A few months ago I went to a shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” gathering. Forest bathing is a type of slow, meditative walk through nature. Japanese studies have found that trees release a chemical called phytoncides that are good for our immune systems. The slow, meditative walk also helps calm stress, which, of course, benefits the immune system too!
The thing is when you walk at a snail’s pace, you start noticing your surroundings. Try it some time. Maybe you’ll feel the gentle breeze caressing your cheek or observe the intricate geometry of a spider web glistening in the sunlight. Perhaps you’ll hear the melodic sounds of the birds chirping and squirrels chattering and smell floral notes wafting through the air.
I found the forest walk to be a truly relaxing and creatively inspiring experience, and I loved almost every moment.
Ummm. Not so sure about this idea….
At one point, we stepped off the trail and our guide encouraged us to walk with her through some tall prairie grasses. Suddenly, I was gripped with fear. Looking into the swaying field of grasses, I froze. “She wants us to go off the path into that buzzing wildish, marshy grass? Aren’t there bugs in there, like disease-carrying ticks and mosquitos. Crap, I didn’t put bug repellant on before I came. I’m going to get eaten alive in there!”
Here’s something you should know about me. I am not an outdoorsy, adventurous type. I don’t camp. I don’t fish. I don’t backpack. But I do love to spend time *safely* outdoors near a place where I can go back in if it gets too uncomfortable (or scary)! Yes, I admit it —I’m a wuss.
I listened to the frogs singing in the distance. What was lurking—and crawling— in that long grass?! I imagined ticks jumping onto my legs. I wondered about snakes winding their way toward hapless field mice. What if we met on our different journeys? This grassy field was almost as frightening as swimming into a dark blue ocean abyss.
You may not fear tall grass or oceans teaming with strange creatures. But, if you’re like most people, I bet there are moments when you get anxious about the unknown.
This fear is pervasive when it comes to publishing our writing or presenting content because we’re putting a part of ourselves out there for the world to see. That exposure can be super scary…
When I publish this post or deliver this presentation, will people fall asleep? Will they take issue with something I said? What if they don’t like me? What if I fail?
Like wading through a jungle of buzzing thick grasses, writing for an audience can also feel scary. What will I encounter in this chaotic field of unknowns? Will a troll appear? Will something creepy stick its little foot out and trip me?
You might write and rewrite and rewrite some more. And then throw your hands in the air and decide to just not publish after all of those hours of hard work.
I’ve done it multiple times. I still do. Sometimes it’s because I know deep down what I’ve written isn’t quite ready for the world yet. But more often, it’s fear whispering that I’m not good enough.
Many of my clients have brilliant stories to tell and valuable information to relate to their target audience. They get overwhelmed trying to figure out how to tell the stories and then worry that the story won’t make sense.
My 10 Tips to Overcome Your Publishing Fears
Here are some ways to overcome your fears about publishing your blog posts and other content.
- Get clear on the goal of your post. Do you want to educate your audience about something specific that’s frustrating them? Is your goal to entertain? Are you hoping to provide encouragement or inspiration? Are you showing them how to do something? Is the information you are presenting relevant to your overall strategy?
- First write for you. Just free write to get the words out of your head and onto the page. Don’t worry about editing yet. Tell perfection to go sit in the corner. If you’d like, name that little monster. Her chattering is annoying, and if you let her get under your skin, she’ll hold you back every single time.
- Set it aside. After you’ve written your first draft, take a break from your words for a little while. When you come back to it, you can look at it with fresh eyes.
- Date your words, but don’t marry them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something that I fell in love with, but realized later it didn’t fit with the message I was trying to relay. (File your little darlings and maybe you can use them another time.) Remember clear language beats a clever, confusing turn-of-phrase every time, especially in marketing.
- Cover the basics. Check for spelling/grammar issues and confusing sentences.
- Remember your audience. As you revise, consider one particular member of your audience who you know will appreciate your message. Did the post answer the specific question you set out to resolve for them? Is there information that you’d be better off reserving for a separate post? Is there a call to action? A call to action might be asking them to post their comments, share your post or “click here” to learn more about one of your products/services.
- Read it out loud. I always find errors when I read my work out loud to myself. You’ll notice punctuation issues, confusing sentences and sentence flow issues. Is the piece striking the right tone?
- Ask a friend. If you’re still worried about the post, share what you’ve written with a trusted friend. Ask them to review what you’ve written and provide honest feedback. Did they understand what you wrote? Did any part of the post confuse them? Did they notice any spelling or grammar issues?
- Publish it! Go ahead and escort perfection out of the room if she’s still sneering at you. She can be a real pain. The more you publish, you’ll notice the shrill of her voice will begin to grow softer and the easier it will get to move along.
- Share it. Let your audience know you’ve created a new post on your social media channels and invite them over to read it.
It takes time to build an audience. Keep practicing, keep publishing and your confidence will begin to grow.
Oh and by the way, if you’re wondering, I did finally swallow my fear and walk into all of that tall prairie grass. I stomped the grass down with my shoes as I went, arms outstretched as if I was walking a tight rope, and on high alert for creepy crawlies.
Guess what happened? Well, I didn’t contract Lyme disease. I never ran into a snake. I simply kept walking forward. And when I stepped back onto the path (after quickly checking my legs for ticks!), I breathed a giant sigh of relief and felt an amazing sense of accomplishment.
Whenever we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and wade through the unknown, we come out the other side just a little stronger and a little more confident than we were before. So go ahead and publish that post. Then, tell me what was holding you back and share a link to it here so I can celebrate with you!
(To read more about the healing effects of nature, check out The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.)