In those moments before you hit publish panic may strike, let it.
You may have seen Will Smith’s speech on his fear of skydiving or heard Jack Canfield’s saying “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” When it comes to putting your work out there, that’s the advice I follow but the fear of hitting publish is real, so learn to recognize and manage it.
Every time you hit publish you’re expanding the boundaries of your experience. Come what may: crickets (no feedback), praise (woohoo, high five) or a potential lawsuit (yep, I’ve had one of those. Panic).
Whether someone reads your work or not is secondary, you’re getting in your reps to improve your skills as a journalist. Mistakes will happen and are part of the process, so get stuck and then get unstuck by learning from them. Easier said than done but truthfully, fear has gripped and paralyzed me.
I once made a mistake in a story that caused people to lose money. For several weeks I was consumed by worry and fear of it happening again. I doubted my abilities, and my work slumped. Once I had recognized that it was all in my head, I examined what I could do to improve and avoid a similar failure in the future.
I took an extra minute to go over what I had written. Made a list of words, phrases, figures or punctuation that catch me off guard. I put post-it notes alongside my screen as prompts, checked and double checked so as never to forget. “When in doubt leave it out,” became my new mantra.
Find out what trips you up and figure out a workaround, prompt or system so it can’t happen again. It might still happen, but you’ve now improved the fail-safe.
To this day, right before I hit publish, my heart rate spikes and my stomach churns as a million things rush through my head. Most are now part of a pre-flight checklist, but underneath that, there’s still a ton of FUD.
You may have heard of the term FUD: Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. The thing is, it’s the brain’s default setting before you venture into the unknown. Every time you send something out into the world - a piece of work, or skydive - you are venturing into the unknown.
Did I get the quote right? Did I misrepresent my source? Is my portrayal of the situation fair? I'm a being honest and transparent? Have I held myself to the highest of standards? Will my paracute open?
Those questions and many more will surface before the piece flies but recognize them, write them down and answer them with a rational mind. If you are still worried, talk it over with a colleague, a mentor or editor.
Double check the quote again. Go over your source notes one last time before you hit publish. Check you gave everyone a fair chance to comment. Check how you feel about all the words in your piece, are they accurate?
The fastest way to eliminate fear is to face it head on and to then jump out of that metaphorical plane. In Will Smith’s words: “The point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear; it’s bliss.” And once you’re story flies, the feeling will be precisely that: bliss.
Failure is your greatest chance to learn; there is no failure, only an opportunity to learn. So don’t fret, just hit publish. You may still make mistakes, we all do, but you took the time to look into the subject, to craft the lines, edit the scene or align the audio. It matters because it matters to you and if you don’t care, who will?
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