page fright (noun): (1) a fear of the blank page or screen; (2) a malady that’s afflicted nearly every writer in the history of writing, with the possible exception of Stephen King; (3) a condition associated with self-doubt, Imposter Syndrome, and writer’s block; (4) the name of a new engaging, motivating, and invaluable newsletter for aspiring and accomplished writers in any genre.

Welcome to Page Fright! I’m glad you’re here. I promise you, Page Fright is unlike anything else you’ll see or hear on writing.

With Page Fright, you won’t get lessons on craft. And you won’t receive advice on when to write, where to write, which writing software is best, or how to promote your work. You can find that in other great sources.

What you will get with Page Fright is a deep dive into the damaging thoughts, anxieties, neuroses, and beliefs you probably hold about yourself and your writing talent that keep you from being as productive and successful as you could be. They also keep you from having as much fun!

It doesn’t matter if you write fiction or nonfiction, song lyrics or poetry, feature articles or opinion pieces, theater, film, or television scripts. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your first writing workshop or have your MFA or are already an accomplished writer in one genre but long to delve into another—page fright thinks it can make itself at home in your brain. If you’re like most writers (including me), you experience times when you’re afraid to write, afraid to not write, afraid you’re an imposter, afraid you’re not good enough, afraid to be vulnerable, afraid of failure, afraid of success, afraid no one will care about your story, afraid to call yourself a writer, etc., etc., etc. Damn, you’re afraid!

And what are you supposed to do with all that fear? Beat it down with your pickleball paddle? White knuckle it, sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph? Read a new book every time an Amazon algorithm recommends one because reading, after all, is essential to writing? Play Wordle and tell yourself it’s a valid form of writing?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In Page Fright, I’ll explore some of the fear-driven, self-limiting, creativity-killing thoughts I’ve told myself and have heard from and read about other writers over the years (even best-selling authors and literary legends are not immune). I’m going to point out the absurdity of trying to accomplish something that means so much to you when you are engaging in a systematic program of DE-motivation every time you tell yourself another reason why you can’t write, shouldn’t write, aren’t a “real” writer, won’t get published, etc.

I’ll hold these thoughts up to the light, examine them for their rational, irrational, and even comical (at times) content, quote from and tell stories about writers with the very same fears, and offer some practical advice on managing and maybe even squashing these fears.

My hope is that you’ll see yourself in these pages, realize you’re not alone, learn useful ways of moving ahead with your writing despite bouts of page fright if they should still occasionally arise, and maybe even laugh at (with) yourself a bit.

So, welcome once again to the newsletter that aims to free you and other writers from page fright, one fear at a time.

I’ve tried to anticipate and answer some questions you might have. Feel free to ask me additional ones!

Q: How often will Page Fright arrive in my inbox?

A: One issue every two or three weeks. One fear per issue.

Q: What’s the Cost?

A: FREE for now, possibly a subscription fee down the road if I increase the frequency or offer other goodies. Hey, I’m new to this Substack thing, so I’m still figuring it out!

Q: What can I, as a subscriber, do?

A: If you have a particular writing fear you’d like me to address, please let me know. And, if you’re enjoying Page Fright, I’d be incredibly grateful if you’d like the articles, share them on social media, or encourage two or three other writers in your life to subscribe.

Q: Anything we should know about you, Meta?

A: Yes! I’m a page fright survivor, author of What’s Your Creative Type?: Harnessing the Power of Your Artistic Personality, writing professor at Emerson College and Grub Street and previously at Boston University, writing coach and workshop leader, creator of an original model for creativity, TEDx and corporate speaker, contributor to The Boston Globe opinion pages, freelance writer with articles in The Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe Magazine, Wall Street Journal custom content, and others, and former PopMatters columnist. I’m married to someone who’s not only an amazing cook, he’s also an IT expert (score!). And I’m Mom to a middle school teacher/rock star (literally) and this crazy nut of a rescue dog, Zoey.

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Freeing writers, one fear at a time


Meta Wagner

Page fright survivor. Passionate about helping writers reach their potential. Author, What’s Your Creative Type? Prof, Emerson College. Writing coach & workshop leader. Words at Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, PopMatters. TEDx & corporate speaker.