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Big Ideas. Short Books.

Want the rewards of becoming a published author? START HERE

Founded by Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book

Why writing a book (even a short one) is scary

Lizard BrainI’m going to divert from the official line for a minute and talk about FEAR as it relates to writing a book.

The official line of the publishing revolution goes something like this, “Gee whiz, now anyone can write and publish an eBook to Kindle. Hey it’s as easy as writing a blog post and hitting publish!”

Ha! If only that were the case. It’s not true for me. And I’m betting it’s not true for a lot of other people. Maybe you’re one of them.

Writing is an intimate act

It means digging into your brain and identifying ideas and themes you feel passionate about and that you have a compulsion to share with the world. That’s for starters.

Getting inside your own brain in an authentic way is hard. (Check out David Rock’s marvelous and readable, Your Brain At Work). How to organize what comes out (all those words) so that they are coherent and compelling and persuasive is, well, even harder.

And let’s not even get started on your Lizard Brain (as Seth Godin calls it) that tries to second guess and sabotage you at every step.

AND let me be clear: I am talking about writing a short book that you plan to self-publish or publish through a small indie publisher like Voxie Media.

If you’ve decided to do this on your own, you can cross off fear of not being chosen and anointed by a traditional, big name publisher. But that still leaves a long list. I can tell you from personal experience that writing a book can provoke:


Fear of the messy process of figuring out what your book is really about.

Fear of not being able to write the book you envision.

Fear of not having enough time to write.

Fear of procrastination.

Fear and loathing of the bad prose you will write in early drafts.

Fear of not meeting a deadline.

Fear of not finishing.

Fear of being laughed at.

Fear of not being liked.

Fear of not sounding smart enough.

Fear of being criticized.

Fear of making too big a promise.

Fear of not getting noticed.

Fear of no one buying your book.

Fear of not getting the respect and credibility you want as a published author.

Fear of not achieving any business goals with your book (speaking gigs in cool places, etc.)

Fear of failure (however you want to define it).


I need to take a deep breath after writing that list.  Does all this fear mean we should hang our heads and slink away because writing a book is just too scary?

Geez. I hope not.

I’m pretty sure that saying the fears out loud – acknowledging and identifying them – makes them less scary. As author H.P. Lovecraft put it: the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

I am sure that the best way to chip away at your fear is to show up every day and write. And yes, I know this is hard to do.

And I am positive that it can be a lot less scary if you’re doing some of your writing and thinking in a group where you can share your fears and frustrations.  And if you’ll forgive me for mentioning my writing program, one of the goals of Beta Author Boost is to provide this kind of safe, supportive space.

Below are a few of my favorite touchpoints to return to when you’re feeling FEAR around writing.

Antidotes to fear

– Watch author Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on finding the creative genius within you

– Watch author Brene Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability

– Read author Mark Levy‘s excellent primer on freewriting, Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight and Content

– Read Anne Lamott‘s classic, Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (my life raft when I was writing The Corporate Blogging Book).

Free download

Download a free taste of the kind of content you get in my Beta Author Boost program, a PDF transcript of my interview with Mark Levy on how to uncover your best book idea.

So what are your fears?

What have I left out? Overstated? Underplayed?? I’d love to hear your fears around writing a short eBook, as would others reading this. Please tell us in a comment below.
Illustration credit: Wish I could find the source of the Lizard Brain illustration above. 

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  • Paul

    Hi Debbie,
    When you recognize that “fear” is just a feeling you have created and is actually totally separate from the action or result you are fearing, it helps you get past it. I am not saying it’s easy, but knowing it is self created, helps us find out that it is only ourselves that can eliminate it.

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