Publishing Scares Me. Inspiration, Style, and Confidence In Writing

I started writing at age 8. Judging by the boxes of filled journals in my garage, I’d go so far as to dub myself prolific. I’m enchanted by the idea of using words to pull someone into a scene whether they want to go or not. Reading is immersive. A reader layers their meaning, their own story over your words, and it takes on a new life. Because of that interaction, I crave a connection with the reader. It doesn’t always come.

Here’s an early piece from my collection of poems.

Sunday:

A series of lawnmowers in the distance.

To this day, it stops the photo reel on a still of my childhood — me staring at the ceiling fan. It sparks that rolling sense of boredom found in small towns. I wondered if anyone else would have their own recollections. I never shared it because to extend my words as an offering for connection and be denied felt worse than never to share.

I write because jotting down thoughts releases me from them. Letting my words exist on paper should clear my mind. But by never putting them into the world, the words echo and live on.

When I journal, it’s free, indulgent, introspective. When I publish, I tinker, perfect, doubt. Before sharing, I mull on if someone will find something in the writing that connects. Before sharing, I mull on if my writing style will come alive across the screen to another soul. That’s when imposter syndrome creeps in.

After delving into this with a mentor, I rediscovered Masterclass. I listened to Neil Gaiman speak on storytelling. He said, “Style is the stuff you get wrong. If you were making [it] perfectly, there would be no style.” When I read my articles — I nit-pick the voice, my inner indulgent journaler. What if that’s okay? What if that’s my style? It’s such a rational thought. Style is how I find the folks that get pulled into my scene.

But, because emotion always weasels its way in, here’s how I’m dealing with my writer’s imposter syndrome.

Finding Inspiration

  • Create a talisman. I keep a tray of crystals next to me. Each one represents part of my voice: citrine for joy, amethyst for intuition, tiger’s eye for grounded energy, carnelian for creativity, and malachite for protection. Holding them is a tangible affirmation of the feelings I’d like to conjure in my stories, as well as what I need to write those stories.
  • Find inspiration from other storytellers. I keep books of poetry, art, and quotes next to my desk to visit them whenever I need a spark. Poring over Yoko Ono’s poems in Grapefruit or falling into Georgia O’Keefe’s watercolors puts me in a space of wonder.
  • Introduce play and movement into your day. Dancing between meetings, doodling on a call, or taking a break to watercolor, turn my brain on to something other than writing for a bit.
  • Place yourself in a scene. My grandmother collects porcelain dolls. She has hundreds. I set myself in that scene, imagine running my hand across the faded lace, smelling the musk of an untouched room. My imagination warms up writing the stories of the dolls, their lives lived.

Writing Process

  • Write what you care about. There’s inevitably a personal story attached to my writing because if I’m writing about it, then it’s real to me.
  • Have a purpose. I like to start a new article by thinking of how I want someone to feel + the messages I want to convey. Without the prep, my writing has no bar for done.
  • Capture your thoughts. I use voice notes, post-its, and journals to nab flowing thoughts. I set aside time each Tuesday to sort my notes into ideas, stories, or trash.
  • Timers are friends. I have no shortage of ideas. My dream job is to work in a think tank, just shouting ideas. Right now, I’m testing an hour for draft one, an hour for editing, 1,000 words or less, and fewer than three iterations. My editor (aka my husband) will appreciate that last one.
  • Let the piece live without me for a bit. It’s okay to step away from the comments.

Getting the Courage to Hit Publish

  • Practice publishing. I practice writing each day, but publishing (and marketing!) are different skills. Sending this into the world is the first stretch of building my publishing muscle.
  • Visualize the words bidding you adieu. When hitting publish, I like to pretend the words leave my body and wave goodbye to me from the sky.
  • Be bad. Be wrong. Be rogue. Just hit press send.

Lastly, the thing that’s helped me most is delving into the origin of my fears. At 21, I published my life ad nauseum on the 2008 version of a lifestyle blog. Why am I clamming up now? By interrogating my fears, I pinpointed a moment when I wrote a personal piece for a parenting blog. The attacks from fellow moms were swift and sharp. I realized I wasn’t over the pain of my truth being trashed, and it evolved into a fear of being vulnerable with my words. I had a letting go ceremony at home.

I lit my fears on fire, I was bad, and then I wrote this piece. Now it’s time to hit publish.

culture + people exec | gentle parent | counselor

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