Four Things You Can Stop Worrying About (Because They Don’t Matter)

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Linda Formichelli, who blogs at The Renegade Writer. Her new eBook is Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race… And Step Into a Career You Love.

As a writer, I’m a thinker by nature. I need to think about what topics to delve into and how to best express them. But sometimes, thinking can get me into trouble.

Worried girl
Photo Credit: spaceodissey via Compfight cc

Maybe you can relate.

Often, our thinking goes into overdrive and turns into fixating. And we end up spending (or should I say “wasting”?) a lot of time ruminating on things that don’t matter, things that keep us worried and distracted from reaching our goals.

Here are four things you can stop worrying about — forever:

1. People who are doing better than you

We’ve all been there.

“What — THAT book is a bestseller? The plot is terrible and the writing is filled with grammatical errors!”

“My four-year-old could have come up with that!”

“I had that same idea last year. They just got lucky.”

Really, this reaction is more about us than it is about them. We could have done better if only we’d actually written that novel or pitched the idea.

But where the successful person took action, we stalled.

Action trumps perfection. Stop thinking about all the worse-than-you writers and entrepreneurs who are making it big and instead, use them as motivation.

After all, if they can land that awesome assignment or end up on the bestsellers list even with all their flaws, you can do it, too. If you only forget perfection and take action.

2. The competition

It’s a bad idea to share your ideas and contacts in such a competitive market. After all, there’s only so much to go around, right?

Wrong.

In my 16-year career as a freelance writer, I’ve discovered there are more than enough opportunities for everyone.

And the more I helped out writers who wanted to brainstorm ideas or know how to contact the nutrition editor at Health magazine, the more other writers shared information and opportunities with me.

In fact, I can calculate at least $50,000 of work over the years that came from networking not with editors or agents, but with other writers who passed my name along to people needing writing.

Wall yourself off from other writers because they’re your “competition” and the universe will wall you off from writing opportunities. Instead, consider other writers your friends and colleagues, and share, share, share.

3. What the market wants

The surest way to lose your unique style and quash your brilliant ideas is to become obsessed with figuring out what the market wants.

Often, the market doesn’t even know what it wants until it gets it. How could it?

Of course, you want to create something others will like, but don’t lose your voice trying to conform to what you imagine will appeal to the largest demographic.

Maybe you’ll start a trend instead of following one.

4. Rejection

A “no” from a gatekeeper can bring on obsessive thoughts in any person’s mind:

  • What’s wrong with my work?
  • What’s wrong with ME?
  • Maybe I should just quit.

The people who succeed in this world are the ones who can blast past rejection.

After all, this is a numbers game. What would have happened if JK Rowling hadn’t racked up all those rejections for the Harry Potter series, or Steve Jobs had never returned to Apple after being fired from the company he started?

Rejection isn’t about you. It isn’t even about your work. It’s a sign that what you have isn’t exactly what the permission-givers need right now.

I got 500 rejections from magazine editors — at least — and still made a great living writing mainly for magazines. For me, each “no” was a stepping stone to the next “yes.”

Maybe the same can be true for you… if you can let go of what your friends are doing, what the world wants, and what the critics think — and just persevere.

How about you? What do you need to stop worrying about? Share in the comments.

58 thoughts on “Four Things You Can Stop Worrying About (Because They Don’t Matter)

  1. Hi Linda,

    Great post! Comparison definitely kills art, because no matter what, we’ll always end up with “I’m not good enough, I’m not doing enough, I’m not well-connected enough, etc.”

    I have to admit that I’ve never been a very competitive person. I’m a writer who comes from a musical background, and the competitive mindset just kills so many opportunities for everyone to grow together. I’ve always just focused on trying to be better than my old self, and that works for me.

    My struggle is dropping the “shoulds” – telling myself I should be at this certain point by now, or I should be doing these things and getting these results. Many times I set these expectations subconsciously, and don’t realize I’m doing it until I feel disappointed.

    There’s a difference between setting stretch goals and balancing expectations. I’m working on that. 😉

    Thanks so much for this!

  2. I love this. A swift kick in the pants for every one! I know in my heart I have to do this… but actually doing it is really hard. Writing is such a long journey… without much affirmation in the starting spaces.

  3. The one thing I need to stop worrying about is how long it takes to establish oneself as a writer. I admit I’m jealous of people who decided they wanted to write when they were young, because they’ve had so much more time in which to polish their craft, build a platform, etc. I still think I can get there – I’m just afraid I’ll be too old to enjoy it by the time I do! 🙂

    1. Can I ask you something? Where is “there”? I got a late start too and I know that bothered me for awhile too. I kicked myself for awhile for not facing my fear and starting sooner. Now I just want to stop focusing on “there” and enjoy “now” NOW, if I can just figure out what all of NOW looks like….hmm… (That might only make sense in my head) 😉

      1. For me, “there” actually is a specific place or point – it means having the ability to quit my day job. I’ve cut my hours so I’m only working a little more than half-time right now, so it’s not a tremendous burden, but it still irks me to have that taking up hours I could be spending writing. And of course, we have more financial obligations when we’re older, too. But I hear what you’re saying, and that’s what I try to focus on, too; simply enjoying what I’m doing without stressing too much about where it’s going to get me.

        1. Love this, Lori. Thank you for sharing a little more. I think so many times we don’t have a clear idea of “there” and we chase after it all the while missing the life right in front of us. At least, that’s usually the error I’ve made. I like that you are specific in what you want the outcome to be.

  4. Good post Linda. I need to stop trying to figure out the whole future. I am never right because everything is always changing. All it does is cause fear and concern. I need to just take care of today. The future can take care of itself.

    1. It’s so true! When I was starting out in 1996 I could never have predicted all the writing opportunities there are now thanks to the Internet, self publishing, etc.

  5. Great advice, Jeff, and I agree on every, single point. And, btw, I call “rejection” “not selected,” because I think rejection can sound like personal rejection. The truth is that one’s writing is simply not selected (for all kinds of reasons that don’t paritcularly have to do with quality), because the piece is just not right for a certain “venue.” My greatest worry is that I, personally, will run out of things to say, or that if I read great writers I will only be able to think of *their* metaphors, *their* turns of phrases and not my own. Would love for you to address that. And I do love what you’re doing here! Great!
    Blessings,
    LYnn

  6. Linda,
    Nice collection Here’s another:
    Don’t worry that you posted your best stuff on another’s blog or e-zine. Your guest posts should always be your best work. Too many writers and bloggers (one and the same?) believe they should keep their best work on their own blogs, and guest post their lesser quality works.
    On the contrary! Everything you put in front of a new audience, especially a much larger one in your niche, should be the most compelling and insightful you can create. After all, you may only get one chance to grab a new reader and make them a fan. Don’t waste it!

  7. Linda,
    Great post. I also hold to the idea that if a piece gets rejected it wasn’t the right place. That way I can put my energy into finding out where it does fit, instead of putting myself down for not hitting the mark. Thanks for sharing that it’s okay to be putting ourselves out there in the competitive market. That there is enough to go around. I think my fears have tried reigning me in on that point.

    I think I need to stop worrying about how long some of this takes. Even without comparing to other people. I know a no-no. I also compare how this project is going to a former one. That slows me down with too much analysis. I need that energy to just keep typing one key after another.

    And hitting on the fact we are sometimes afraid to put our best stuff on other blogs, well, that’s another area I think I’ve faltered. Thanks, so much.

    1. I’m working on a new e-book that helps writers bust their excuses for not writing, and a BIG one is “It takes forever to write a book.” Looking forward to interviewing an expert on how to bust that one!

        1. I did interview him for my latest e-book and of course would love his insights on this new one!

  8. All great points, but the first is the most practical, in my opinion, in the “social media” age. Since everyone has a voice and can put their best foot forward, we see their best and think that we’ll never measure up. We need to realize try to get past comparison-itis!

  9. Rejection from my ex husband is what I need to stop worrying about. Thanks for the post helped me to realize what is really important, my children, my thoughts and helping others to navigate the legal system when getting divorced from a person with a mental illness.

  10. I really resonate with number 3. It is so important to find the balance between figuring out what people really like and what you are passionate about writing. It is way too easy to become completely obsessed with what we think will “sell,” instead is what will “serve,” when the reality is that when we write something that serves it will sell.

    1. Yes. Your passion for the subject will come through and resonate with people — unlike when you try to just write what’s “hot.”

  11. Hmmm…I think I worry about that my readers won’t want to read what I have to write! LOL Which seems sort of dumb to worry about since they do read what I write. 😛

  12. Thanks Jeff, for giving me the permission to not worry about other people’s successes. I try to remember that other people’s success and my own are not mutually exclusive. Also, where they are, is not where I am supposed to be. As a recent college graduate it is the first time in my life where my friends and I are starting to be in different life stages at different times. In school we were all in 6th grade and 12th grade at the same time, reading the same books, and for the most part doing the same homework. Now, that is not the case. Something that helps me with this one is the following: If someone gets recognition or something that I would like in my life, then I think to myself, “I would want this for myself, therefore, I should be happy when others get it in their life.”

    1. Yes! When a friend of mine has a great writing success, it makes me feel motivated — not that my chances of having the same success are dwindling. I believe there are truly enough opportunities for everyone.

  13. Linda, 2-4 don’t blemish my brain, but for #1, I definitely waste time on comparisons and petty jealousy over other writers’ successes (dammit!). What a forlorn way to spend any energy. Working on it.

    Nice to see you here in Jeff’s playroom.

      1. Yeah, I do OK, but as with most writers, i’m subject to those pernicious whisperings of the mind. But as you suggest, resistance ISN’T futile (get thee behind me, Borg mind). Thanks Linda!

  14. Yay! I’m glad somebody said that: The surest way to lose your unique style and quash your brilliant ideas is to become obsessed with figuring out what the market wants.
    Cause the truth is, I can only write what is on my heart.

  15. This was a very motivating post-thank you for it! I doubt myself too much. I know I can write well, even as a beginner. Enough people have told me this and they say “You should write a book!” Much of what you posted here has held me back. I need to do less worrying!

  16. Sometimes I get discouraged when I see a guest post because I’m expecting to hear from the primary writer. In this case, however, I greatly appreciate the wisdom of Jeff in giving space for another voice. This was the message I needed to hear today. Thanks to you both!

  17. Thanks for the words of wisdom. I usually tell myself that nothing else that is going on matters. I must keep doing what I need to do to become successful no matter what anyone else says or does.

  18. I’m worried that I “woke up too late” to my dream of writing, and it’s discouraging when you’re just starting out and trying to raise a young family too. I always feel like I’m being left behind. But slow and steady wins the race, right? I’m hanging in there!

    1. It’s never too late! I wish I could remember the names of those bestselling authors who didn’t start until their 40s, 50s and even later!

  19. This literally happened to me the other day. Without naming names. A self-proclaimed sales expert shared their book with me that was fairly well received on Amazon. And needless to say, it was terribly written. Not that I am an award winning copywriter myself, but this was bad.

    Action trumps inactivity.

    Have heard good things about you Jeff from around the web. Looking forward to catching up on the content you have published over the years.

    Ian

    1. I know, it’s HARD not to get upset when you see a badly-written book top the charts! But as you say, just taking action put these authors miles ahead of writers who are great at the craft but never get their work out there.

  20. Loved reading this. I need to not worry that my writing won’t be like everyone one else’s – that would be boring any way. So I’m good with me being me and finding my tribe who’s into that and serving them!

    1. Exactly — readers love you for the way YOU write. No one wants to read a writer who SOUNDS like Stephen King or anyone else. They want the real deal — YOU.

  21. Your article is really good, linda. Everything has different solutions. you just selected to match your desired results only. I actually always telling myself that and believing in yourself

  22. I sometimes feel very affected by all these outside forces. I know there’s nothing I can do to control them; what I can do is try to be better than I was yesterday. But sometimes that’s just hard, especially when you want to learn and you encounter all these successful bloggers. (Haha!)

  23. I’ve heard similar points before, but somehow they are 500x more encouraging coming from someone who is a successful freelance writer. Thanks so much for your advice, Linda.

  24. Excellent post, Linda. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think the more confidence we have in our own gift – and ourselves – the less likely we are to worry about what everyone else is doing. Everyone has something unique to contribute to the market and to life.

  25. Great advice, Linda – on top of that, I need to stop worrying about all the stuff I don’t know – all the books I haven’t read, about not being smart and knowledgeable enough. That’s what stopped me writing many years ago, when I opted out for a totally different career, because I convinced myself I wasn’t sufficiently clever or well-read to become a writer. I know I’ve a lot to learn, but when I start worrying about the gaps in my knowledge and expertise, I try to remind myself of all the stuff I do know – and all the life experience I’ve acquired, which is unique.

    1. Ooh, good one — I should have had that in the post! ALways feeling like you need to learn more before you get started is a huge problem. I’m glad you found a way to deal with it!

  26. Since I am attempting to write my first book, I worry about the unknown. I suffer from the “fear of things I’ve never done before” syndrome. Thank goodness for people like you and other authors that are willing to share your knowledge and experience!

  27. I have a hard time making friends and I feel that my social skills are not up to date….I feel jealous when I see another social person talking with all the beautiful girls and the coolest friends….I wish I could be that guy….I wanna be respected and I want to get all the beautiful women….I just feel really jealous quickly and I also feel very suicidal…I have no idea what to do….I always take the easy route….I never step out of my comfort zone…..I have never had a girlfriend and I always keep masterbating…..I even want to stop that habit because I feel so horny and depressed all the time….any suggestions??

  28. The most direct thing I need to stop worrying about is getting my proposal “just right.” Obviously, time and effort matter, but I also don’t want to obsess and never get it done and out.

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