I overcame the fear of writing and I still suck at it

How do you know when it’s time to give up writing?

Writer’s Doubt! Should I write a book?

Lately, I spend a lot of time on Medium. Many of my Failuretolisten.com posts I repost there. It’s an exciting platform, but I don’t understand it. It’s often difficult to find a story I read a few days ago or send someone a private note. I don’t know why certain writers are featured and others not. Quality is not the deciding factor neither is relevance.

It’s an excellent platform for budding writers to learn. However, like other platforms, influencers get the eyeballs. Many follow then unfollow once you follow. I feel my role there is to support influencers of which I am not. My stats are dismal after one year. They seemed better when I first started.

My stats lack engagement or claps. 1-2 views a month is more depressing than motivating. The platform made me rethink my content and competence as a writer. What am I doing wrong? How can I get a black audience? Should I write on trending topics? Perhaps I suck as a writer and need to hang it up.

My blog of five years keep me going; however, that’s fading. It’s disappointing to spend hours sometimes days on a post for 12 views.

To keep motivated, I tell myself someday people will pay to join my blog. Unfortunately, that day seems more unlikely as time goes on.

What do I do? Keep writing? Maybe it’s time I focus on writing a book, do less blogging and spend less time on social media.

I’ve read so many advice on writing and blogging that encourage me never to give up. But maybe that’s advice meant for white culture. For POC, external forces intentionally hold black people back unless we conform.

Perhaps if I wrote about things that entertain them I might be a successful writer. Probably if I pretended to assimilate, I could write in a manner acceptable to those that determine our success. Writing to a black audience has not been emotionally rewarding.  I want to be successful like everyone else.

I may have to accept writing is not for me.

Overcoming my fear of writing is a work in progress. Growing up no one imagined me blogging or becoming a writer nor did I. My love for science grew out of my fear of writing. The fear of writing took root when my Jamaican accent fueled laughter.

Chemistry came more natural to me than English. Being Jamaican, I struggled to integrate broken British English, Patois and Black American slang into proper American English, unlike my brothers who didn’t struggle. I repeatedly failed. It didn’t take much pounding for me to see I sucked at writing.

Curious too that I would suck at writing since I was an avid reader. When I was around five or six, my father bought a set of encyclopedias with four or five hardcover children books of fables and classic short stories, each book over 200 pages. When I wasn’t playing cowboy and Indians with my brothers or catching grasshoppers, I was lost in the world of fables, reading each book cover to cover, over and over again. On frequent occasions, I even ventured to the adult books for research. Despite good reading habits, I was a poor writer.

Teasing made me self conscious of my accent. I became timid and shy about talking. I had a habit of starting a sentence and stopping in mid-sentence because I felt no one was paying attention. I felt this way every time I opened my mouth. Those experiences led to a narrative that made me avoid writing. I hated everything about writing.

My love of reading blossomed In the world of gigantic science textbooks, my love of reading blossomed. Complex scientific problems and at that time a photogenic memory meant I could argue with my professor over a question graded incorrectly. You know what I was always correct, at least, that’s my recollection. In a world of science, “bad English” was overlooked in the interest of progress.

Writing is unavoidable. I found ways around my fear to get the job done. Every once in a while I would attempt to write some flowery prose only to sound like a complete moron. Hey, I tried! With the advent of the internet and social media, I couldn’t resist the urge to comment after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Then in January or February of 2013, I decided to start a blog. Hitting my head did something. The old fears disappeared. I still sucked at writing, but I didn’t care. For the first time, I finished my sentences. People listened to me, not a lot but enough to motivate me. Ever so often I wrote a sentence or a paragraph that read like Leo Tolstoy when he wrote War and Peace or my favorite Anna Karenina. It would marvel and mystify me. How did I do that? Too bad I lacked consistency.

I wish there were an easy set of rules, but there aren’t any. Writing is hard work, but when your words glide off the screen into images and thoughts, it’s a beautiful moment. How come eloquent writers make that seem natural?

To overcome my fear of writing I had to write to please myself. My passionate about a topic filled my mind with words. When I started blogging it felt like I was screaming. The less interested I was about the issue, the more difficult it was to get started or organize my thoughts to write. It’s hard work when you know nothing about a subject. Commenting got my feet wet and ensured I wrote something every day. There were times on LinkedIn my comments could have been a short story. I never let negative feedback my grammar be a deterrent. I kept commenting and blogging.

Writing gave me a voice, but I still lacked confidence and feared writing. The turning point in overcoming my fear came from reading other blogs and reading my posts before publishing.

I read not so much for knowledge but to study how a talented writer made their point or kept my interest. I also wrote down words my favorite bloggers used to describe ordinary objects. I studied their styles and format and created a glossary of words and expressions that I look at when I get stuck or lost for words.

It was an eye opener when I started reading my posts before hitting the publish button. OMG! Did I publish that crap in my name without reading it first? Yes, I did! Unbeknownst to me, I had a dreadful fear of reading my writing.

Writing is a process of repetition and reiterations. To overcome the fear of writing, I wrote about things I loved to do or were of interest. I kept writing and reading the works of other writer’s as well as reading multiple drafts of my work.

I haven’t yet written my book. I wonder if that is what I should do now instead of bumming for views. Blogging was a fantastic experience and a lifeline but have I maxed out? Perhaps it’s time to pivot to writing a book or hang it up.


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

30 thoughts on “I overcame the fear of writing and I still suck at it

          1. 1. You mean making people do what you want? If so, there are a zillion ways, like they perfectly well know in areas like politics, sales, branding, marketing, etc

            2. For the rest? Like I mentioned already somewhere else, walk with them for a while. Or shut the fuck up.

            1. Number 1 is not inspiration but manipulation. There is enough of that!

              Number 2 makes sense. To inspire others you need to walk with them to understand where they are and how they got there.

          2. People telling me they want to inspire people, give me the creeps, and I don’t believe them. Like it is with “thinking out of the box”, the only thing they want me to do is to start “thinking in THEIR box”. And yes, that’s manipulation and cheating too.

  1. Keep Blogging Angela! You gave some good advice that I will be using. On Twitter, you might want to blog about a topic that got many responses and hashtag the people that were in that conversation. I would just keep my blog short and to the point.

    1. When are you starting your blog? I guess that’s what people do to get business. That strategy means writing about things I don’t know. Now that’s a challenge.

  2. I feel the same way about my blog. I am taking a break right now until I get the motivation back. I would say make sure you have the motivation to write a post and it’s a topic you are passionate about.

          1. Mmmm…….well……since you’re in the right place now…….any talent in making money at the casino?

            The days I visited places like that, they even switched pit bosses when I sat at the black jack table 😈 And the time there weren’t any cameras yet, playing roulette really was paying off 💰 💰 💰

  3. Having a voice means nothing if I can’t share by writing about it. There is power in the pen so I’ll continue to blog until I start writing books. I experienced too much not to share with others particularly those who look like me.

    1. We also have voices! Yours is a beautiful-sounding one and therefore I advise you to also get podcasting. This will most likely have a much wider and dispersed market, with the greater likelihood of engagement and popularity. Then, as Rudy suggests, support each podcast with a brief commentary/essay for those who have the time and inclination to want to also read about the topic.

      For technical advise, my wonderful associate and friend Kristin of the Mental Health News Radio (MHNR) audio platform will be able to get you started podcasting. She’s still on Facebook.

      As you may remember, Angela, I consider this FTL blog a must-read, with my having bookmarked several pieces for advice by you.

      Podcasting is still growing, fast, not saturated like long-form blogs, which a huge number of Netizens already have.

      Write for you, not likes, and your genuiness will attract many more eyeballs….

  4. Angela you are doing great. It is imperative I speak with you. I had the same thing allegedly happen with Littler and medical providers. Please call 312_504_2078. I know you don’t know me but it is by the grace of God I found your article. Honoring Martin Luther King Day for civil rights. Please call asap, Susan this is not spam btw, it is important to speak with you.

  5. Thanks for sharing! I share your sentiments. I encourage you to not quit. I understand spending so much time on your post and only getting a few views. I share my blog on social media thinking I will have people I know flood my post; except for a few people the support has not be there. I’ve started to shift my mindset because I know God put it on my heart to start this. I’ve only been blogging for a couple of months and like you blogging has given me a voice as well. Keeping going, thanks for being an inspiration.

    1. Hi Kim, thank you for your inspirational comment.

      Blogging was a lifeline at one point. It’s a fantastic way to give you a voice even if you don’t get many eyeballs.

      However, I am at the point where I’d like to do deep dives into a topic. It’s hard to do intense research and not have the audience. So I’m working on writing a book.

      Haven’t blogged much but plan to in the coming weeks.

      Thanks again

  6. I know you haven’t been posting in a while, but I really hope you can keep writing in some way, shape, or form. I get it that it can be disappointing not getting a deluge of views. Trust me, all of my blogs are pretty small in terms of views and followers. Please don’t quit since I know you have a great perspective on things. I can tell that your posts have been cathartic for you. I know I’m repeating myself, but this bears repeating. We’ve had great intelligent conversation on your blog, you care about justice more than most other people I know (online AND real life), and your honesty shines through every time. You don’t suck at writing or poetry. Don’t let anyone get you down and that includes yourself. I have to tell myself that, so don’t feel like you’re alone. I’ve felt the same way when it came to my Ospreyshire tracks, film reviews, and my fiction projects.

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.