Writing-Texan-FeatherOctober is the perfect month for confronting fear. For one thing, everything from TV movies to roadside haunted houses already has us thinking about what scares us. For another, the weather is finally cooling down, so that excuse (which I often use to avoid running in July and August) disappears.

Are you afraid of writing? Is it the blank page that chills you? Or the silence in your head? Perhaps the judgement that awaits you when someone else finally reads your writing?

There’s no shame in a little communication anxiety. What you say and how you say it matter, at least if you want to be clearly understood by others. A little fear makes you attentive, maybe even conscientious. It only becomes a problem when you let it keep you from saying the things you deeply need (or passionately want) to say.

Much of my work involves helping people who are spooked by writing: teaching them to trust their instincts, get past their blocks, and get their message out for others to see. But professional help may not be a viable option at all times or in every situation. Here are five things you can do on your own:

  1. Learn the difference between writing and editing, and avoid trying to do both at the same time.
  2. Read bad writing that got published.
  3. Stop and take a 15 minute writing break every day. Write without stopping or re-reading. At the end of the week, go over everything and pull out the good bits for later use.
  4. Do your writing in a place you love–a garden, a coffeehouse, a museum, etc. Surrounding yourself with beauty often makes self-expression easier.
  5. Form a writing group with other scaredy-cats and urge each other on.