There are infinite reasons why writers struggle with their work, but one, in particular, has plagued me for decades. It rears its ugly head every time I’m about ready to write anything remotely personal in nature, whether it’s a blog post about what I’ve done recently in my business to an essay about a personal experience to a Tweet about what’s important to me.
What could hold so much sway over my life?
The fear of WWPT (What Would People Think).
WWPT Symptoms: Negative Self-Talk
Perhaps you suffer from this malady as well. Consider the following examples of negative self-talk. Have any of these thoughts ever influenced what you wrote? If so, then you suffer from the fear of WWPT.
1) “I might look stupid.”
You’ve worked HARD to get where you’re at. You don’t want to risk overriding all of that time and effort by making a single comment that will be construed as dumb.
2) “I might invite negative comments.”
Few people enjoy the emotional punch-in-the-gut sensation of harsh criticism. In addition, some individuals have never learned the art of debate. Perhaps you’re someone who thinks of a great comeback five minutes too late.
3) “I might not be liked anymore.”
If you’ve begun to build a platform as a writer, you might worry about losing followers if you share your honest opinion or write about a potentially divisive topic. You think it’s best to ignore your feelings/opinions in order to maintain neutrality and appease the masses.
To outgoing people, these may sound like naive and petty, adolescent emotions. But they are nevertheless very real fears to many writers. After all, words have the potential to linger on the Internet for infinity and a book can literally be thrown back in one’s face.
Advice for Pushing Through the WWPT Mentality
Eventually, however, there will come a day when you have to face your fears head-on. When you reach the proverbial end of your rope concerning your WWPT fears, you will need to take a deep breath, write what’s on your heart and then publish it for others to read.
Don’t worry if the new subject matter is distinctly different from your existing content. Many of your current readers will appreciate a fresh topic, and you may attract new followers.
Also, be sure to write in your own voice so that your opinions and information are recognized as your own. Too often, bloggers and authors attempt to emulate the voices of the leaders in their industry.
You might think, “That style of writing worked for them, so it must be right for me as well.” What this rationale fails to recognize is that the individuals became leaders precisely because they stood out from the crowd. They took the risks to sound like themselves.
Although I don’t believe you should write to intentionally offend or use shocking language to attract attention, I encourage you to be brave and write in your own voice and style.
Remember, no one can possibly please everyone all the time. So why not just put yourself out there and allow your words to resonate with those who are meant to hear your message?
Don’t worry about numbers. Focus on true followers.
You’re Not Alone
Since we’re talking about putting ourselves out there, I’m going to admit that I continue to struggle with the fear of WWPT. Over the past year, I’ve been challenged in a few areas of my writing and business. Recently, I wondered if my followers were experiencing similar struggles. Maybe they could relate to what I’ve been going through and what I’m striving to achieve.
To test the waters, I began to be more transparent in my weekly emails. The result?
Despite my fears of scaring everyone away, I’ve retained the majority of my subscribers. And best of all? Engagement is up! They are responding to my invitations for feedback and even though one or two messages have been harsh with their criticism, it proves that they nevertheless find my content valuable enough to comment on.
I’ve also begun to share more personal experiences in addition to writing tips. Undeniably, there are thousands of other writing professionals already sharing quality content on the web. But I believe many people are no longer looking exclusively for content; they’re also looking to connect with the content giver.
We all have valuable stories, lessons, and information worth sharing — words that others need to hear.
In my case, I’m an experienced, professional writer and developmental editor. I have lots to offer aspiring authors. But am I perfect and know everything? Far from it.
So, rather than shove my challenges under a rug and pretend that I’m at the pinnacle of my profession, I’m going to start talking more about all of my experiences as I evolve as a writer and solopreneur.
And right now, I’m a recovering WWPTer on a continuous writing journey. How about you?
Please share your experiences and suggestions in the comments!