4 things that stop you writing: #3 The Fear of the Unknown

Tom Evans is the author of Blocks: The Enlightened Way to Clear Writer’s BlocksFollow him on Twitter at @thebookwright.

#3: The Fear of the Unknown

It’s kind of natural to fear the unknown. For many of us, this fear can start at an early age and remain with us for most of our lives.
When it comes to writing your book – or specifically not-writing your book – it can be somewhat debilitating.
The signs that this is happening in your life are:

  • You are a bit of a control freak and won’t start writing until you know exactly each step of the way – including how you are going to get published
  • You spend more time planning than doing
  • When you start writing, doubts about your ability start to sneak in which you use as excuses to stop writing

This diagram shows that there are actually classes of unknown-ness – made famous by Donald Rumsfeld of course.

There’s obviously the stuff we know we know – the Known Knowns – at least that is until we find out whatever we thought we knew, we didn’t know that well after all. There’s stuff we know we don’t know – the Known Unknowns – perhaps like who is going to publish our bestseller. There’s a weird category of Unknown Knowns – these are things we know but didn’t know we knew – like we are actually quite a good writer and people like reading our stuff. We just not be quite aware of it yet.
Finally there are the Unknown Unknowns – these are the bête noires to writers – these are the demons that can stop us in our tracks.

Strategies for Getting to Know the Unknowns

  1. Just accept we don’t have to know everything and getting to know things, make mistakes is part of the rich tapestry of life.
  2. Be confident that you at least know the subject you are writing about and you are bringing a unique perspective to it.
  3. Know that all you need to know is to know how to find out someone who does know.
  4. Learn how to use Boolean searches on Google, Twitter and Wikipedia – and if you don’t know what a Boolean search is or why they are useful just look it up on Google – take this as a tip from a person who uses them all the time.
  5. Make sure you learn something new every day no matter how small – for example, I subscribe to the Words for the Day from Dictionary.com and Visual Thesaurus so each day I improve my vocabulary.

Incidentally, I find out daily that words that I thought I knew the meaning of – I really didn’t.
The Known Knowns weren’t quite what I thought they were !!!
Useful links:

Next Week: The Fear of Success

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Tom Evans

Tom Evans is a published author and poet who also mentors other authors in the writing and publication process. He is a specialist at curing both writer's and author's blocks - and yes, they are different. He works with clients on a one-to-one basis and runs regular Blockbusting workshops. He teaches the principles of whole brain and whole mind thinking and how to get our minds into the state where they can tap into unlimited creativity. Follow him on Twitter at @thebookwright.

3 thoughts on “4 things that stop you writing: #3 The Fear of the Unknown

  • 7th April 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Re do you write or earn a living? Just don’t write many words – I’ll stop there 😉

  • 1st April 2010 at 10:20 am

    Hugely encouraging. But is there a strategy for ‘either I write and live in a slum or I hoover, wash, cook, clean and iron and don’t write.’It’s all very well having a presbiterian work ethic, but it’s almost impossible to decide which work such a ‘blessing’ is meant to point me towards first.
    Great post.

  • 31st March 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Wow! I think you crept into my head when I wasn’t looking. Love the diagram, which is now embedded in the soft tissue of my brain as a place to AVOID. It’s amazing how we can–to bring back the ’80s–psyche ourselves out. Great post. Thanks.

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