How to Manage Your Fear of Writing and Publishing New Content
This month, two readers of my eBook The Developer’s Guide to Content Creation asked me how to overcome one’s fear of sharing content.
I’ve written professionally for 12 years and I’m always nervous before I publish. It was certainly the case when I was publishing other people’s writing on the I company blogs I managed. And it has certainly been the case this year, even as I’ve published 12 blog posts, 4 newsletter issues, and 2 eBooks. In the moments before I press the “Publish” button, I wonder: “Are there any typos or egregious errors?” “Will people read this post?” “Will people like this post?” “Will people hate this post?”
The fear of writing, publishing, and promoting content happens to all content creators. Novices, authors, and seasoned technical writers alike experience some form of nervousness (or fear) when faced with sharing their content widely. While the reasons why we experience this fear vary, the common thread among them is this: we’re afraid because we care. We care enough to create something that’s useful and helpful to others, we care that others understand what we’re trying to communicate, and yes, we care what others will think of what we make. Because we care, we are deliberate with selecting topics, creating content, reviewing, and editing. But if we deliberate for too long, we also indefinitely extend when and how we can reach people who could truly benefit from what we’re making.
When we give in to our fear, we end up centering ourselves when we should be centering our audience. The most important person in content isn’t the creator, it’s the reader (or viewer or listener). Our job isn’t to predict how others will react to what we create, but to do our best to create content that meets an actual need. To do this, we must keep the “goal” or intended outcome of our content in mind and consistently ask ourselves if our content is achieving that goal.
In this post, you’ll learn the consequences of giving in to fear, and five tactics you can employ to help you move past it so you can publish with more confidence.
The consequences of giving in to fear
The biggest problem with never getting started or never pressing publish is that you will never know whether your content achieved its intended purpose.
If you ever wanted to know the answers to the following questions:
“Will people like this piece?”
“How do I know if people will reach this?”
“What do I need to improve?”
...realize that no Google search query, book, or editor can give those answers to you. The only way to find out is to publish your content and see how people respond (or don’t respond) to what you created. You won’t find out the answers right away, either. You need to publish consistently to gather valuable insights and constructive feedback from your audience.
Remember: you are not your audience. Your own assessment of what you created may be completely different from the reader’s. I published two blog posts this year that are among my most popular, despite originally believing no one would like them. And I’ve published others that received lukewarm responses despite believing they would be really well received. If I only published the blog posts I believed were the best, my audience would have lost out on content they actually wanted to read. We can only judge how we feel about our content, but we cannot predict in advance how others will respond to it.
(And how someone feels about an article you wrote doesn’t say anything about you as a person. It may feel that way because writing often makes us feel vulnerable. But getting in the habit of thinking about your ideal reader as you write also helps you de-center yourself and your fears.)
When we publish our content despite being afraid, we give ourselves the opportunity to improve and grow. We open ourselves up to conversations with our audience, including receiving constructive feedback from them. Whenever someone gives you feedback in good faith, consider it a win: you now know that someone has read what you wrote, and they care enough to share their thoughts with you directly. You’ll learn more about what they care about and what they need, and you can adjust your content accordingly. And each time you publish, you become a little less afraid and a little more excited to share.
5 tactics for managing your fear of publishing and sharing content
While no blog post can teach you to eliminate your fear of publishing, you can learn to push beyond it. Here are five tactics that have proven useful for managing my fear of publishing content.
Establish a publishing cadence now. Take it from a writer: there is nothing like a looming deadline to get you to spring into action. Don’t wait for any of the following to get started: “the right moment”, “inspiration”, “something to write about”, or “lots of free time”. Decide today how much and how frequently you can publish, and stick to it. You may, for example, decide to publish one blog post or video per month. This year, I’ve made it a point to publish a minimum of one blog post per month. I’ve consistently published two or more per month since March, but I still have to publish at least one. I keep a list of ideas in a notebook but I don’t spend a lot of time planning what to write; what matters most is that I hit my deadline. (Check out my post “4 endless sources of content ideas” to generate new content. Keep your ideas somewhere; in my book I provide templates that you can use to manage your idea inventory.)
Have a trusted person review your piece. A technical reviewer is someone who evaluates your piece for accuracy and clarity. They can be a friend or a colleague and they will point out inaccuracies, areas that are vague or confusing, areas where crucial information is missing, and any inconsistencies. The technical reviewer is looking at your content the way a reader does; they’re a fresh set of eyes or ears who can help you analyze your work from the reader’s perspective. Review their feedback and incorporate it into your work where needed. (Reviewing content can be a laborious process, so be sure to show your gratitude, communicate timelines, and be patient with your reviewer.)
Schedule your posts in advance. If you’re hosting your blog on a CMS (content management system), schedule your publish dates in advance. This “set it and forget it” approach will take some of the pressure off of manually pressing a button. (I know what it’s like to read and re-read a post multiple times before manually publishing a post. Scheduling in advance helps me avoid doing that.)
Sound excited about what you created. Imagine you were trying to decide between two books to read. Would you read the book by the author who was enthusiastic about their work, or the book by the author who didn’t seem to have anything good to say about theirs? You’d probably buy the book from the enthusiastic author. Why? Because they’d be more inclined to show you why you should care about their book. They’d give you a lot of detail, they’d share key points, and they’d answer your questions. The seemingly unenthused writer would spend less time talking about their book. And while that writer might have actually written an amazing book, their demeanor would read as a lack of confidence in their work. And if you’re not excited about what you made, why should anyone else be?
Look at the data. If you have site analytics enabled on your personal blog (or if you publish on a platform with native analytics), make a point to look at it once a week. In the early stages of blogging, you may only see page views, time on page, or unique visitors. But over time you will be able to spot trends and learn how to correlate certain metrics with user behavior. Site analytics don’t tell the full story; analytics can’t tell you why users bounced off your page or why they liked certain content (conversations with your audience can tell you this, though). But it can, for example, help you identify the kinds of topics that people visit your blog for.
If you‘re afraid of publishing that post you have in your Drafts folder, publish it anyway. You don’t have to get over your fear of sharing your content in order to publish it. Publish, share, learn, iterate. You can always change it at any time.
Fear or nervousness is a natural part of the content creation process. When you feel fear, acknowledge how you feel and understand that your fear comes from caring about how your content will be received. While you might not completely eliminate fear, you can work through it by focusing on your audience’s needs, your publishing cadence, and analytics. Schedule blog posts in advance, talk to your audience whenever possible, and occasionally ask a trusted friend to review a piece of content if you could benefit from a different person’s perspective.
Ready to put these tips into practice? Purchase The Developer's Guide to Content Creation for more content-related tips, exercises, and templates.