The Fear of Making a Mistake

Fear of Making a Mistake
Writer’s Block 1 (Photo credit: OkayCityNate)

“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”

Writer, actor, and tall person John Cleese is my inspiration for today’s blog. (And thanks to Jon Winokur at Advice to for the tweets that got me to thinking about this.)

When I began this blog, I set a goal for myself to blog twice a week about something that is relevant to writers. That sounded easy . . . except “blogging day” keeps coming around. (“Didn’t I just post a blog yesterday?”)

How difficult can it be to write something that is interesting and helpful for writers and then polish it up every Wednesday and Sunday?

“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.” #amwriting #writetip #writersblock Share on X

How difficult? That depends on the week, as every blogger who reads this post can attest. My hat is off to those bloggers I follow who manage two, three, or even four posts a week—you are a true inspiration! But as John Cleese said, the fear of making a mistake can keep even the most prolific writer from actually putting words on paper.

My personal crucible is the desire to write something that is practical, informative, interesting, and so good that everyone who reads it wants to follow my blog and share the post. Because I’m hoping to appeal to writers who might someday need editing services, I feel the need to be extremely careful—to not make mistakes—and that really can stifle the creative process.

So my advice today to every writer who reads this, and most especially to myself, is

 Just Do It

If you’re one of the thousands of writers participating in NaNoWriMo this month, and you find yourself spending too much time coming up with the perfect word or a character name that feels right, make a pledge to yourself: no matter how much editing you might need to do later, get the words out now, because you can always come back and polish. Don’t wait for the right time or the right mood; if you have something to say, write it down—just do it!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes had this to say:

“If you’re afraid you can’t write, the answer is to write. Every sentence you construct adds weight to the balance pan. If you’re afraid of what other people will think of your efforts, don’t show them until you write your way beyond your fear. If writing a book is impossible, write a chapter. If writing a chapter is impossible, write a page. If writing a page is impossible, write a paragraph. If writing a paragraph is impossible, write a sentence. If writing even a sentence is impossible, write a word and teach yourself everything there is to know about that word and then write another, connected word and see where their connection leads. A page a day is a book a year.”

So yay for me—this is ready to post tomorrow, and it’s only Saturday night! Heck, I’m going to go completely crazy and post it early. Not that anyone else will notice, but I’m just happy to be writing. What about you?

Happy Writing!



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11 thoughts on “The Fear of Making a Mistake”

  1. This post resonates particularly well with me today. I’ve just submitted my final proof for my 2nd book to the publisher. It always leaves me feeling uneasy. I know there will be mistakes – we’re only human, it’s just a matter of how embarrassing those mistakes will be. Uggg. But if it weren’t for editors, I’m sure they’d be worse. Thanks for the follow.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, and I know what you mean. But if you went over the proof using all the tricks of the trade (reading from bottom to top, back to front, out loud, etc.), you probably caught most of them, and I’m sure your editor/proofreader caught a few more than that. Congratulations on your second book! Now comes the hard part, right? 😉

  2. I am happy to stumble upon your post. I am now at a state of fearing new assignments because my perfectionist personality is getting in the way. I do not like making mistakes, and I am afraid of getting bad feedback on a project as a consequence. I still write, but not professionaly. I just take care of my blogs one paragraph at a time until the whole post is finished. Hopefully I will then have the confid3nce to take on writing jobs soon.

    1. Nobody likes to make mistakes, Donna, and I share your fear of disappointing a client (don’t all freelancers?). I’m not sure how you can get yourself back on track professionally, but I hope you’ll continue to blog and try to work through this. Good freelance writers are hard to find!

      1. Hi, Candace! I am trying to get out of the rut, and blogging seems to be quite a therapy for me. Ever since I started blogging, I cannot think of anything else other than writing the moment I wake up.

        I am more comfortable writing for my blogs than anything else. The difference with writing for my blog is that I do not have the pressure to meet a deadline and I do not have the same panicky urgency to get the project done as best as I can as I would with a client.

        Reason? Writing for myself, I can only shame myself if I make a mistake. If I make a mistake with a project for my client, that client also gets the rap because it’s his/her website with his/her name on it and not mine. So it’s a double whammy for me.

        Thanks, really, for the words of encouragement. I definitely need to get out of this hole I crawled in. Honestly, exchanging words with a freelancer is a great push for me.

        1. “Ever since I started blogging, I cannot think of anything else other than writing the moment I wake up.” I’d say you’re already making progress, Donna——you sound like a true (obsessed with writing) writer! Blogging serves different purposes for different people, and it sounds like yours is, among other things, very cathartic. I don’t think it matters where or how we write as long as we just do it.

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