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Fear, Freedom and the Urgency to Write

Afraid to Write a Book?

It’s been an interesting morning.

My workday began with a call from a reader of The Joy of Writing Journal who wants to write a book. I sensed that it took some bravery to reach out to me. She shared about the inner saboteur who walks into a library or bookstore and says, “Does the world really need another book?”

Joy of Writing Journal cover

What the inner critic is saying, of course, is, “Play it safe. Don’t bother writing your book. It feels risky. You might fail. Or even more scary, what if you succeed? Or you might uncover some personal issues that I’d rather you ignore, so I can continue to protect you from danger.”

The Freedom and Possibility in Writing

She also told me how much The Joy of Writing Journal freed her. How her husband pointed out how much her writing had changed from her first journal entry to her most recent, mid-way through the journal. She spoke with enthusiasm, passion, and hope about her writing practice and this deep, inexplicable calling to write a book that she felt she didn’t have the skills or background to write.

“I’m a business person. Not a writer. I don’t know how to do this.”

Your Book Will Change Something for Someone, So Write It!

There’s so much to unpack in our brief exchange.

First, there’s the joy I felt when she shared with me what my book did for her. What if I hadn’t written that inspiring book? Or hadn’t invested the time and resources to publish and market it?

Sometimes, when we think about those activities, something in us shuts down. But if we can stay in touch with the transformation possible for our readers, we keep on.

We make the time.

We sit in the chair, as much as the inner saboteur screams, “Don’t do that! Read a book, watch a TV show, eat some chocolate. Clean the house.”

Okay, the truth? My saboteur rarely tells me to clean the house.

But it does keep me from writing. Or publishing.

In this case, it’s kept me from taking the next step, which is hiring an editor for my next book. After my most recent edit, my book is sitting there, doing nothing.


And to hear this reader/journaler/writer share what my book did for her reminded me why it’s so important to take the next step, hire the editor. Publish! Get it out into the world.

So, I reached out to the editor this morning to get that ball rollin’.

But, Can You Write a Book?

Further unpacking our conversation, secondly, beyond the fear, is the question, “Can I really do this? Can I write a book?”

And the truth is, you don’t know until you’ve done it.

My hunch is yes. Just because you haven’t written one yet, doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t. It just means you need to find the resources to help you get there – the book, the course, the community, the coach, the system, the inner guidance, the inspiration, the time, the will, and the persistence.

And once you decide to do it, those things naturally come into your consciousness or cross your path. And it’s probably a good idea to look for those resources, too. Ask yourself what you need to write a book. And then start working on it.

What if You Don’t Finish Your Book?

Thirdly, our conversation brings to mind the question, “What if you don’t write your book?” What will be lost?

  • What will you lose?
  • What will your readers miss out on?
  • What are you holding back from your communities and the global community?

After my conversation with this writer, I read an email sharing that a client, mentor and friend, Teri Scheinzeit, had died earlier this month. The email came from her husband, who shared this beautiful list that Teri wrote from her hospital bed.

Teri was such an inspiration to me. She helped me grow my business while balancing growth with other aspects of life – creativity, family, rest, play, friendship, and nature. Teri was a business coach, and after I began helping her with her book, I hired her to coach me in my business.

As a coach, Teri generally worked three days a week, three weeks a month. The fourth month was devoted to her music – songwriting, attending music festivals, performing and recording her music.

Teri knew how to make that often-elusive leap from imagining a harmonious and rich creative life and actually creating and living that life. Instead, she thought outside our usual constraints about work and what it looks like.

And I will always be grateful to Teri for that vision.

Teri taught workshops about how to disarm the inner saboteur. And she taught me to feel the fear and do it anyway.

success_without_stress book cover

And Teri also had a book in her. I worked with her as an editor on Success Without Stress: Simple Steps to Finding Calm for Women Business Owners. This excellent book won two awards, but more than that, it helped countless entrepreneurs create a business that works for us. For me, Teri’s wisdom, shared in this book, helped me let go of some of the shoulds, create more peace and calm during my workday, and not let my work completely take over my life–which is way too easy to happen in the life of an entrepreneur.

What if Teri hadn’t written that book? Thankfully, we’ll never know. I’m just so glad she wrote it. And took the time to write that inspiring list of 10 in her hospital bed, before she left this earth, this life.

When we realize we only have so much time on this earth and don’t know when our time will be up, does it bring urgency to our writing? Or does the importance of writing fall away?

What answer does your heart reveal? The urgency to write, or some other urgency? Or is there room for both? Only you can answer that. But make sure you answer from your heart and not your saboteur.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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