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Successful Freelance Writers Don’t Let Fear Stop Them

writers succeed with persistenceWhen Carol Tice and I asked our readers what held them back from either breaking in or making it big in freelance writing in prep for our webinar, Breaking In & Making It Big, neither of us expected the number of question that could be labeled fear.

Carol does a good job of giving you the flavor of the comments and give some darn good answers in her post called How To Ruin Your Writing Career.

Looking back over my own career I remember clearly how afraid I was.  For example:

  • I would literally sneak into different bookstores to buy Writer’s Market every year for fear someone might think I was trying to be a writer. (Yeah, I was that self-obsessed in those days.)
  • To complete my first submissions to magazines I had to drive to a different town to slip the envelopes in a mail box – again, I was afraid someone might suspect I was trying to write. I knew it was crazy, but I told myself if that’s what I had to do, I’d do it. I did and I was frightened the whole way. I chuckle about that today.


  • When the rejection slips came in via my SASEs it took me a couple of days to open them and confirm what I already suspected. But I did get them open.

In the getting and opening those well deserved rejection slips something happened. I’d faced the worst. No one made fun of me. The rejection letters were standard and did not contain a hand-written note saying “don’t ever submit anything to anyone again.” I didn’t die. I actually posted both rejection slips on my bedroom wall because I dimly sensed I had broken through to something positive.

My fear about rejection or people making fun, or who knows what didn’t stop, but I also didn’t let it stop me from writing and submitting. I got lots of rejections, but, because I kept at it I got some acceptances too.


The first ‘big’ one came from a respected publisher who wanted the booklet I had proposed. I got the call at my then day job and shook for maybe an hour, or so it seemed.  I was scared to death. Of what I’m still not sure – success, failure, who knows, and it didn’t matter. I got the booklet written and submitted to the editor who had called on time.

And so it went.

I didn’t blast through my fear as some self-help gurus seem to suggest can be done, but I did find ways to write and submit in spite of it. Of course, with each success, it got easier, except when it didn’t.

I rarely experience fear around writing these days. Of course, I’ve had some continuing success. I’ve also done some work to increase my self-worth, and I’ve gotten older. All of it works together I find, but it started when I kept writing and submitting no matter how afraid I was.

How do you write even if you’re afraid to?

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • I think the easiest thing for me was actually realizing that if I DIDN’T do anything, then nothing would happen. I wasn’t any better off not submitting anything than actually doing it. The worst they could say was no, and someone might say yes. When I got the wiseGEEK gig, it hit me that I CAN DO THIS.

    Now I just have to figure out how to do that and my book while working full-time. *sigh*
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Money is a Dirty WordMy Profile

  • I have to stop myself from being afraid of trying new types of documents. As a scientific writer, I hve been fighting my fear of not being taken seriously, even for “trivial” projects like a blog. There are so many more experienced freelancers out there, I just have to keep believing that some clients might actually prefer my style/presentation to others. So I enjoy these blogs to “psych” myself up!

    • Suzanne, none of us were born knowing how to write 😉

  • p.s. procrastination also takes the form (though not so much these days as in the beginning,) having to wash the dishes, get just more one load of laundry in, etc. etc. 😉

    • I’ve found the dishes are still there after I’ve written… so is the laundry, etc. etc. etc.

  • I’m always afraid I won’t be able to start a piece of writing, or that I won’t be able to finish, or that whatever I produce will be no good. The feeling of relief when I do finish, and see that it’s not so bad after all, is great! But then along comes the next piece, and the fear is back. I think it’s got easier with experience, but I rarely feel totally relaxed about my writing.

    • Easier is great. I don’t know that we’re every totally relaxed about our writing. It might get boring to write then.

  • I just start with an outline and some notes. sometimes I have to let my thoughts gel so I have to put what I’ve started away for another day. I often take notes during the day at work – I drive a lot so I have a pad in the car. I often scribble thoughts down at red lights. Sometimes this is the way that things get written (except for the final draft which pulls everything together and omits what’s not necessary.

    This works for shorter pieces and poetry. Longer pieces are harder for me so I decided this year that I am going to really focus on this and decide what’s most important priority-wise in my writing and other creative endeavors.

    This may mean not worrying about my blog. That’s gone sadly neglected over the past 6 months or so. I didn’t manage to get to other projects I wanted but the thought of it looming over me was a distraction.

    Instead of eliminating it though I plan to add an addendum to each post I do make explaining that during this time while on another personal project, my blog will not be updated as regularly.

    My other goal is to get paying jobs. Yes, I’ve been writing articles for free or in return for advertising, in order to get recognition as an expert in my field, holistic health for animals.

    I’d like to get paid now so I think I need to step back from the no pay publications and concentrate on submitting to others – this, I think has caused me a lot of fear…because I’ve been procrastinating, and I think procrastination is caused by fear and anxiety.

    • Good idea to focus on a particular form… and don’t do any more free stuff until you get paid for something at least – that’s one approach.

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