Last week a group of professional freelance writers gathered on twitter and had a refreshingly vulnerable discussion about fear. Who’s experienced it at any point during their freelance writing careers? How has it impacted their freelancing careers? Has it ever stopped them? Has it ever helped them? Oh, and there was even a little talk of the zombie apocalypse thrown in. (Hey, we’re writers. You can’t expect us not to get a little dramatic.)
The questions were heavy-hitting, but the writers participating in the chat stepped up to meet every single one. Even more amazing? There was no shaming. Only validation and support; commiseration and respect.
A Twitter Chat on Writing Fears
To introduce the Writers Worth Month twitter chat, Lori told participants that we would be examining our fears and how they impact our freelance writing careers.
Question #1: Who Has Experienced Fear?
Lori and Paula didn’t tip-toe around the hard questions. They dove right in with the very first question, which was asking for a show of hands of who has experienced fear in their freelancing careers.
“Hands” began flying up through likes, retweets and responses, including my own.
Question #2: What’s the Biggest Fear You’ve Faced?
Lori quickly thew up the next question, asking participants what was the biggest fear they’ve faced during their careers so far?
Responses were wide-ranging. Some writers feared leaving the stability of a salaried income and facing the feeling of loss by leaving what they’ve built in the corporate world. Some feared they wouldn’t be able to make enough money freelancing and were overwhelmed by the costs of health care in the U.S. Others were afraid people wouldn’t pay them to write and wondered if they were running their business “right.” And then there’s the age-old fear of putting their writing out there in the first place.
Each of these responses led to really great side discussions, but Sharon Hurley Hall’s response in particular generated great perspectives on what it means to run a freelancing business “correctly.” The writers asked each other if there really are right and wrong ways to run a freelancing business, so I’d highly recommend checking out that part of the chat.
Question #3: Has Your Fear Ever Stopped You?
Paula jumped in at this point and asked participants if anyone had ever let their fear stop them from pursuing a writing opportunity.
Jenn Mattern of All Freelance Writing says early on in her writing career she passed up on an opportunity to work with a member of a major band who was launching a solo project, which she said seemed “stupid then” and even “more so now” since she had been writing for years at that point and had a music PR background.
Mary Henning (Life With Teens) and Lori Widmer both had some near misses. Mary almost didn’t revise an article for “Cricket” magazine that was originally intended for “Highlights” but was glad she did because it was her first sale as a professional writer. And Lori almost didn’t apply for a senior editor job, which she ended up getting, by the way.
Question #4: How Has Fear Helped You?
Now this is a powerful question. Lori asked writers if fear hasn’t stopped them, how has it helped them? That’s such a great question for pretty much any aspect of life.
Most writers said they found fear motivational; it gave them the strength to push themselves just a little bit harder. Fear is like fuel for most of these writers. Rather than wallow in it, they drink it in and power themselves up on it.
Question #5: What Value Does Fear Bring to Your Writing Career?
Paula then expounded on that question and asked writers specifically what value fear brings to their writing careers.
The message I heard from most of these writers is much of what we heard earlier: fear keeps freelance writers driven. But it also helps writers maintain a fine balance between humility and confidence, something that ultimately helps them charge appropriate rates for the services they provide. In other words: it helps them know their worth. For me, that was an unexpected outcome.
Question #6: What Types of Fears Do You Face in Your Writing Career?
At this point, Paula took us from the macro right down to the gritty specifics we each face every single day by asking us exactly what types of fears we face in our writing careers and if some are harder to handle than others.
Yolander Prinzel is the only writer who answered this question because her response led to a fantastic discussion about how writers deal with feelings of inadequacy or impostor syndrome. She says, “This is a hard one. I think inadequacy is my biggest. Is my style good enough. Is my knowledge deep enough? Is my ability to communicate sophisticated enough? etc etc.” The writers in the twitter chat rallied around her, validating her experience and discussing the line between insecurity and truly being unqualified for a project.
The discussion resulted in my absolute favorite quote of the chat: “Writers are the oddest combination of ego, self-loathing, confidence, insecurity, fear and anger.” Well spoken, Yolander.
Question #7: How Would You Define a Fearless Writer?
Lori wrapped up the twitter chat with what felt like a really hopeful and inspiring question: How would you define a fearless writer?
These writers did not disappoint. Not a single one attempted to say, “here’s the key to fearlessness.” No, these writers dropped their truth bombs and all essentially said you’re going to feel fear as a writer. What matters is what you do with that fear.
My favorite response to Lori’s question on how to define a fearless writer? Yolander’s concise but brutally honest “fictional.” Mic drop.
There was so much more to this twitter chat than what I was able to capture here, so I encourage you to search hashtag #WWMchat to check out all of the wonderful side conversations that organically flowed throughout the hour-long chat.
Join the Next Chat May 22
Did you miss the first Writers Worth Month twitter chat? Not to worry! Lori and Paula are hosting a second chat at noon ET Tuesday, May 22. Join the conversation using hashtag #WWMchat!
What’s Writers Worth Month?
Writers Worth Month is an awareness event aimed at educating freelance writers on how to stop accepting low-paying work and to keep them from letting clients take advantage of them. It features blog posts penned by Lori and a variety of talented guest freelancers from a variety of backgrounds on Lori’s Words on the Page site, which offers resources to freelance writers.
Lori started Writers Worth as a single day on May 16, 2008, out of frustration for all of the writers’ posts she kept seeing defending low-paying, content-mill style jobs.
“I was angry because it was the prevailing message on the internet,” says Lori. “If you want to write, they were saying, you have to accept the garbage payments and the awful clients who don’t value what we do. I knew that it was a waste of time to try to educate the job posters; they didn’t care because some writer somewhere would be foolish enough to work for less than minimum wage. So if you can’t change the minds of those posting the jobs, why not try to empower the ones who felt like they needed to take those jobs? That’s how Writers Worth came to be.”
It was Paula who suggested Lori extend Writers Worth from a single day into a week, and then a week became a month, and Writers Worth Month was born. This is the first year Lori has given the annual event a theme: fear.
“Everyone who agreed to guest post [for Writers Worth Month] got the same assignment, only … no one knew it but me,” says Lori. “And that was on purpose — I wanted to prove a point, actually. Too often, writers or wannabe writers will stop short of writing what they want because it’s already been done, and they don’t think they have anything to add. We all have a unique perspective, and that’s what I wanted timid writers to see.
“Another reason I did that was I wanted us to bond over the same thing. How could you not be more relaxed about starting a writing career if a successful writer is telling you about his or her fears? It’s empowering for us all to share our experiences, and a common experience we all have is fear.”
To make this year’s conversation about fear more interactive, Lori and Paula decided to host the first ever Writers Worth Twitter chat on May 8 using the hashtag #WWMchat.
To read all of the great content Lori and all of the other talented writers have put together for this year’s Writers Worth Month, make sure you head on over to Words on the Page and subscribe to get new posts in your inbox.