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Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

Why You Need To Risk Writing Something Dangerous (Excerpt from “Writer’s Doubt”)

The below post is a short excerpt from Writer’s Doubt. (Some of the content in the book has changed due to rewrites and editing, and this excerpt was adapted for use as a stand alone blog post.)

Everyone has a story to tell, including you.

The dangerous part of writing and sharing our stories isn’t always the writing itself or even the story, it’s more about how it may affect others, and how they might react to it. It’s dangerous, because honesty always is.


People react to honesty in various ways depending on where they are in their lives and what their experiences and worldviews may be.

You can’t control how others view things, and you shouldn’t try to, but perhaps more importantly:

Don’t let others stop you from telling your story. (Tweet This)

Everyone interprets things differently. And, unfortunately, this stops too many of us from telling our stories, or honestly writing about what we believe.

When I wrote my first book, my childhood memoir, I knew I was voicing issues that others might want to keep secret, issues that even to a degree were blamed on me – hey, I even blamed myself. It was painful to write; shame that had plagued me for years was pouring onto the page, but I wrote it. What I learned is:

You need to tell your story, even if it is just for you. (Tweet This)

There were other concerns I had when I finally decided to publish. There would be those who would call me names, tell me the story is a ranting pity party, and some who would threaten me with physical harm, even death threats.

And yet, I published it.

Did my fears come true? Unfortunately, yes, some of them did.

And that’s important to acknowledge, because too often we’re told not to worry, most of your fears are just your imagination going wild.

Even though some of your fears might seem a little irrational, you still have to come to terms and accept them. We’d like to believe everyone will support and encourage us, but there are those who will tear you down and try to hurt you.

Perhaps you fear 1 star reviews on Amazon?

You will get them.

There’s nothing wrong with your work not resonating with some people. The problem comes when you try to appease those few and change your writing, or write less interesting stuff.

Here’s a quote to consider from Seth Godin about 1 star reviews:

I’ve never once met an author who said, “Well, my writing wasn’t resonating, but then I read all the 1 star reviews on Amazon, took their criticism to heart and now I’m doing great…”

–Seth Godin bestselling author of “The Icarus Deception”

The reality is most harsh criticism comes from those who have never put themselves out there. It’s always easier for someone who has never taken the risk themselves to tell you what you are doing wrong, or what you should have said.

That doesn’t mean input about your work isn’t helpful, but harsh criticism doesn’t come from a place of concern with the goal to be helpful.

The bottom line is, you are going to rub some people the wrong way, and figuring out why and how to avoid it isn’t going to do you any good.

Of course, we all should have filters in place to insure we are respectful and lawful, but doing so doesn’t make it any easier.

Ultimately, you have to take the leap and write. (Tweet This)

That’s what I did with “One Boy’s Struggle”, and even though some of my fears came true, my memoir has gone on to help thousands. It is a story that needed to be told.

The story mattered so much that the most well known professional in the field said this about it:

“It’s a real eye—opener! Bryan writes of hope and despair, and the all-too-common conflict between desperately wanting to achieve and please, yet suspecting that you’ll fail again… and soon.”

–Dr. Edward Hallowell, bestselling author of “Driven to Distraction”

What I want to emphasize is that if we hold our stories inside of ourselves due to our fears alone, we miss the opportunities telling our story may provide, such as saying what needed to be said, helping others, reaching people who you never thought you could reach, and knowing what you are writing is important, and if for no one else, it is important to you.

I took the leap again when I wrote my new book “Happy Every Day”.

Writing “Happy Every Day” was not nearly as dangerous as writing “One Boy’s Struggle”. The biggest difference was that I knew I would publish it before I wrote it and I would not go into revealing details about myself and my past as I did in my memoir.

I didn’t want to rewrite my memoir, because that would be too painful. Instead I wanted to take the lessons I learned throughout my life and break them down into the simplest, easiest strategies as possible for creating happiness in one’s life on a daily basis.

The lessons for happiness were extremely difficult for me to learn, mainly because of my stubbornness and impatience. I had read a great many books about happiness (more than I care to admit), and the problem, at least for me, was that they spent too much time explaining what happiness is, and the processes outlined for achieving it were overcomplicated.

If the book you want doesn’t exist, then write it. (Tweet This)

The books I read were good books and helped in the long run; however, I would have liked a book that took a simpler approach, and that’s one of the reasons why I wrote “Happy Every Day”.

Although writing about happiness would seem harmless, it’s not.

“Happy Every Day” is an opinion piece and created from life-lessons, which opens it up to disagreements, and since happiness is highly subjective I knew I would touch nerves. I had already been on the receiving end of bullies and negative influencers all of my life, and therefore, I included my suggestions on how to deal with them as well.

Bullies and negative influencers who read the book may well recognize themselves within my words, even though that was not my intention. I’d love to think they would change from reading it, but lashing out is more their style, otherwise they wouldn’t be bullies in the first place.

Still, I believe being “Happy” is possible even for negative influencers, and if they want to call me names for writing such a suggestion, then it’s a risk I needed to take.

As a highly subjective topic, I also knew that others would read into it stuff which wasn’t there, such as ignoring harsh realities, even though I clearly state we shouldn’t ignore the negatives, but we shouldn’t ignore the good things either.

Then there are people who believe being happy simply isn’t possible, or haven’t yet found a way to find happiness, and they’ll challenge the book by calling the ideas unachievable or even, outright wrong.

And you know what? That’s okay, because I believe those who challenge the strategies may also try some of them, and who knows, wouldn’t it be great if they find a few that work for them?

It is never my intention to write anything controversial, but when you’re honest, controversy is often a byproduct.

“Happy Every Day” simply provides strategies that I believe can help people find happiness in the common every day things and situations we all too often overlook. That’s it. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Was it worth the risk?

That’s a fair question, but it’s a question that needs to be answered before writing.

The answer was and is, YES! For those who like to measure results, to date “Happy Every Day” has over 100 reviews on Amazon, the most any of my books has received.

Honesty is dangerous.

When you tell your story honestly, even if it is only to provide the lessons you have learned, it’s dangerous because it is personal and each person reads into it with their own experiences and beliefs.

And it’s important to know that just because some people may disagree with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are right or wrong, just that they see things differently. Their opinions are just as valid in their own right as yours or mine.

With all this said, if you want to write your story honestly, you’ll come to a point of making a decision, because no matter how harmless it seems to you, you will write something dangerous.

My suggestion:

Write it anyway. That’s what writers do.

The thing to come to terms with is:

Are you going to write your story or let others stop you? Share in the comments.

PS: Sometimes, the “others” is really ourselves.

This post was an adapted excerpt from Writer’s Doubt. It’s available now on Amazon, so how about treating yourself to a copy? Thanks for your support!

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Good stuff, Bryan. I think even when you come at it with the idea that you are “writing it for you” you end up helping people. That kind of honesty will resonate with people.

  • La McCoy


  • Good post, Bryan. No, I will not let other stop me from writing my story – including the “inner voice” that loves to say, “You can’t.” That voice, once so loud, is now being reduced to a whisper as I write and submit more stories. Reminds me of my favorite van Gogh quote, “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint’, then by all
    means paint and that voice will be silenced.” This Thursday, I’m writing one of those “dangerous” posts as a guest on Chris Morris’s site. No doubt, some will not agree with me, but it’s a belief I stand firm upon. Thanks for keeping us motivated, Bryan.

    • Thank you, Joan. Sounds like an important post you’ve written. Good for you. Keep writing.

  • Bryan,
    Yay! Loved this post. Mostly because it clearly depicts the struggle you let us in on. I will write the difficult things, which means I will hear the difficult responses. To write anything less is to deny the truth within you.

    • Absolutely, Anne. Don’t deny the truth within you (which I know you do not). Love the pictures you’ve been creating btw.

  • Andria R Bicknell

    Well Bryan, the last line nailed it. Sometimes the “others” we fear we may upset or cause to criticize is really ourselves. Thank you for the Positive encouragement!

  • A really inspiring post, Bryan. As Anne says, “Yay!” I couldn’t agree more with your message. Right from the start I seem to have been called to bleed words over the page, open up my wounds and share them publicly on a blog. It has been a place of great vulnerabiliy. And that’s before the memoir comes out! Yet we each have a story inside us clamouring to come out and others need to hear it. If my words resonate in such a way that another wounded person can say, “You too?” and be encouraged in their own journey toward healing and wholeness, then it is definitely worthwhile.
    I can see I need to read your books (so many great books so little time!) and continue to grow as a writer who opens her heart to others. Thank you for encouraging us so wonderfully here!

    • Always good to hear from you, Joy! I’m looking forward to your story.

  • katina vaselopulos

    Sorry Brian for not being around lately…Technical issues and Life’s demands made it impossible.
    This is a great post, with many well made points that support your view and inspire the reader. I regret to admit that I haven’t read either of your books…just few reviews about them. I definitely plan to, as soon as my life becomes a little more …my own.
    Congratulations for all your accomplishments!
    Thank you for encouraging and inspiring me!

    • Thanks, Katina.There’s always time to read my books, they will be around. I think you’ll enjoy them. Hope you can get those technical issues resolved and hopefully slow down a little. 🙂

  • Alex

    This (just like everything else I have read on this website, might I add) was really encouraging. I’ve received a lot of scathing and downright nasty criticism due to things I’ve written (and performed, back when I was that way inclined) in the past including even death threats, which naturally was very off-putting.

    However reading this has helped to put things in perspective for me, and it’s nice to know that, when something causes controversy, it’s not because I’m doing something wrong but merely because I’m being honest.

    So thank you!

  • My first book “A Train Called Forgiveness” and the continuing series is dangerous in that they discuss cults, religious abuse, and sexual abuse. Although fictional, the first book is based on my child story. But I am also very open to a wider view of what it means to be a Christian. Although I thought my approach might garner some one-star reviews, it hasn’t. I would welcome them.

    • I’m with you, when I published my memoir, I expected 1 star reviews, but to date after 6 years published I have only received 1 – 1 star review out of 72 reviews. I don’t know that I am so far as to “welcome” 1 star reviews, but I try to learn from them when possible.

  • Renia Carsillo

    Thank you for this today Bryan! I’m in the midst of finishing my memoir and it shares a number of difficult stories that people in my life don’t want to confront. My editor and I have struggled with that question, “What part of this story is mine to tell and what doesn’t belong to me?” This helped me to answer it for some things.

  • Bryan, you are right about several things. One is that you need to write your story and two, if the book you want don’t exist, then write it. You inspire, remind, cajole and yes, I need your words to continue writing. I took up the challenge of NaNoWriMo this year and who knows I might even succeed.
    While danger is real, FEAR is a choice and I’m not letting fear keep me from writing again.

    • Good, Patricia! That’s what I want to hear. 🙂 Loved the picture you created btw. FEAR is a choice, unless it is of heights.

      • I was scared of heights until I had to climb a 60 feet mast. Then you overcome your fears very quickly. The view was great.

  • Really enjoyed this post…..thanks for the kick in the pants that it was and is!!

  • Renia Carsillo

    Bryan, I love this post. I do have one question (and I haven’t read the new book yet, so forgive me if it’s in there). How do you determine what part of your story is YOURS and what belongs to other people too and isn’t your right to share? I’m working on the editing process for my 2nd book, which is a memoir, and am struggling with what I can share as mine when it involves others. Any tips/thoughts you have on this would be much appreciated!

    • Renia, my advice is to write what you want to write first and then if you’re not certain you should share it, talk to those people about it and ask them. However, if you already know they’d rather keep certain things secret then change the names of whoever is involved and don’t reveal personal details that could identify who they are. Still, there are instances when you may need to reveal certain things in order to tell your story honestly, in those cases it’s important to talk to a legal expert who can help guide you on how to go about it legally.

      Sometimes it’s important to write about things just for ourselves, and not as important to reveal them to the world. A personal journal or diary is excellent for that type of writing.

      • Renia Carsillo

        Good points Bryan. I’ve been doing morning pages since the first time I read Julia Cameron. It’s the best form of healing I’ve ever found.

        Regarding asking for legal advice on certain things, I don’t know why it’s something I never thought of but a really good point. Thank you!

  • Michelle King Eigemann

    Bryan, I am currently working on being able to tell my story, it seems that I get off to a great start but then I end up stopping short of revealing too much. I guess all my protective walls go up but I’m not even sure anymore what I am trying to protect myself from. I’ve been asked by several people “what are you holding back” and while I know the answer to this question I am still in the process of learning how to actually reveal more of me to my readers.
    I also want to let you know that I am reading Writer’s Doubt right now and I love it!!!!

    • Thanks for letting me know you’re enjoying “Writer’s Doubt,” Michelle!

      My suggestion is to start revealing more to yourself first, perhaps in a personal journal or diary. Once you get used to writing about the stuff you usually keep hidden, then it becomes a matter of figuring out how you want to reveal that publicly, but keep in mind you don’t have to reveal everything about yourself to your readers. What you want to do is be honest and that doesn’t necessarily mean revealing every mysterious secret in your closet. 🙂

  • Susan Spence

    My first novel was historical fiction and got mostly good reviews. The second one was a sequel written in more recent times and some reviews weren’t as favorable. Some readers were disappointed that it wasn’t more of the same, but like you said, I needed to tell the rest of the story.

  • Bryan, thank you for sharing your empowering story about busting through fear and the influential/positive writing that can come from doing so. I have found that fear and doubt can be a gift when we see it as life force energy that we can harness and help us propel towards our goals. We must trust in the process and trust that the message will land with those it is supposed to, even if that is just ourselves.

  • Bryan,

    Great post. Loved this line, “It is never my intention to write anything controversial, but when you’re honest, controversy is often a byproduct.”

    There are probably some who do write just to be controversial, but the truth is, everyone will NOT agree with you. And sometimes it feels scary when you’ve shared your heart and there is opposition. But that’s okay. If you’re honest you’ll admit you don’t agree with everything everyone else says either.

    Like “bubble butt monkeys.” I never could understand why God made them, but that’s just my opinion. For all I know, some people may like them. And God saw a reason for them.

    I had to risk writing something scary because without doing that I was only telling part of my story. And some of my story was scary.

  • Kashish Kaur

    Indeed one should write about something dangerous. I live in India and the book market here is so limited. But my aim is to write and get published to give a new definition of writing here.

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