October 03, 2014

Overcoming Common Fears by Steph Beth Nickel



Have you ever gotten a new journal? It’s beautiful, just awaiting all your wondrous new ideas. But wait! It’s lovely but so . . . so . . . perfect as it is. What if your ideas fall flat? What if your writing isn’t up to par. What if your chicken scratch mars those inviting pages with nothing more than scribbles?

One of the last gifts my dad gave me was a leather bound journal. I actually took it to my writers’ group. I wanted someone else to be the first to write in it. It seemed too magnificent for anything but a perfectly formed idea—or someone else’s initial entry. But no, I took a deep breath and began to write. That early draft for a novel is still forming in my mind—not so much in the journal these days.

That’s what we all have to do: put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and get started. Sometimes that’s the hardest part.


In the same vein, that blinking cursor torments us as we look at the computer screen.

What should I write next? Will it be any good? Will anyone want to read it?

Recently I read about the connection between mind and hand. I always preferred to write first drafts, even prayer journals, on computer. And then I started something Julia Cameron calls “morning pages.” I have often journaled by hand and am now writing these pages using my favourite pens (Sarasas gel pens). There really is a difference.

If that blinking cursor is giving you grief, try picking up a pen and paper and seeing what happens.


Oft-published professional writer or wet-behind-the-ears newbie? It doesn’t matter. We all have more to learn . . . and that’s okay.

We can only apply what we already know. And if we wait to know everything . . . well, that’s not going to happen and we’re not going to write anything.

Write and learn; learn and write; repeat.


I have a dear friend who has often been approached and asked if she could do such and such. She may not have had previous experience, but she—like us—has access to the World Wide Web. She researched. She added to her knowledge. And she jumped in with both feet. Now she teaches others what she has learned along the way.

At some point, each writer is inexperienced. The only way to gain the experience is to forge ahead. No writing endeavour is a waste . . . as long as we learn from it.

Keep writing. Soon you’ll be able to say, “Yes, I do have experience in that area.”


Thick skin. Tender heart. I believe those two qualities must mark us as writers.
Many moonbeams ago I stapled and rolled all my rejection letters together. I took the roll to church to use as an object lesson for the children. I unrolled it and explained that all those pieces of paper were evidence that I was doing what so many people are afraid to do, pursuing a dream.

Can you see your next rejection letter that way?

And if you get one of those wonderful things known as a personal rejection letter, will you learn from the comments, polish your work, and send it out again?

Let’s overcome fear together.


  1. Great piece, Steph. Thanks for sharing your hard-earned wisdom, so that those of us who follow may learn the easy way.

  2. I connected to this piece in many ways. first, I, too, love writing in a journal. I love the feeling of writing on those first few pages. it seems so fresh - so new. I have a box full of journals in my closet and I also use the idea of 'morning pages'. (Even though I didn't call them that until I read Cameron's book.)

    Thanks for all your ideas and wonderful encouragement.

  3. Great post, Steph!

    I, too, write with Sarasa gel pens (blue's my favourite) in my journals for both journaling and jotting notes for writing.

    Sometimes to jar myself alert, I'll turn the book on the side and write on a slant. Even that little change causes my mind and hand to wake up and see things from a different angle, literally and metaphorically.

    (I had plans once to start the habit of writing my writing stuff on the slant and my journaling stuff straight -- but I forget sometimes, so now some of my notebooks are higglety pigglety. Which my freeform brain likes and my organized linear side gets a little nervous about it, but she plays cool.)

    I love clattering away on my keyboard and if I still had my old manual typewriter, I'd probably play around on that sometimes too.

    Sir Winston Churchill tells us that he used to fear the pristine whiteness of a paint canvas. So he'd make a bold stroke in the corner, and then carry on without fear.

    I've loved morning pages when I first did it years ago. I really like Julia Cameron's writing.

    There... enough for one day!

    Thanks again Steph!


  4. What a wonderful and encouraging post, Steph. You definitely have hit the common fears, and I appreciate the ways you suggest for getting past those fears. Then you look back at them as a growth experience, a positive part of the process of becoming a writing. Thanks!

  5. Two comments jumped out at me from your post: "No writing endeavor is a waste---as long as we learn from it." and, "Thick skin. Tender heart." I'm still trying to find the balance between the two in your last statement as I continue to pursue my dream. Thanks for reminding me that I am not alone in this.

  6. I love new journals, and well worn ones, and notebooks of variety. "Thick skin. Tender heart." Amen!

  7. That list of headings is enough to put anyone off. I love the way you have turned them to positive use.
    there are always two ways of looking at any situation, aren't there!

  8. Pristine Pages is so me! I got a lovely new journal for this year's NaNo story, but kept a plain scratch pad beside it just in case my ideas for the opening scene didn't meet the journal's standards!


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