Today I want to talk about the anxiety we feel when we share. So much of the work that I do is to help writers feel a sense of purpose and strategy in sharing their books, their writing, and their mission. But there are often hidden emotions and psychology which stops us from sharing, delays us from sharing, and makes us feel bad about sharing.
That’s not good.
I believe sharing helps your writing and art change people’s lives for the better. So I want to address the anxiety head on, because anxiety tends to thrive in silence. Let’s dig in…
All the Anxiety, All of the Time
What can anxiety around sharing look like? Well, here is a partial list:
- Fear of saying the wrong thing.
- Fear that you don’t have enough to say.
- Fear you will start marketing too soon. Or too late.
- Wanting your work to be seen, but also having a fear of it being seen.
- Wanting to share your work, but not look like you are sharing your work.
- Feeling impostor’s syndrome: that by sharing, you are exposing yourself as a fraud, because “real writers don’t worry about marketing” or some other narrative.
- Fear of negative reaction from others.
- Fear of overly positive reaction from others.
- Fear of looking like you are showboating or gloating.
- Fear of looking self-involved and egotistical.
- Not wanting to come off as pretentious. But also not wanting to come off as shallow.
- Dealing with your own inner critic.
I can go on. I have to imagine that some of these will feel familiar to you. They do to me. It is easy for this anxiety to get the best of us, preventing us from sharing our writing. But I want to remind you that anxiety is not always the reality.
The Narratives In Our Heads
I was chatting with a writer recently about the fear they had around sharing on Instagram. It was this: the fear of being seen as too self-involved. That if they shared about their life, their thoughts, their experiences, that it would look like they vying for attention. Inherently, we don’t want our friends, family, and colleagues to judge us in a negative way. And of course, we don’t want readers to either!
I posted a video this week where I explored why we don’t share what we create with those we know:
Sometimes that judgement comes in an overt manner, someone saying to you: “I think it is a waste of time for you to write a novel.” But more often, it comes as subtle judgement. Watch the video to hear me doing voices of the mildly disapproving family member.
How You Share is a Craft
I believe that how you share is a craft. It is something you learn and get better at, just like writing. I study this. This week I was watching a video that I would like to use an example of understanding how someone finds a way to share. Okay, so if I told you “there is this Gen Z influencer who has 10 million followers,” what do you think her videos would look like? Maybe you would say something like, “Oh, I bet they are TikTok dances, because all the kids love that. Her videos are definitely short because people have short attention spans nowadays. There’s probably quick cuts, and of course, the hottest song would be playing in it.”
All of those assessments are based in logic of what we hear is “popular nowadays.” Yet it is the exact opposite of what Emma Chamberlain shares, and the exact opposite of what her audience of Gen Z and millennials wants.
Who is Emma Chamberlain? She’s a 21 year old creator who owns a coffee company and has nearly 16 million followers on Instagram, a wildly popular podcast, 10 million followers on YouTube, etc. Why am I talking about her? Because what she does upends everything we are told we “need to do” to be successful online. Why? Well, let’s start with this:
Emma had 10 million followers on TikTok. Then, she found it to be distracting, so she deleted her account. Not just the app off her phone, but she deleted her entire TikTok account. The username she had is now gone, her followers are gone, her videos are gone. And she felt great about it.
I mean, imagine that? You run a coffee company, TikTok is the hottest social network for your core customer base, and you just… delete it. She has that choice. We all have that choice. Does that means she stopped sharing? Nope.
Instead, she is focusing on longer, slower content. The video of hers I watched this week was her 13 minute video titled “24 hours in the south of france.” Here are some reasons why it is the opposite of what you would think of for Gen Z content that gets millions of views:
- A 25 second intro of location shots to set the scene.
- Slow instrumental music from an orchestra.
- One of the opening lines: “I need to be honest and tell you I have been wearing this outfit for three days.”
- She has a camera person for this video. Who is it? Her dad.
The entire video just shows her exploring, shopping, and eating. There is an odd sense that you are spending the day with her as a friend. And perhaps that is why she has such a large fanbase of people who love what she shares. I mean, just look at the comments on the video… all 7,000 so far:
“I can’t even put into words the peace and comfort that Emma brings with her videos.”
“there’s no one like emma. the way she rediscovered her passion and the way she’s finding what makes her the most happy doing… I’m just so happy.“
“Emma I know you won’t see this, but I love the way you literally just found yourself and stuck with your authenticity!! It’s amazing, you make me so happy and inspire me.“
Then there is her podcast. What is her most recent episode about? The latest trend? Nope. It’s her reflecting on the nature of criticism, how she experiences it, and how she tries to benefit from it, instead of suffer from it. Her podcast episodes are incredibly honest, and often deal with issues around mental health. Again, her fans love her honesty.
Yet, the fears I listed at the start of this essay about why we don’t share can still apply to her. There are portions of the video where she is in the middle of the street, reflecting on how people perceive her. In the middle of that street, there are no millions of fans. There is just her dad pointing a camera at her, which she is talking to.
If you want your writing to have a positive impact on people’s lives, sharing is an essential part of that process of connection. Will it sometimes feel like a risk? Yes. Should that stop you? No.
I can’t promise you that sharing will be easy. But when you approach it like a craft, I think that we face our anxiety head on, and in doing so, learn more about ourselves and what it means to truly connect with others. In the process, we each become someone who lives a life filled with conversations around themes that matter to us, and connect with like-minded people in inspiring ways. And that’s not a bad goal.
Do you experience anxiety in sharing?