communication / writers resources / writing

Fear of Saying Dumb Things Scares Me to Death

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out). Once a month we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s insecurity: Fear of saying dumb things scares me to death

People who don’t know you–and me–judge us by what we say. They have no historic track record to weigh our comments, ideas, thoughts against. When they meet our words posted online–or blurted out in person–all they know of us is by those words.

So when I say something dumb, it really bothers me. Let’s define ‘dumb’ as–

  • stupid, as in uneducated, like a fifth-grade understanding of the world when I’m [supposed to be] an adult
  • not representative of my real thoughts
  • requires more information than has been communicated to truly get meaning.
  • meant to be funny but falls flat (I’ve heard the shortest distance between two people is a good laugh or a smooth trigger pull. Both are fraught with danger.)

Sure, it’s harmless if that ‘something’ is ‘oh, Jacqui must like skydiving’.  I won’t stay awake at night worrying about that. But if it’s ‘Jacqui hates ***’, yeah, then I might.

I do this more than I like to admit. I pop out with an idea that sounds brilliant in the safety of my hind brain, but as it rolls off my tongue, I realize if it was any dumber it would have to be watered daily. You know the type. Age has tempered the number of times it happens, but not eradicated their occurrence. Back-pedaling when I see surprise or confusion around me helps, but doesn’t fix.

This is why I like the written word better. True, my thoughts are there for posterity, but I can edit, review, rethink, before pushing send. That helps.

How about you?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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36 thoughts on “Fear of Saying Dumb Things Scares Me to Death

  1. I also have that fear of looking stupid, and the connected fear that people don’t want to hear what I have to say. It took years to overcome that enough to put my writing in front of other people, and it’s still a lingering feeling when I send anything out. I have to keep reminding myself that we only get better when we make mistakes, and if that happens in public we’ll remember far longer than our audience will.

    • Absolutely, Andrew. I got rid of that fear (that people didn’t want to hear what I had to say) by not caring. I put it out there, drive 90% of my readers away (for all I know) and collect those who want to chat. I’m OK with that.

  2. Yes, exactly!! Writers are analytical and reflective. It’s tremendously nerve wracking thinking about something you’ve said or written (over and over) doing that internal cringing thing. Ugh! It’s exhausting. I suppose enforced bravery is what’s needed to let the words go and not worry about where they venture.

  3. I much prefer the written word to talking because I don’t have to face readers head on. As well, I can sweat over the words as long as I like to get them to say what I want. In person, I am not quick on my feet and falter when I speak because I am always afraid I have given the wrong impression and more is expected of me that I don’t have to offer.
    :-)

      • Me too. Editing words electronically saves me from stammering and a burning face of shame.
        I believe I *sound* like a spry old lady who hasn’t a care in the world and in part this is true. Age gives me assurance that I must be right–not that I am, but I must be–and I am more relaxed.

      • Sweetie, you made a friend of me without hoops or fire. :-) All you need to do is s.m.i.l.e.
        I know what you mean, though. When I was younger, I was mortified arriving at a party alone even when I knew almost everyone. I still find everything easier in the blogosphere. The sound of my own voice makes me twitch sometimes because it shows I’m nervous. It’s easier to hide behind the laptop screen and let my fingers do the talking. :-D.

  4. I also prefer the chance to think about and write out a response to something that will have an audience. It’s too easy to forget things when speaking aloud. I think the key too, is not reacting as if we say something dumb when we say it. If we just keep going and act like what we said made sense, we might be able to get away with it!
    –December IWSG host

  5. This is why I love being a writer; the ability to edit. I really wish I had that ability with everything I say – I’m terrible at actually saying what I’m thinking. It usually comes out garbled.

  6. Jacqui,
    First, thanks for visiting my blog today!

    I also wanted to say that showing a “fifth grade understanding of the world” doesn’t make you “stupid,” not at all. It might mean that you could have the insights and ideas of a young person that can be filtered into a good middle grade novel. Perhaps you can look at it from that perspective. =)

  7. Um, Jacqui, didn’t you write that you weren’t going to write for a week or so, the better to enjoy your daughter’s visit home? So what’s this? A virtual slip up? Oh, girl, you do not know how to vacation.
    And you’ve heard so many slip ups from me, you and I should be sliding across the floor without benefit of wheels. I wake every morning and remind myself to say less than the day before, only to find as I lay myself down on my pillow that I am full of regret over the words that came out wrong, in haste, in flat out dumb stupidity. Will you accept this as an apology for whatever I’ve said that shouldn’t have been uttered?
    At least I can bury the awful things I occasionally write. Smart spade.

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