How to Overcome Writing Anxiety


Allow me to be honest with you: I frequently suffer from writing anxiety. When I sit down to write a blog post, I usually stare at the screen for about ten minutes, thinking of the most effective opening line. When I finally squeeze that out and revise it a few times, I move on to the second line and do the same. Then the third, and fourth, and so on. 

When I get a little momentum going I’m able to write a few lines without stopping, but not often. Usually I go over each phrase or word I just wrote and revise it until I feel it’s perfect, though it never is. This constipated form of writing produces about one blog post every four days. 

Pretty pathetic, I know. But this time is a little different. Instead of setting out to write yet another predictable, prescriptive blog posts (something like “10 Tips to Make Life Better”), I decided to be transparent with you and reveal my inner angst. I think you’ll find it a more compelling read, and easier to relate to.

The way to overcome writing anxiety is very simple: let your heart be your writer and let your brain be your editor.

In other words, don’t let the “steps,” the “tips” or the factual data of your post dominate the story you’re telling. Treat those details as the support structure to be added once the essence of your post has been rightfully established.

You see, if we write with our brains first and heart second, we end up not writing much at all. Mostly what happens is a repetitive cycle of self-criticism, over-editing and ego-stroking. Writing like this is clunky and frustrating, and creates even more anxiety.

Without our personalites in our writing even the most useful information can go unnoticed. The reason for this comes from a narrow, obsessive and even conditioned focus on producing the kind “valuable” content we think will appease the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time. This is called selling out.

For example: when I go back and read the old posts on this blog, many of them are quite stale and unmoving — and they took me by far the longest to write. In fact, the posts with the most comments are the ones where I spoke naturally and honestly (and wrote about 5X faster). Those comments are also the ones with the most genuine feedback from readers — the ones who thank me because it really made them think and feel something profound.

So while “valuable” content can be factual, relevant and useful (characteristics of the editor), it should also be firmly affixed in a personal, perceptive and insightful narrative (characteristics of the writer). Both forms of value are of equal importance if you want to acheive succes in blogging. If your voice is not authentic, it’s just another attempt at journalism: here today, gone tomorrow.

Applying a personal touch to your writing is not as hard as you think. If you’re inhibited to write this way on a public blog, I recommend you keep a secret, anonymous blog somewhere. Write whatever you feel on it — anything at all. There will be no audience listening except you.

After doing this for awhile, I guarantee your inner writer will rise to the surface and blossom. You’ll soon be aware and in control of some of your most valuable assets as a blogger: your voice, tone, style and your inherent ability to empathize with people on much deeper and meaningful levels. And nobody will be able to duplicate this, I assure you.

When you write from the heart – and I suggest you give it a try– your words will flow very naturally and with little interruption. You’ll feel like no matter what, no matter how many times people have written about the subject, yours will be the one that gets remembered. Sometimes that’s all you need to make it to the front of the line. 

I already feel better, and thanks for listening!

I’m just scratching the surface. If you crave more guidance and inspiration, I highly recommend you read John Simmons’s Dark Angels: How Writing Releases Creativity at Work

17 Replies

  1. Gausster Reply

    Very inspiring post. I just discovered your blog and I’m loving it. There is so much here I can relate to from your insightful voice. Thank you!

    • Charles Reply

      Gracias, Gausster. You just made my day (today is my Birthday!)

  2. Corey Freeman Reply

    Seriously inspiring post. I’ve personally been feeling lately that my writings have lacked personality and flair. Finding your writing style can be a serious hassle, and I think that you find your strengths best from breaking the mold and just doing what comes naturally. Even if you stumble a little bit, your writings will be more honest.

  3. Charles Reply

    Corey — what I’ve noticed is a tendency to overthink when I write. The best writing is when I think and feel outside of myself (not too much in my head) and produce clean, flowing and honest prose.

    I like to call this “assuming the mood of a writer.” I’m not there yet every time, but with more practice I should be. I hope the same for you as well.

  4. Barry Reply

    This line – You see, if we write with our brains first and heart second, we end up not writing much at all. Mostly what happens is a repetitive cycle of self-criticism, over-editing and ego-stroking. Writing like this is clunky and frustrating, and creates even more anxiety. – is very true.

    Dealing with anxiety is not easy. There are many people who have to find the right method.

    Your article was very informative.

    Thank you.

  5. Suzanne Reply

    This post is directly speaking to me, thank you i think just fix something in my brain!
    Your amazing stay that way!

  6. Down Town Girl Reply

    Haha, you and me both Suzanne. I am surprised I am able to write this post without taking an hour to get the words out. 😛 Thanks for sharing, very interesting and helpful read.

  7. ali Reply

    It is actually really nice to know that I am not the only person that gets anxious when I have to write. I started a journal about a year and half ago and it has definatly increased my confidence in my writting abilites. Hopefully as I continue to write my anxiety will reduce.

    Anyways, I just wanted to say thanks for the post; and, I hope that knowing you’re not the only person that get’s writter’s block helps you as well.


  8. Tristan Reply

    Thank you for a very good article. It helped me a lot.

  9. david Reply

    This post has helped me a lot

  10. Vida Reply

    Thanks for this article. I’ve just realized that I have this fear of writing, and unfortunately I remember having this fear all my life, since the first grade make a sentence with a word, I had this problem, also it’s about handwriting in public, or typing in front of someone else, and many other cases. Actually, I decided to make a blog and write about my fears, all these little things that makes a big anxiety in me, and stops me from writing and expressing myself.