Saturday, March 23

Writing And The Fear Of Judgement

Writing And The Fear Of Judgement Johanna Penn's post, On Writing And The Fear Of Judgment, felt as though she was writing right to me. I like to think I'm getting more brave, but I used to be paralyzed by fear of what folks would think of my stories, whether they would look at me differently.

Johanna writes:
. . . I’ve written dark things before but this is the first time I haven’t censored myself as I write. I’ve given the dark side of my mind permission to indulge but as I am about to start the rewrites, I find myself on the edge of crossing things out, not because they need editing, but because I don’t want people to read them and judge me for my thoughts.
How can writers assuage this fear? Johanna has five suggestions:

1. Use A Pseudonym

A pseudonym is a perfectly respectable way to go (see: Should You Use A Pen Name?). As Johanna mentions, many erotica authors use pseudonyms, but pseudonyms, or pen names, are also used by many authors--Dean Wesley Smith for instance--as a way to brand his books.

2. Get A Support Group

We need to surround ourselves with people who understand and accept us as we are. Sometimes this will be a spouse, sometimes it will be a group of writers, sometimes it will be our friends or family.

It is wonderful to be brave and put yourself out there, but each of us needs a safe space; somewhere we can be nurtured when we need it.

3. Accept That We All Have A Dark Side

And that's a good thing! Johanna writes:
In Jungian psychology the shadow is a critical part of our whole self. Life is not all sweetness and light and there is but a thin veneer of civilization over our ancient animal genetics. Death and fear, violence and sex will always be part of our culture so as writers it’s important to embrace that and reflect it in our writing. I am acknowledging the shadow more in my own work, and also feel that when the things we fear are on the page, they have less power over us.
Very true.

4. Realize That When People Judge Your Book They Aren't Judging You

After all, they don't know you. Naturally, whatever you write, no matter how well you write it, some folks aren't going to like it.

It's both feel-good and instructive to look at one star reviews some great works of literature have received.

The appeal of a book, even a great one, isn't universal. For example, someone who despises fantasy in any form will naturally hate your paranormal romance if they, in a fit of masochism, read it.

That's life.

5. You Are NOT What You Write

Yes, maybe you are what you eat, but you aren't what you write.

Stephen King writes bone-chilling acts of horror but he is a laid back community-minded family man.

Also, I'm guessing that the screenwriters of Saw (James Wan & Leigh Whannell), one of the most violent horror movies ever, are no more strange than the average writer. Notice I didn't say the average person. (grin)

As Dean Wesley Smith wrote not too long ago, the only way you can kill your career is if you stop writing. That's it. That's the only way. Write, write what your heart is calling you to write, and publish it. Wash and repeat.

Now it's time for me to toddle off and practice what I preach!
Do you ever fear being judged because of what you write? How do you deal with it?

Other articles you might like:

- The Rules Of Romantic Comedy
- 5 Tips For Creating Memorable Character Names
- Joe Konrath says KDP Select Made Him $100,000 In 6 Weeks

Photo credit: "On The Road" by Philipp Klinger Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I loved it. There are some very talented folks on Flickr.

  2. Another amazing post, Karen. I often worry about this - especially since posting one of my early stories on a critique group and receiving a critique from an individual which basically stated that I was clearly messed up in the head! (And trust me, that story was nowhere near as disturbing as what I'm writing now!)
    It's hard not to worry about it sometimes, even though I am quite secure in the knowledge that my head is just fine, thank you.
    How do I deal with it? I guess, these days, I just remember that some of my stories aren't for everyone. That's about it. I try not to worry about it any more.

    1. Thanks Lisa!

      Don't listen to the naysayers. Anyone who thinks that clearly hasn't read Stephen King lately, or seen the movie Saw. Those writers are quite fine, thank you very much, and laughing all the way to the bank.

      No matter what one does, what one is like, there are going to be folks who think one is the incarnation of evil--as they define it.

      No one's story is for everyone; but from what you've said, I'm sure your stories are for me. :)

  3. This is another great post. I used to fear being judged by my writing a lot. I didn't want to share it, didn't want to hear how bad it might be but ... you can't really grow without sharing. I joined a few critique groups and it really helped me grow as a writer. It also helped me get over the fear of letting others read my work. Now I'm not so worried about it. Like you said, we aren't what we write.

    1. "... you can't really grow without sharing."

      Painful but true.

      I'm thrilled to hear you've joined critique groups, I don't know what I would do without mine.

      Thanks for your comment, Kim. :)


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