Writing Without Fear of the Red Pen

The Fear of the Red Pen

Writing is a joy for some, but a terror to others.

What makes one person enjoy the process while others are terrified by it?

Some would-be authors find themselves constrained by the how-to’s, structural rules and regulations bought upon by well-meaning teachers who choose to use the red pen more than they ought.

It’s not that the red pen isn’t necessary, it’s just that grammar and punctuation isn’t all that writing is.

Put the fear of the red pen away and enjoy the writing process.
Put the fear of the red pen away and enjoy the writing process.

Writing is the thought, the intent, the emotion, the mental anguish, the imagination unleashed.

When used too early, the red pen is perceived as an attack against the soul.

It is what is feared, that somehow one is incapable of expressing themselves properly. The red pen is sometimes received as an acknowledgement of the fear of failure that resides within ourselves.

So, put aside the red pen until later.

Expressions should be allowed in the first stages of the writing process.

Plotting, outlining, summarizing, etc., these terms can be scary to someone who just wants the freedom to write.

So, in the beginning stages why not just write.

Let your thoughts flow.

Allow yourself to make mistakes, but get your expressions out. You might find some great ideas in those lines you have penned or typed.

Next take those ideas and expound on them.

Visualize your characters, know their hardships and fears, know them intimately.

Surround those characters with settings that magnify their problems or at least don’t interfere with the progression of the story.

Make the setting fit the story line.

Accidents on curvy mountain roads, falls from rocky cliffs, heart attacks on hiking trails, broken hearts in movie theaters, loneliness at the school dance…

Insert lively characters that fit the setting.

We expect cowboys in Texas or Australia, businessmen in suits on Wall Street, bankers in Switzerland, skiers in Colorado or the Alps, fishermen off Nova Scotia. We know and are familiar with housewives in suburbia, school teachers in rural areas, and farmers on the Midwestern plains.

Writing, authoring, scribbling, or whatever you may call it, is just expressing your imagination on paper.

Let your imagination run wild. Sci-fi, fantasy, romance.  You can pretend to be anywhere at any time.

Today, yesterday, or tomorrow…There is no limitation to time on the written pages of your mind.

Share your thoughts, share your dreams, share your fears. Hide behind your pseudonym, your pen name, your ghost writer, or whoever.

Your words become forces that confront the reality of existence.

Keep the story moving forward.

You are an author. Your words may not be written down in a best-selling novel, but they are your words in action. Just be sure your words do not kill your onward progression to what lies ahead. Make them positive words that encourage, instill, and infuse joy, excitement, and contentment.

Make your words lively to the reader. Keep them searching for the next word on the next trail of pages. The red pen can come later.


Do you find yourself fearing the red pen?

Don’t be afraid to have your writing critiqued. Share it with several people who will honestly respond to what you have written. Consider their comments.

Remember that you are the author. You can choose to accept or reject their recommendations. But if you are wise, you will learn from the critiquing experience and your writing will improve.

Proofreading for grammar and punctuation is in the last stages of the writing process. That’s when you can appreciate the red pen.

What are your fears in the writing process?
What is keeping you from becoming the next best-selling author?

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