, without complete consciousness. The building up of mental sludge in my brain, bringing itself forth to my consciousness over and over because it wants to escape my mind and find freedom on the paper, even though it will get trashed. The sludge turns and rolls like giant batches of pizza dough in a mixing machine. Nothing gets out, nothing. Not good ideas, not bad ones. Just …. nothing. Frustration builds along with the sludge. I’m not letting out my thoughts, a habit learned in childhood. It’s something You. Don’t. Do. Wish I could do that one over, childhood. It’s scary. What if you say the wrong thing? What if someone takes it the wrong way? You’ll pay. You’ll pay. Better behave. Better stay quiet, invisible. Nothing ventured, nothing gained? How about nothing ventured, no pain? The fear of writing feels like the fear of tripping the wrong trigger. Are you cutting the black wire or the red one? Are you SURE? Because you really really want to be sure.

    That’s what the fear feels like.

  26. Jonathan

    This is a topic of of some depth. I can certainly point to specific instances where my fear of writing was palpable and discernible, such as being paralyzed at having to write a chapter in a group novel in school, where all the work was shared. I recall the night before my piece was due. Staring at my notebook blankly (an actual paper notebook back then), rejecting every thought as ludicrous and worthless as I envisioned the class laughing, hands clammy, nervously thumbing my other school books, longing to watch that new movie with my siblings downstairs, even trying to convince myself that doing extra credit calculus problems was more important than the writing assignment. I was afraid and I knew it.

    Yet fear manifests itself in many ways in a person’s life. The list on page 5 of the Fear of Writing ebook gives a flavor of the varied way in which fear can invade this craft and I have experienced them all. For me, the fear is either ignored–sometime consciously, mostly not–and writing flows freely, or it freezes me and I simply move on to some other activity. (Movies tend to play a large role in such escapes.) Thus have thousands of hours of potential writing time been lost. I want to write, I am looking forward to writing, I have set aside time to write, but, at the last minute I decide to watch an episode of The Twilight Zone instead. Sigh.

    I am able now to watch this process unfold with some detachment, and hence, some marginal ability to deflect it. Yet, it has not gone away. The tools I learned in my first journey through FoW have proved useful in fighting off these urges, but they are not gone entirely. And, as benign as they seem at the time, as far from actual fear as they seem, they are yet manifestation of the same poison. It has simply been polished by the subconscious into something harmless and made fit for polite society. But it keeps me from writing all the same. I no longer despair after I’ve recovered from such incidents or berate myself for a failure of character. I simply try to move on. I try to keep my eye on whatever I am working on at the moment, get lost in its wonders, challenges, joys, and work towards finishing it. The words of Ram Dass come to mind, “Be Here Now.” When I am writing, I am writing. When I am not, I am not. I try to remember, it is always my choice.

    The gift of these fears has been a lifelong struggle to simply get to the page, an effort that, for me, has become (will become) second nature with practice. But never really goes away. At least I don’t expect it to. In the meantime I will sit at my desk with quill and parchment watching in amusement as it scratches and snarls looking for an opening to leap up, snatch my pages and dart off into the mists, satisfied for the moment with the havoc it has wrought. Sometimes it succeeds but hopefully, mostly it will not. Perhaps the Gremlin will dine on these pests and help me in that regard. I am sure I can provide more tasties in future for his insatiable feasting.

    1. fearofwriting Post author


      You captured the subtler sides of the effects of the fear perfectly when you said “. . . as benign as they seem at the time, as far from actual fear as they seem, they are yet manifestation of the same poison. It has simply been polished by the subconscious into something harmless and made fit for polite society.” I’ve sometimes seen more dramatic manifestations of it—such as chiropractic emergencies—but often it’s so innocuous as to be almost mundane.

      You’ve made big progress by getting to the stage of not going into despair or inferring a failure of character. It’s this kind of progress over time that eventually wins out, even if the fear is never completely eradicated. A client of mine who took FoW101 and then the grad course and has been with me over at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service for a year told me last week that she only feels fear about 10% of the time now. Hanging in there has its rewards, even though they can seem to come slowly.

      1. Sarah

        I’d like to add my thoughts to Milli’s comment (and your experience, Jonathan). Jonathan, you mentioned that you used to berate yourself for a failure of character. So did I. In fact, I am only now–at 45 years old–learning that my character has never been the issue; and the realization has moved me closer to my writing goals than anything in the past. Not that I am any closer to a concrete goal like getting published, but rather that now I am gaining that precious sense of detachment: I am not my skills. I am simply a person who likes to write and doesn’t do it to a master’s level (that’s putting it nicely). I’m neither a “good” nor “bad” person; those are value judgments. I am a person who writes, sometimes meeting the expectations of others, sometimes not.

        As I’ve experienced the growing detachment between my writing and my value as a person, Milli’s words have proven true: “It’s this kind of progress over time that eventually wins out . . .” You probably already know this, but I wanted to add my two cents in case it helped you. Learning to trust in the process has been a challenge, but it is working. 🙂

  27. Sarah

    I’m going to try to write this fast, because writing more quickly has been one of my writing goals. It may not make a lot of sense, just so you know. 😛

    What does it look like when I’m running for my comfort zone? It looks like I have a lot of social obligations–which I do, because my daughters both live far from me, and I work very hard to stay in their lives. But still. I could cut down on the trips to my dad’s and to my mom’s. Oh yeah, and I have a boyfriend who lives out of state. Argh!!

    But yeah, suddenly the house is a mess I can no longer tolerate. Never mind that it’s been a mess for, what, a year. NOW it bothers me! Stuff needs to get done around here, what’s everybody been doing, anyway?!

    And look. The fridge is empty and I haven’t been making healthy meals lately. Time to go to the store and start living my life Right. Dern tootin’!

    And who can forget the exercise?? Sheesh, all the doctors ask is that I walk thirty minutes a day. I’ve been neglecting that, too.

    Obviously there is not a moment to write. Too bad, too, because I finally had some great ideas. I’ll get to them soon, though, just as soon as I get a schedule prepared for all the things I need to do to make writing time more productive and so that nothing gets in the way.

    Is that a text that just came through?

    Hey, Gremmy. You may not realize it, but you just experienced Paddy’s genius. He’s really good at what he does, which is to protect me from making a fool of myself. He’s the guy who gives you a lot to chew on.

    Now that I think of it, I imagine my comfort zone creature as a hummingbird. No, Gremmy, no! Put your claws away, you can’t eat my hummingbird! It’s a lovely thing, really, and it’s only job is to be so busy that I can’t get hurt. Paddy made her for me. But I can’t turn on her or Paddy, Grem, because they are both there because of love. They just have to be guided to a new job.

    But I’ll give you something else to gobble up, Grem. You CAN eat up the fear if you’d like, since that is what you’re here for. (The hummingbird is just a behavior that helps me, right?) But you can have all the fear you like.

    I think of my fears as phantoms. You can eat phantoms, right, Grem? I imagine they’re not very filling, as they are insubstantial and full of hot air. They are the smoke generated from the energy of my thoughts. And they aren’t real, except to you.

    Paddy likes it that you’re cleaning up the phantoms as he learns how to carry out a new set of rules. It’s a slow turnabout, like a large ship in the ocean, but eventually the wind is with you and steams you along. You just have to make sure you’re always turning the rudder in the direction you want to go.

    Bon appetit, Grem!

  28. Bloggoneit

    The fear of writing has affected me in so many ways, of which only one is positive in an indirect way.

    The first way in which the fear of writing has affected me is it has attacked my self-esteem. Because I have not followed-through on writing even one line for an e-book I promised myself I would write upon completion of my booklet, I feel like a failure. I told everyone that I was only writing the house-selling guide in order to figure out how to upload an e-book and its cover so that I would know how to do it when my real book was written.

    I’ve told so many people that I’m going to write an e-book and even coached them on how to do one for themselves. Oftentimes I am asked if I have written my book yet and it’s always an uncomfortable answer full of excuses. So the second way the fear has affected me is that I feel I am diminished in my friends’ eyes. They see someone who is a person who cannot follow-through, someone who says one thing but comes up with so many excuses. Someone who is not reliable. I feel as if I have let them down.

    The third way is that it has kept me from fully living my life. I have always wanted to be a writer. In the early years, I had to take on an office manager position—something I hated because I’m more creative than systematic. You need a birthday cake and a card? I’ll find the cake the birthday boy has always wanted and locate a card that fits the receiver to a T. The guests will marvel at the appropriateness and thoughtfulness of the card and wonder where I found it, but if you need someone to find the invoice from XYZ Electronics for your taxes? Hmmmm…I think it’s somewhere over there (pointing in no particular direction without any confidence).

    The fourth way the fear of writing is affecting me is I am making all those personality tests liars. Recently, I took the Myers-Briggs test and it said that with my personality type, I should be a writer. I don’t think Myers-Briggs would want to be wrong; I don’t want to be an asterisk in their book about careers for my personality type.

    I haven’t been able to demonstrate that hard work is something I admire. My children see me as someone who has gone through life cooking, cleaning, being a failure at real estate sales, and not following-through on being a writer. I’m all talk and no action. Of course my daughters never mention anything like this to me but it’s how I feel they think about me. I encourage them to live their dreams while I sit at home folding another load of laundry drinking my weight-loss shake and harassing them about the latest nutrition facts I’ve learned online.

    The fear of writing has kept me from meeting new people, both other writers and readers who may have taken the time to read what I’ve written. I have many followers on Twitter and at least a few of them might have become better friends had I stayed consistent with my writing and not let the fear take over.

    My life has become somewhat boring and predictable. I would have welcomed new experiences I could have had related to my writing. What if I had snagged a writing job that fit around my schedule? What if someone read my book and invited me to her party because I sounded like someone she would like to know? How about a new career as a professional traveler? Due to the fear of writing, my experiences have not branched out from what I’m already doing.

    I missed out on so many positive experiences. My life has been full of negative things to get over and move past. When I do finally have some fun, it is noteworthy and I remember it in more detail in order to cancel out the negative events. It’s sad to think I may have missed out on more of the positive and maybe skipped more of the sadder and confusing times.

    As a constant learner (I’d love to be in school taking classes for the rest of my life), I missed out on gaining additional knowledge both for writing but also for the sake of knowing things. For example, I read about alternative health practices, nutrition and exercise, but who knows what more I would have learned if I had been someone’s ghost writer or if I had to write articles that required investigation and research. There’s a whole world open and I’ve put one tiny scratch in the surface.

    And finally, my fear of writing kept me from growing and changing, evolving, and kept me safe and small. The challenges I experienced did not relate to anything writing related. I don’t think I’ve changed very much over these past couple years, and I think that writing would have helped me to put into words some of life’s disappointments and perhaps given me a new way to look at things. Sharing what I had written may have given me some additional insight into how to make things better or at least more tolerable.

    One way in which the fear of writing has been somewhat good is that it’s kept me at home. I’m not on the set of the Oprah show promoting my book. I’m not going to the opening of the movie based on my book, and I’m not interrupted countless times during a family dinner at a restaurant when people ask me for my autograph. It’s also kept my ego firmly in check 🙂

    Although this list is not exhaustive and I’m sure I will think of more after I click submit (and it’ll probably be at 2:15 a.m.), it’s a good start at showing me just how much the fear of writing has affected me, my life and my childrens’ lives.

    1. Sarah

      I gotta say when I read the first word, “Bloggoneit,” I cracked up. I thought it was clever and, considering we’re in a place where we talk about fear, highly appropriate. And I was right! How succinctly it captures the post that follows! “Bloggoneit.” That’s great. 😀

      Aside from the humor, your pain comes through loud an clear, Cathie. So familiar, too. The what-could-have-beens just come at you hard sometimes.

      Let me guess, your Myers-Briggs told you you were an INFP? That’s what I am. I remember reading the INFP description for the first time. I cried for a long time. I wasn’t a freak, I was just someone who does not comprise a large part of the population and who experiences the world in ways most other people do not. Maybe you know this feeling, too.

      “It has kept my ego in check.” Ha ha ha ha ha!!! All I can do is nod and laugh. 😀

      I suppose it’s good to take stock of how fear has affected us. But I think it’s even better that you started to paint a picture of what it would look like to reach your writing goals. Hey, there’s an exercise! Write out what it would look like and feel like to complete, say, your e-book, or even the FoW program, or just next week’s assignments. I think I’ll do that. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

      1. Bloggoneit

        Ding, ding! You guessed my letters. I have always felt like a freak and an outsider–always wanting to be one of those girly-girls who has 45 sorority sisters that get together every year and travel to Cabo, submitting 97 sorority sister selfies every day. But, I’m not like that at all. First, I rarely to remember to take any pictures (and I don’t like having my picture taken anyway) and second, there’s that whole friendship thing. I tend to be a loner with only a handful of friends at a time. And the handful are from various groups that don’t hang out together–there’s the mom group, the too-much wine drinking group, the exercise group, the daytime only activities group, and the lady I sometimes walk with. Each group is separate from each other. Oh, and I forgot to mention the group of two women I forged a relationship with many years ago via the Internet. I’ve never met either one of these ladies but we have the best relationship which says a lot about my friendship skills, doesn’t it? Yes, I’m friendly for a while but then the introverted me takes over and I am off the grid. I need time to be away from people and that doesn’t sit well with sorority sisters! With the Internet ladies, I can talk for hours.

        I love this idea and will think about it on my walk with my dog, Pearl, this morning. “Hey, there’s an exercise! Write out what it would look like and feel like to complete, say, your e-book.” I’m going to imagine what it would be like; it shouldn’t be that hard to imagine because I’ve written an e-booklet (not a full book, but something larger than a blog post) so I know that I will probably cry tears of joy. But beyond that, I’d love to imagine what would happen after I submit the book. What would happen then?

        I’ll let you know 🙂

  29. Sarah

    Thanks for your response, Milli. You’re always so kind and encouraging; you don’t let us get away with loitering in negativity. As I work through the FoW program, I’m finding it easier to “oil the rusty joints” and give more freedom and less fear to the writing process. Perhaps rewrites won’t feel so daunting when it no longer requires a force of nature to produce words. 😛

    Thanks again for all your help, Milli. 🙂

  30. Sarah

    This will be easy—and hard.

    Easy, because the sense of demoralization jabbed me with a fresh blade only minutes ago. Hard, because I can’t quite pin the tail on the problem.

    I’m here now, at FoW this very moment, because I became so frustrated with my novel project that I wanted to escape to a place where I am told what to write. A place where there is structure and a plan and I’m not left to wander the wilds of the Great Nothing, where there is no one to turn to and no map to help me get to a place I haven’t even defined yet.

    Ironically, as I write out my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, I’m becoming aware of my strong need for structure. It’s something I’ve noticed before. Whenever I pull out one of my (many) writing books, the advice in their pages inspire me with ideas and an urge to write. Hooray!

    The root cause of this phenomenon? Perfectionism, probably. The fear of Doing It Wrong. Then again, I’m simply not a huge fan of complete rewrites. To think of giving another round of an enormous expenditure of time, mental effort and, frankly, anguish, appeals to me about as much as getting dive-bombed by one of the two-inch-long flying cockroaches that terrorize the people of U.S. southern coastlines. Getting it close-to-right the first time seems a lot more appealing.

    And yet, here I sit, not writing my novel.

    1. Milli Thornton

      Sarah, thank you for bravely baring your soul here. Even though what you wrote about probably makes it feel so daunting right now, there are two advantages that I can see from where I sit.

      1. You have so much clarity of expression, every time you write I drink it in and immediately want more.

      2. Knowing your preferences and dislikes as a writer is enormously valuable. Sometimes we just need to find more acceptance for the parts we think we’re supposed to be good at. Here’s a story about one of my coaching clients that might help:

      One writer who had plenty of time to write and who wanted to write a book about her experiences living in two different countries was having a struggle with her own judgments about what she “should” be doing. She had built an idea in her head of what a “full-time writer” should be, and she was lashing herself with that whip. Milli designed an assignment that took her through her own thought processes in such a way that she not only was able to demystify her judgments but also to discover that she already has a creative rhythm that’s right for her. This realization was very freeing for her, even more so since she had used her own writing process to discover her own truths.

      At the right point in your journey, we can do this together for your dread of complete rewrites. There’s always a way around obstacles, and maybe you don’t have to rewrite if you don’t want to.

  31. Sarah

    The fear of writing has stripped my life of much of its joy and potential. Like a one-legged man whose only desire is to run, fear has crippled my ambitions greatly. As a child I wanted nothing more than to be a writer, but Fear wagged its ugly finger at me and said “No!” Unfortunately, I obeyed. It cost me my self-esteem and it clogged the pipeline of expression, backing up the mental bilge. Though my rebellious attempts to defeat Fear were not discouraging, Fear still held its grip in the form of anxiety. “Sure, write if you want to,” Fear would say, “but I will poke and prod you every step of the way. You won’t sleep; you won’t rest; your stomach will hurt. Is writing worth all that?”

    It’s difficult to estimate how the writing itself has been affected. Surely it has suffered from lack of exercise and creative exploration. If I tried to write that story I began when I was nine, would the prose sound that much more mature now?

    I vacillate from wishing I could arrest myself for allowing Fear to boss me around to self-pity for feeling robbed. The feelings that I make room for now are joy and reckless abandon. (Notice I did not say “WILL make room for,” because doing so would place the feelings perpetually in the future, never for NOW. Time to take charge, not with a sword and shield but tiny (fun) baby steps!)

    1. Milli Thornton

      Sarah, thank you for being the first to feed Gremmy! He’s been absolutely starving and always griping to me about it, complaining that I don’t bring him the juicy morsels I promised when he agreed to take up residence here. Your fine contribution has made his belly bulge (*burp*) and he told me in private that you were so juicy he now has higher standards for the quality of fear he will agree to devour.

      After reading your anecdote, I’m even more grateful that you found fear of writing and the online course. Wanting to write so badly since you were a little girl IS a very painful way to live, and it doesn’t help when the fear even tortures you for trying.

      Your anecdote was so passionately written, I felt persuaded by everything you said. I believed in the depths of what you were expressing. You can unleash that passion into your stories written for the course and then all that energy will be put to excellent use. I’m looking forward to watching you unfurl. 🙂


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