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“Ma’am, can you please pass me?”

How I Overcame My Fear of Writing (and How You Can, Too)

I muttered these words sheepishly under my breath while my senior high English teacher looked at me with a contorted face.

After these words left my mouth with a lack of confidence, there was a long moment of silence fit for a memorial.

While looking down at her desk — apparently trying to avoid making eye contact — she began shuffling some papers around, placing them neatly on the right-hand corner of her desk.

My hands began to sweat and my heart race. “If I don’t pass, then I have to go to summer school. If I have to go to summer school, then I can’t play football in the summer at college,” was the line of reasoning racing through my head.

As each second passed by if felt like an hour. I was beginning to lose all hope.

But then, against all hope, I was pardoned as a free man, set free from my failing grade — though I was guilty of not applying myself.

It’s time to spill the beans

Throughout grade school, middle school, high school, college, and even a significant part of graduate school, I struggled tremendously with reading, grammar, and writing. My shortcomings were not due to a legitimate learning disability, but rather a lack of applying myself at school.

After graduating high school and passing English by the skin of my teeth, I was required to take a remedial English course in college before I could even think about stepping foot into English 101.

My previous choices perpetuated my English deficiencies right into graduate school.

In order for me to get into graduate school, I needed to take the GRE (a standard admission test for grad schools). Well, my score was good enough to get me into school, but, unfortunately, my lackluster writing score landed me in a remedial writing course.

A labor of love

The lack of effort I exerted in school left me with a tremendous deficiency in the English language. To this day I struggle in varying degrees with grammar and still mispronounce some words. (My sweet wife still corrects me, but thankfully, not as often as she used to.)

A lack of confidence is something I still carry with me today. In the back of mind, I sometimes think that my past will be revealed like a disclosed criminal record, and I’ll be ushered away from my day-to-day living serving as the Marketing Manager of trade books for a publishing company.

Writing was — and still is — something I labor over. It’s not easy work. From research, thinking, writing, editing, and then rinse and repeat, writing can be a long and arduous process. A process I wasn’t interested in until my mid-twenties. But the strangest thing happened to me one day after I turned a graduate paper into a pamphlet: Somebody liked it.

“Let me be honest with you, this is great,” a friend of mine told me over the phone.

After an awkward pause caused by what I thought was a blatant lie, I broke the silence: “Say what? Can you speak into my good ear? You think it’s good?”

“Yes,” he said. “I think you should turn this into a book.”

“Well, I never thought about writing a book.”

We hung up the phone shortly thereafter.

There was no bolt of lightning of inspiration. I sat there in my chair in somewhat of a befuddled state.

“Who, me? Write a book? I never thunk such a thought before.”

A humbling literary journey

I accepted my friend’s advice and embarked upon a humbling literary journey.

From writing multiple drafts, overcoming a substantial learning curve, to balancing a full-time job, part-time graduate course work, and family life, I slowly eked out a manuscript.

And amazingly enough, to my surprise, a publisher published my book.

I can still remember the excitement I felt as I read their e-mail of acceptance while lying down in my bedroom. I was jolted from my slumber and tumbled down the stairs of our home to let my wife know that my book was going to be published.

I didn’t desire fame or fortune and haven’t come remotely close to acquiring the two — nor do I care to. I simply had a desire to write, and so I did.

How to overcome the fear of writing

Do not allow your self-imposed limitations to imprison you in an open cell of fear.

If you want to write, then write.

Your level of intelligence, ability to learn, or mastery of the English language are not prerequisites for writing.

Many accomplished authors, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Bernard Shaw, and Agatha Christie — the best-selling novelist of all time — had learning disabilities. Others, such as Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, and Winston Churchill, were considered bad spellers and struggled with grammar. As you can see, straight A’s in English are not prerequisites for becoming a good or even great writer.

There’s no one holding you back.

There’s no angel you need to wait for to bless you with a golden pen or quick wit.

And there’s no past experience that’s more powerful than your present-day opportunity to write.

If you enjoy writing, then exercise the passion of your heart and write.

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