Four Fears of Life Writing

Fear can be an obstacle to your life story writing. But it need not be.

Whenever you are afraid it is always helpful to identify just what those fears are and see how much they are based in reality and how many of them turn out to be just your imagination running away with you.

I find it beneficial to remember the acronym F.E.A.R: False Evidence Appearing Real.

In this article I explore four common fears of life story writing:

1. The fear of what people will think

No matter how riveting your story is you probably have some concerns about what people will think of it.

Writing our life story often means admitting some of our shortcomings, maybe addressing some instances when you’ve been harmed by others, commenting about your relationships with people, work, politics, religion and any number of other hot button issues.

You can’t let these concerns overwhelm you to the point that you censor your writing. I recommend you write as honestly as possible. Then in your reviewing and revision stage you can consider what you might want to take out.

2. The fear of facing your demons

Perhaps you have some addictions, failings, regrets or other skeletons in your closet that you haven’t fully confronted.

Writing about them can be therapeutic.

Dealing with some of those things that have bothered you, perhaps since childhood, can help free you from an unhealthy preoccupation.

A note of caution: some things need professional therapy.

If an issue is particularly troubling you might try some counseling. Nevertheless, there are many things, such as age-old resentments towards family members or institutions or facing certain addictions, for which your life story writing can help you gain perspective.

Putting things in writing often brings clarity. There is a saying in recovery circles that is another acronym of F.E.A.R. Face Everything And Recover.

3. The fear of failure

This fear is pretty common.

Many of us are deterred from writing about our lives because we think we’ve either failed to accomplish much, especially certain dreams and desires.

Or we don’t think we can complete our writing. For the latter it helps to simply commit to a regular schedule of writing and keep working on your story.

Over time you will make good progress.

As for your fear you will never accomplish certain “bucket list items”, consider that completing a life story is a very worthwhile thing and should certainly boost your confidence and self-esteem.

4. The fear of success

The flip side of fear of failure is that you will actually be successful with your story and people will take notice.

Suddenly you are in the limelight, or at least a spotlight, and that exposure can cause trepidation. You might worry that you can’t handle the attention.

Again, this fear is usually not a big concern.

Frankly, the chance that you will be famous as a result of writing your story is slim. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but it’s the truth.

However, getting recognition and congratulations for telling people about your experiences, values and lessons in life is a true indication of personal success.

Part of our fascination with people’s stories is that we identify with their journey. It can be inspiring and motivating.

Other issues

There are a number of other issues that might strike some fear into people doing the hard work of writing their life story.

There is the challenge of the amount of work and how you will be able to invest the time and money it can require. You might also worry about possible legal ramifications. Or maybe you don’t think your life has been significant enough.

I want to assure you that your life does matter and that for any fears you may have about the life story process there are places to turn to get advice and help.

A couple of articles I read in preparing this one included Jerry Waxler (The Memoir Revolution), Frequently expressed fears about publishing a memoir, and Denis Ledoux (The Memoir Network), Is your memoir silenced by the fear of insignificance?