Writing is scary.
Sometimes when we publish something, it makes us feel like our insides are hanging out, for all the world to see. We feel vulnerable. We feel naked. We feel … terrified.
But here’s the thing — we have to keep writing, in spite of the fear. If we let fear stop us, our content will have no spark, no life. And everything we write will be completely unremarkable.
Right now, I’m working on a blog post (on a different topic) that scares the living heck out of me. I am afraid of the strong opinions and passion that are rising from some long-buried place inside me. I’m worried that I won’t write well enough to clearly communicate what I need to say. I’m worried about what people will say when I publish this piece.
Bottom line — I’m scared.
And it got me thinking — if I feel scared, I’ll bet you do, too. And maybe together, we can come up with a way to get through the fear and keep ourselves on the path to continually creating amazing work — even when we’re scared.
Meet Brené Brown …
Everywhere you look, people seem to be talking about sociologist and researcher Brené Brown. You may have seen her powerful TED talk — it’s a featured talk on the TED website, and it’s been seen nearly 9 million times.
Since that video went viral, Ms. Brown has been featured on Oprah’s prime time show, Super Soul Sunday, and she’s published a bestselling book called Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
Brené Brown’s area of expertise is connection, vulnerability, and shame. If you haven’t heard her TED talk, take 20 minutes now to absorb her extraordinary advice about what it takes to create deep, meaningful connections.
Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on TED.com.
Here’s the short, short version:
We are put on this earth to connect with one another. Connection is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives.
But if we want connection, we have to be willing to be vulnerable. Even though vulnerability is often hard — sometimes even excruciating — we’ve got to put ourselves out there in order to experience connection.
And here’s what very few people are talking about in the field of content marketing — vulnerability not only makes us better human beings, it also makes us better writers, and better content marketers.
We have to be willing to put our ideas, opinions, and deepest fears out there, so we can truly connect with our audiences. Content that isn’t vulnerable — that doesn’t scare us, just a little bit — isn’t necessarily going to draw a huge audience of raving fans. It’s not going to get shared on social networking sites thousands of times. It’s not going to really impact the world.
Vulnerability is the missing piece in content marketing.
How social networking misses the mark
We might feel like posting short updates on Facebook or Twitter about our day-to-day lives makes us vulnerable. I’m not sure it does.
Sometimes social networking sites lead to true, honest-to-goodness human connection. But more often than not, I believe it gives us a way to feel like we’re being vulnerable … without actually having to truly put ourselves out there. And it allows us a way to numb ourselves and stay small.
I think one of the things that makes us vulnerable is being willing to sit down and write a detailed article about something that really matters to us, then finding the courage to publish that post.
And to do that, we need to keep writing, even when we feel afraid. Especially when we feel afraid.
If we’re willing to write what we truly believe — the stuff that scares us — we get to experience true vulnerability and connection with our readers. And I believe that connection will not only make our lives better, but will also make us successful beyond our wildest dreams.
What to do next
I don’t have a bulleted list of tips to help you break through fear. I believe we all battle fear in our own way.
I do think that being aware of how we feel afraid (and how it slows our writing down) will help us break through when we get stuck, and help us get to the other side.
It’s important to stay awake, to stop being numb when we sit down to create. We need to lean into our fear in order to create our best possible work.
One last thought on fear and writing, from master fear-fighter and writing coach, Natalie Goldberg. In her book, Writing Down the Bones, Goldberg says:
Go for the jugular. If something scary comes up, go for it. That’s where the energy is . Otherwise you’ll spend all your time writing around whatever makes you nervous. It will probably be abstract, bland writing because you’re avoiding the truth. Hemingway said, ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts.’ Don’t avoid it. It has all the energy. Don’t worry, no one ever died of it. You might cry or laugh, but not die.
In the meantime, I’m going to turn back to that post that is scaring the heck out of me. Because turning back — time after time — to the stuff that scares me is the path I have chosen as a writer.
It might not be a popular path, or a particularly comfortable one, but I think it’s the best one we can choose in this wild, crazy life we’ve chosen as writers and content creators.