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Facing Fears and Other Writerly Hells by D.A. Navoti


The Season of the Witch is upon us and what frightens me most is my own writing.

I sit for hours at my desk and pen a paragraph that’s eventually deleted (ugh!), or I fret over word choices because maybe (?) it’s poetically stronger if written a specific way. Then there’s the weight gain from stress eating (chocolate, please) while editing my manuscript. The miserable hours lead into weeks. And the weeks lead into seasons that accumulate into years (and weight gain).

When does this hell end? Well, never.

Now that I vented and whined a bit, what motivates me through the ups and downs is confronting what scares me most. Or as Robert Frost wrote in A Servant of Servants, “The best way is always through.” This is how I push through my major writing fears.

My writing isn’t good enough.

Every writer is plagued by self-doubt. Broadly speaking, the human brain is trained to scan an environment for threats. That’s how our cave people ancestors survived saber-tooth tigers and harsh winters.

Similarly, writers scan their prose or poetry for threats. Sometimes these threats are real, like spelling errors or continuity issues. Other times, the threats are imagined (read Does My Writing Actually Matter? below). The goal, however, is maintaining progress and never perfection. Progress is real, while perfection is a fantasy. And a process journal documents how I’ve grown over the years, therefore minimizing any self-doubt. Track your process and progress.

Writing is exhausting.

Every craft depletes energy, and refueling is what gets writers closer to the end of a project. Normally, my vices take over while I write, like low exercise. Therefore, long walks and listening to disco music re-energizes my body and brain. 

Take inventory of your vices and discover their antidotes. A few suggestions include:

Writing is lonely, but why?

Because it is. End of story. So get out there (safely) by joining a writers group or take a class at Hugo House. Introduce yourself to other writers. But instead of talking about your work, ask others what they’re working on and what helps them.

Does my writing actually matter?

Of course. The challenge is that writers are self-advocates. We must stand up for our own work. We must continuously learn. And we must endure until the very end.

At the center of this doubt, really, is ourselves. Over the years I’ve learned to question myself, especially negative emotions. For example, if I’m down on my writing I ask what sparked this feeling. For the most part, it’s not my writing I’m upset about but rather an influx of other troubles interrupting my life.

In a similar vein, I investigate what triggers my negative emotions. The list of triggers is infinite. Identify your own, and then manage or minimize the triggers from there. This means there will be lots of trial and error, but that’s the adventure of writing! 

What am I really afraid of? No, really.

Every writer must face their fears no matter what they are.

My own fears occur when nothing changes or improves. Improving my artistic worth is vital. This means I often push myself too hard, or I take on too much. Yet what helps me most is creating time and space for reflective meditation. This means actually meditating, or journaling, or exploring on a long walk, or venting with loved ones. Over time, I’ve created a menu of options for myself. So what’s yours?

With autumn brings the scariest season of them all. No, not Halloween or the stressful holiday season. It’s confronting fear by embracing them head-on. And so, I look forward to seeing you on the other side!


D.A. Navoti (he/him/his) created Wellness-ish-ness, a blog for creative hot messes because he’s a hell of a hot mess. Navoti also writes creative nonfiction and poetic prose. His work has appeared in Homology Lit, Spartan, Indian Country Today, Cloudthroat, and elsewhere.