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Blurry Forest

Overcoming The Fear of Putting Your Work Out There

I've written several blog posts on writing over on our writers' group blog, some of which I'd like to share here as well. This one was originally posted on March 22, 2023.

We all have our irrational fears – clowns, alien abductions, zombies, the three little circles formed by the lenses of an iPhone (also known as trypophobia.) Even if we haven’t experienced actual trauma from irrational fears, they make us uncomfortable and this leads us to avoid them.

Perhaps we have good reasons for this – our peace of mind, for example. Zombies scare the crap out of me, though thankfully I’ve never actually encountered a real one. I know that a zombie movie or show will give me nightmares, so I avoid them like, you know, the plague. And I sleep better for it. Good strategy.

But sometimes, our irrational fears limit us. We writers spend time, heart and brain space crafting our tales, usually with the intention of sharing them with the world. Committing that much of ourselves to something we’ve created and then holding it up for the world to see is terrifying. We are faced with potential rejection or apathy, and that can be soul-crushing. The fear of that experience can often keep us from putting our work out there at all. To put your work out there and actually receive rejection or apathy can convince us that it’s not worth it. 

It's important to remember, though, that opinions are subjective. Just because one publisher, or one audience, or one contest doesn’t accept your work, doesn’t mean your work sucks. Really! Often it comes down to a numbers game – how many submissions there were, and where your work falls in that hierarchy. It may even come down to something as little as a fraction of a point, or not enough space. That doesn’t mean your work was bad! It just means it didn’t fit this particular situation. It may not have fit one gatekeeper, but maybe it fits another. Knowing this gives us a little perspective.

I am irrationally terrified of rogue waves. I’ve had the same ship sinking nightmare since I was a young child. Anytime I see a film or show that involves a ship sinking I’ll have nightmares for a week – some new ones, but it also dredges up the same one from my youth. I can’t handle being on boats, big or small. They terrify me!

But for the first time ever, they didn’t come. And because I watched that one reel, Meta keeps putting more and more wave footage into my feed. I watch them all in horror and awe from the safety of my couch, and I haven’t had a single ship-sinking nightmare. Mind you, I’ve no intention of getting on a boat if I can avoid it, but it got me thinking about that irrational fear and how just letting myself be open to it, instead of instantly rejecting it, has kept the nightmares at bay.

If we look at fear as entering a dark room, where giant shapes loom in the corners, we can only imagine them as monsters (or clowns?) that are waiting to get us. But what happens if we turn on a light? That thing we’re convinced is a giant beast is actually just an armoire, or a dresser or coat rack. If we spend a moment with our fears and examine them for what they really are, it can take away the bite. And maybe with enough practice, the discomfort.

So how do we apply this as writers to our fears of rejection and apathy? We turn on the light. We allow our minds to look at what we’re afraid of, sit with it, understand it, and then move into that room despite it. Here are some things to try:



You have a better shot at getting your work accepted if you take the time to understand what you’re submitting to. If it’s a contest, magazine, or anthology, follow the submission guidelines. That means understanding the formatting, story length, and theme/prompt/tone they are asking for. If it specifically says not to do something – don’t do it. You are not an exception, and that’s the quickest way to get rejected. Why set yourself up for that? It’s quite common that writers don’t get accepted simply because they’ve not done their homework on submitting. Be thorough, and you'll successfully jump through the first hoop!


If you get specific feedback from a publisher, editor, or contest reviewer that seems like good advice, consider it. I’m not saying they’re always right when it comes to how you should tell your story – we could go utterly mad if we made every single change suggested and it didn’t jive with our original vision. (We writers have the option to reject things as well!) But keep an open mind when it comes to feedback – it’s not personal. It’s usually suggestions – often from professionals – to improve our work, and a good opportunity for us to learn to be better writers and how to get published. Keep an open mind and make choices that work best for the integrity of your story.


If you want to ensure you won’t get rejected by agents or publishers, become an independent author. What used to be considered a vanity option for writers is now a vast, booming industry, with countless success stories of authors who’ve either made it on their own or have been picked up by publishers and agents because of the following they have created for their body of work. Yes, you will still face some rejection and apathy as an indie author (trust me, haha). But you will have much more control and flexibility as a creative and you’ll be able to take things at your own pace and comfort level as you test the waters. (Perhaps that’s why those stormy sea videos don’t scare me as much as they used to – because I’ve stepped into scary waters. Who knows!)

If you feel like you’re ready to flick on the light and face the armoires and clowns and iPhone 11 camera lenses, here is a link with tons of upcoming opportunities for story submissions:

Go forth, fellow creatives, and put your work out there! And be reassured that someone, somewhere, at some point will connect with it. And that is worth the rejections that come before it!

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