Scared to Write What You Really Think? Why it Will Make You a Better Writer

    scared to write what you really think

    The memory still sends shivers down your spine.

    Maybe it was a post you wrote on Facebook or on your own blog.

    You hit Enter or Publish, congratulated yourself, and moved on to your next task.

    An hour later, a reply! And the first three words were…

    How dare you

    Your heart started beating a mile a minute. Your mouth was dry. Your breathing, shallow. With shaking hands, you went online to read the rest of the comment—best to get it over with quickly and then assess the damage. 

    Most of us have experienced this, haven’t we?

    I sure have.

    I care about what people think, and disapproval crushes me. I’ve always found myself apologizing for my unconventional choices, and backtracking on my opinions.

    Then I started a blog.

    That’s when I learned that if I let other people’s opinions inform and guide me, I didn’t stand a chance.

    3 Reasons it’s Bad to Be Neutral

    Writing based on what today’s influencers are doing and thinking is the easiest way to write yourself into oblivion. Because:

    1. You’re not saying anything valuable.

    You know what I’m talking about: safe subjects, vague quotations from bureaucrats with fancy titles, cookie-cutter buzzwords, and prose that both Hillary and The Donald would agree with.

    If this sounds like you, people are just going to hit Delete.

    2. It’s boring.

    Staying neutral to avoid offending anyone will result in words without substance. You’ll have to go to great lengths to keep everything balanced and fair, and all that excess verbiage will put your readers to sleep.

    Don’t believe me? Try writing something noncontroversial about abortion in one sentence.

    3. It’s painfully obvious that you’re not being authentic.

    If you ask three people to describe a sunset you’ll get three different descriptions—unless one of them describes it according to Walt Whitman’s “Song at Sunset.” That will sound pretentious and fake.

    Not being neutral doesn’t mean you have to be controversial; it means having your own opinion and expressing it.

    How to Combat the Fear Factor

    There are two main reasons we hesitate to write what we really think: Fear and fear. Let me clarify.

    When we write something that goes against conventional wisdom, we’re afraid no one will read it, we’ll offend others, or – worst of all – we won’t be published. I call this “internal fear.” It is the classic physical and emotional response to being outside our comfort zone.

    “External fear,” on the other hand, is the emotional neck ache we get when we spend too much time looking over our shoulder, wondering what people will think if we stick so much as a toe over the line. If internal fear is the fear that no one will read our stuff, external fear is the fear that people will read our stuff – and won’t like it.

    It all boils down to this: We are afraid of being rejected, both personally and professionally. We fear being alone in the literary universe.

    5 Ways Taking a Stand Will Benefit Your Writing

    Infusing your writing with a personal touch is one of the best ways to get people to sit up and take notice. Here are five reasons why:

    1. Your writing will be more convincing, inspiring and entertaining. People will sense the authenticity and sincerity of your words.
    2. People will want to read your stuff, whether or not they agree with it. Why read vanilla if you can read passion fruit sorbet with Swiss chocolate fudge and a sprinkling of walnuts?
    3. You will evoke those all-important emotions so essential to good writing and reader engagement. Whether you evoke laughter, sadness, agreement or anger, your prose will encourage others to continue the conversation.
    4. You will create your own unique voice. Honing your voice is not only about writing style. Write your truth, and you will transform yourself as well as your writing.
    5. It’s good for your personal growth. Being unafraid to state your opinion in writing will enable you to stand up for it in person. Being respectfully disagreed with will weaken your need to please everyone. You will develop the courage to continue in the face of nastiness, and compassion for those with petty complaints.

    Tips to Help You Write What You Really Think

    1. To write more assertively, first formulate your theory.

    Know what you want to say.

    Back it up with your why and give examples if you can. Citing others who are of the same opinion is a plus. Read this fantastic article on the whys, hows and whats of research.

    2. Be more assertive in your style.

    Use the active voice as far as possible. Use busy, creative, and descriptive nouns and verbs, and avoid adverbs.

    Get rid of words that scream ambivalence, such as “seems,” “appears,” “perhaps,” “somewhat,” etc. This is subtle, and although your readers won’t necessarily be able to identify what you’re doing (or rather, not doing), they will know that the writing is first rate, and it will go straight to their hearts.

    3. Acknowledge and honor those who disagree with you, but stick to your guns.

    In a recent guest post I wrote, a woman commented that she was offended by my “trashing” the British for a grammar rule of theirs I disagreed with.

    Rather than explain that I was trying to be funny, or apologizing profusely, I told her I understood where she was coming from, and that I honored her right to her opinion. Then I repeated my stance, and thanked her for contributing to the conversation.

    4. If you are wrong, admit it and make it right.

    I made a grammar mistake on one of my blog posts this year, and after I wiped the egg off my face, I sent out a new post in which I challenged my readers to find the mistake. All those who correctly identified the error were part of a giveaway for a book on writing.

    In addition to one sleepless night and a few bucks, it cost me a bit of pride and a few unsubscribes, but I gained support and credibility from the rest of my tribe.

    5. Don’t be controversial just for the sake of being controversial.

    Not being neutral doesn’t necessarily mean making waves. I see this in the use of excessive curse words and shocker headlines.

    If controversy and strong words are your brand, by all means go for it, but make sure you have a thick skin and are laser-focused on your target market. Otherwise, see to it that controversy works for you and not the other way around.

    You Are Not Meant to Be Mediocre

    I once asked the head of a school I attended if he was worried about a certain controversial stance he had taken. His answer had a profound effect on me: “You cannot be successful without making a few enemies.”

    People-pleasers and those who are afraid to take a stand will remain mediocre.

    Take action on these suggestions, and you will make your writing shine with crisp, clear language, and your own special voice. And no matter what you write about, you – and your prose – will always be a class act.

    Are you ready to write with your assertive new voice? Think of a controversial subject about which you feel strongly. Write three to five paragraphs, and let me know in the Comments how it felt to write the piece. See if you can flesh it out and publish it on your blog, or submit it to another publication.

    If you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media!

    About the author

      Deena Nataf

      Deena Nataf is a freelance editor and author mentor with thirty years' experience. She runs Bulletproof Writing, a blog and website for writers which delivers writing techniques, “comedy grammar,” and tips for the writing life. Click here to get this month’s free ebook, “The Quick and Dirty Guide to Frequently Misspelled Words.

    • Helen Schwartz says:

      I followed your idea to write up a short piece on a controversial subject I feel strongly about – it was easier than I thought to get started because the story has been waiting for me to tell it. I noticed that I experienced more confidence in doing it as if in affirming my opinion I am affirming myself. I may flesh it out, do a little research, and finalize it for publication. Thank you for the intriguing experiment and for encouraging authenticity.

    • Thank you for these words. Nowadays people love to complain and to argue without nothing to say. Everyone, but specially artists, have to find courage in their passion and be loyal to themselves.

    • It’s a good to learn some strategy about writing.
      Thanks for the post..

    • Thanks for this great and informative article, It’s very helpful for peoples.

    • I enjoyed this post. I have recently given up writing under a pseudonym and am much happier because of it! I feel like I’m being my authentic self, and if someone I know and care about doesn’t like what I post on my website, to heck with them. It’s taken me many years to get here. Years of hiding my writing under a pseudonym or by not publishing at all. That’s over, and I’m glad. Next, to conquer my fear of troll comments.

    • devika says:

      Wonderful article, very useful and well explanation. Your post is extremely incredible.

    • devika says:

      Your heart started beating a mile a minute. Your mouth was dry. Your breathing, shallow. With shaking hands, you went online to read the rest of the comment—best to get it over with quickly and then assess the damage.

    • Nandhini says:

      This information is impressive..I am inspired with your post writing style & how continuously you describe this topic. After reading your post,thanks for taking the time to discuss this

    • Such a conclusive argument for being bold and writing our real selves into all that we publish, you’ve taken away not just the excuses but the doubts too. A superb post Deena. I particularly appreciate No.3, acknowledging and respecting those you don’t agree with is so important. Thanks for sharing.

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Laura, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I am especially gratified that I was able to take away some of your doubts. I hope you are busy writing every day! Deena

    • The news is very interesting thank you very much for the information ..

    • Really great post. Now i learn new things in the social media opportunity to growing business. Thanks for this article.

    • I almost lost a close friend once, because I blew up on Facebook about something. We were able to make it up. I ended up apologizing, even though a lot of people agreed with me. I am learning to not back down on my stand. I learned while it’s important to say what I think without apology, I don’t want to put my raw first reaction out there. Polite, respectful, and firm is my new motto, lol!

      • Deena says:

        I totally agree with you, Columba, about not putting out our “raw, first reaction.” It’s a great idea to sleep on it, or just to take even a half hour break before answering — and to go over the post or comment before hitting Send or Publish. Polite, respectful and firm sounds great to me. Thank you for contributing to the conversation! Deena

    • Zada says:

      It’s helpful, Every writer should face some kind of trouble, Writing is not a skill but set of many skills.

    • arman says:

      Admin, if not okay please remove!

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      http://www.teespring.com/prostate-cancer-research

      Thanks

    • Jolie Greiff says:

      Hi Deena,

      Enjoyed your post!

      I recently submitted a piece about what it’s like to be the mother of a kid with Down’s, written from the perspective of a good friend of mine. My editor rejected it, saying it wasn’t “upbeat” enough for her publication. Sometimes writing what you really think doesn’t get you published, but you maintain your integrity. I’ll have to let you know if someone else takes it – if I get the nerve to re-submit it elsewhere.

      Jolie Greiff

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Jolie, and thank you for your comment.

        I agree with the integrity thing, and I hope I always can maintain mine.

        I sincerely hope you resubmit your article about the Downs child and his mother elsewhere. See this link for a list of famous authors who were rejected manyfold times: http://www.litrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/

        All the best, and good luck with the article,
        Deena

    • Mark Tong says:

      Great post – there’s too much stuff out there already, good and bad, to add any more without good reason – and adding your authentic voice to the conversation is a good reason.

    • Peter Rey says:

      Writing is the ultimate way to get to say what we want and in the way we want. If we don’t exploit such a fat chance, then we might as well stop writing at all.

      If I have to get flak for what I write, I prefer it to be for my ideas rather than for my boring unadventurous style.

      • Deena says:

        Good for you, Peter! You have a very enviable attitude, and thank you for sharing it.

        Deena

    • I posted something in a FB group recently and got hammered by the woman who started the group for being negative. I deleted the post although I didn’t think I was being negative–just honest–and I thought I was also being funny but my humor doesn’t always translate, especially online. Now I’m sorry I deleted it. AND I apologized! So I took that experience and channeled it into a blog post. I don’t have a lot of blog followers and that makes it easy to write what I want to say and put it out there. But I’ve realized “successful” people are almost always authentic. Take someone like, Prince for example. The media keeps saying “there’s no one else like him and there never will be.” That is true for all of us. Your voice matters.

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Barbara, and thank you for your comment. I love how you channeled your FB experience into a blog post — good for you!!

        You are so right about authenticity, and Prince was a good example. No matter if we loved him or hated him, he was always himself.

        Best,
        Deena

    • Charlotte Wheat says:

      Deena, your article pushed me up and along the untraveled path of fearless writing. Before, when I started out with assertiveness I’d turn back and write a milk-toast opinion. Instead, you have stirred my courage to push on into fearless writing.

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Charlotte. I am thrilled to hear that I was able to push you to write fearlessly, and I really appreciate your letting me know. I wish you much success in your writing endeavors.

        Deena

    • Dotun says:

      Right post at the right time, most writers have this problem indeed, i’m one, i’ve decided to write as an alias instead where i can express myself profoundly, it worked like magic, i gained confidence overtime, i’m even writing this action book about it. flexing my muscles. Thanks babe, good article. looking for good writers to contribute to my story to help me write better and to infuse different ideas into my imagination.

    • Yes, I’ve been there and it was a shocker. But I do agree with your points, as well as those here who have expressed frustration over incorrect or outdated information. Unfortunately, it happens all the time, but while it’s frustrating to me as a reader, as a writer it serves as a reminder to be extra diligent with the information and resources I share.

      In fact, I just completed my annual article audit and one element of that project is to check links and update any references to studies. To some this may seem a bit paranoid, but I do have a lot of internal links and a resource library section that includes links to relevant key articles, so to me, it’s just good business to make sure that I’m not shooting myself in the foot by linking to outdated articles. Thanks for the interesting article!

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Marquita. Thank you so much for the great idea to go through our work once a year and check sources and links! I appreciate your valuable advice, which is easy to implement and extremely beneficial.

        All the best,
        Deena

    • Mike says:

      Hello Deena,

      Thank you for the great writing tips. Fear does play a large role in holding back words from ending up on a blog post. I can speak from experience. Although, after moving forward and releasing your work into the “digital universe” for others to read, judge, and enjoy — the next idea becomes available to write about. Practice makes perfect.

      Just yesterday, I was listening to a science writing podcast. The interviewee stated regarding writing styles, “Scientist think that they write well just because they publish in journals. That is not true at all. They need to relieve themselves of the rigid style and write informally too.” Good writers and scientists alike have been starting to promote this idea among the scientific community. We need to be better communicators to the public at large.

      Of course, just like learning science, we need to humble ourselves in the process. Showing the imperfection over time during growth is a great way to make science more accessible to the public. That is my belief and I am sticking with it.

      Thank you again for the tips. Love them. Have a great weekend.

      Sincerely,

      Mike

      • Deena says:

        Thanks, Mike, for your lovely comment. You made some very valuable points.

        I like how you said that once you release your words, “The next idea becomes available to write about.” I would take it one step further and say that the next idea becomes available for both the writer and for the reader to write about.

        All the best, and much success to you,
        Deena

    • Hi Deena, After years of writing, I finally feel as if I’m finding my own voice. You stated, “Evoke those all important emotions.” I’m trying to keep that in mind as I write my new novel. If it feels flat to me, I know it will feel flat to the reader. Thanks for a great post!

      • Deena says:

        Thank you, Penelope, for writing. I’m so glad you liked the post. And much success with your novel! Go, girl, go!

        Best,
        Deena

    • Adrienne says:

      Excellent article, Deena. I am always impressed when an author takes the time to respond to comments. I’ve already visited your site and I’m sure I’ll benefit from your insights and expertise.

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Adrienne, and thanks for your lovely compliments! I’m so glad you like my site, and I hope it will always provide value to you and others. And we authors love it when people take the time to respond to our articles!

        Best,
        Deena

    • Fear of what people think, whether it be in our writing, in our emotions, or in the clothes we wear, has always plagued the human condition. On my new website, I bite the proverbial bullet and write posts that express my opinions, thoughts, comments and incites on a variety of subjects. I try to offer GOOD food for thought. If we don’t provide some friction in the world, things wouldn’t change or evolve and life would remain stagnant. Thanks for reminding us that we should keep opening our eyes and take chances, Deena.

      • Deena says:

        Thank you, Ron.

        I like your comment that we need friction in the world to keep things moving; great insight.

        Best of luck with your new website.

        Deena

    • Hi Deena, and thank you for this timely and important reminder to be authentic in our writing. There are so many controversies floating around, it’s difficult to know which to address. For me, personally, there is one topic I wish I had the courage to write about. I wish for once, people who have never experienced a trauma would stop talking as if they know the “right” solution for everyone else. See, I didn’t mention the topic – maybe it is fear.
      It’s sad out of fear of being labeled, we have become a muzzled nation.

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Sheila, and thank you for your comment.

        I really hope one day you will be able to write about “that” topic. As Yvonne said, it’s so scary to be vulnerable in public. And as I said to Eeta, you might find yourself a hero to others who have experienced the same thing as you; you have real potential to help them.

        Best,
        Deena

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Sheila, and thank you for writing. I hope one day you will be comfortable enough to write about “that” topic. As Yvonne said, it’s both difficult and scary to be vulnerable. Yet as I said to Eeta, you might find yourself a hero to others, as you will be able to help those who went through the same thing you did.

        Good luck, and keep on writing,
        Deena

    • Yvonne says:

      I agree with much of what you’ve said here and also with some of the points Chris P and Jon Guenther make. There’s a lot of writing on the internet that purports to be honest, but that actually is driven by fear and defensiveness and comes across as antagonistic. So we need to go beyond that to create real connections with our writing. Coincidentally, I just wrote a post about how risking being vulnerable is what frees us from constantly feeling vulnerable. Definitely we can’t please everyone all of the time though.

      Oh, and I love vanillla! 🙂

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Yvonne, and thank you for writing. Wow, it’s so hard to be vulnerable, both in relationships and in writing! I’m glad you brought that to the conversation, because it is definitely part of this whole issue of being afraid to write what we are really thinking.

        All the best to you; I’m really glad you wrote.

        Deena

    • Joseph Rathjen says:

      Great article and advice. As an opinion writer, I’ve learned that it is truly a skill to venture as far to the edge of the cliff without falling off. A syndicated, columnist friend of mine told me once write as if there is no mainstream, liberal or conservative view on the issue you’re writing about and then write your own. Only then will your honest opinion be able to break through. Don’t write to criticize – write to contribute. Present your opinion in a new perspective no one else has thought about. When you learn how to do that (without slander, libel or anger) both sides of a hot-button issue will find your material refreshing.

      • Deena says:

        Thank you, Joseph! I’m so glad you wrote a comment, and your advice was rock solid. And I love your friend’s tips; very succinctly expressed and valuable.
        All the best,
        Deena

    • Good, disciplined writing comes from good, disciplined thinking. You will write what you think, so you must think coherently. You must think rationally. Then… you must always rewrite what you thought. Good post! 🙂

      • Deena says:

        Thanks, Jon.

        You made such a good point, and I appreciate the reminder. Yes, we must engage our brains before writing and hitting Publish.

        Deena

    • Hi, Deena,

      Great timing for this post – I was just talking to a client yesterday about fear of writing. I’m sending her this post this second!

      Thanks for the great post.
      Sue

      • Deena says:

        Yay, Sue! I’m so glad I might be able to help one of your clients. It’s an honor.

        Deena

    • Ohita Afeisume says:

      I have my ideas about certain issues that are different from the mainstream. I have noted well that it is unbecoming to argue for arguing sake and that I can politely state my own side giving reasons. I long to hone my own unique voice.
      One thing I need to work on though is how to respectfully acknowledge others’ view points whilst going ahead to state mine. Many thanks for this post.

      • Deena says:

        Hi, Ohita, and thank you for your comment. It really is difficult to maintain your viewpoint in the face of someone’s disagreeing with you. I have to consciously work at this almost every time. Sometimes I just listen and don’t fall all over myself trying to figure out how I can agree with the other person, and sometimes I both listen and restate my opinion.

        I’ve definitely been yelled at for “daring” to have a non-mainstream opinion, but the truth is that if someone is going to yell at you for being yourself, it’s really their problem, not yours.

        I know that one day — soon — you will find your own voice. The more you write, the more you will hone it, and one day you’ll suddenly realize that your writing voice has been born and is alive and well!

        All the best, Deena

    • eeta says:

      Yes, I enjoyed reading your blog. There’s something very controversial I’ve been writing for years from personal experience, its about mental health treatments and spirituality. Yet I never had the courage to put it up at any blog or publication.

      • Deena says:

        Thanks, Eeta; I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I sincerely hope you will consider publishing your writing. One of the best reasons is that you might very well help others who are going through similar experiences. Good luck, Deena

    • Surinder says:

      I am already on the same track what you have mentioned here but I am not writing for any intentional controversy but I write but I have found in my life.

      • Deena says:

        Good to hear, Surinder. I hope we all build up that writing fortitude.

        Deena

    • Chris P says:

      Sadly, my fairly short experience of social media shows me that too many people write what they think… but are working with an inadequate tool for the job. (Not the ‘writing’ part, but the job of ‘thinking’… Thinking requires a brain, but too many posters on Facebook don’t bother with such niceties.)

      Of course this isn’t completely true… Most of these posts aren’t really writing what ‘they’ think, but posting a knee jerk reaction to what someone else purports to think… Deliberately contrived posts, designed to get a reaction. Often… No, not just often, but usually completely false, with unverified links and attachments.

      Always… Always… Always… check your facts before you post.

      Getting a “How dare you?” is fine. You can counter that with a reason, whether they agree or not.

      But getting a “That’s a load of bollocks!” when it’s quite possibly is precisely that, is a different matter. Then you have to either admit that you were wrong, or hide in the corner and hope it all goes away.

      • Deena says:

        Love it, Chris.

        I agree that too many people shoot from the hip before really getting their facts straight. I’ve done this too, and I’m cringing even now just thinking about the embarrassment this has caused me over the years.

        I like your attitude toward the “how dare you?” I got one of those recently on FB and it was so uncomfortable, to say the least.

        Thanks for commenting.

        Deena

    • LEONIE says:

      Your words come so easy

      • Deena says:

        Thanks, Leonie! The truth is that I work hard to make them come easily 🙂
        All the best, Deena


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