AUTHORS, I NEED YOUR INPUT: Are YOU Afraid to Write in Front of Other People?

AUTHORS, I NEED YOUR INPUT: Are YOU Afraid to Write in Front of Other People?

I was working on a new book last week and one of my employees came in, and sat in the chair next to me. I immediately saved my file, and closed the window.

Have you ever had a passing thought, but didn’t actually dissect it at the time? Sometimes I have a very brief tickle in my brain and I don’t ponder it until much later. Sometimes months or years later. A sneaking suspicion. Something that briefly sparks my women’s intuition. A small splinter that irritates me subconsciously but that doesn’t receive my full attention until I have time to actually think about it…

So, I closed the window and this brief thought ran through my head, “He might see what I’m writing!” I continued to think about it because my next task was really boring – deleting spam in my in-box. I asked me, “Angie, why can’t you write in front of this person?” And, the answer was quite simple. I am actually afraid of someone reading over my shoulder while I’m slowly forming just the right noun, adjective, adverb, punctuation, etc. in an attempt to entertain or inform my future readers. I’m afraid of….JUDGEMENT.

And, at that moment, I realized that I’ve been closing my window while writing a book whenever someone sat down next to me for as long as I can remember. (However, I can work on an article just fine while someone’s next to me. What’s up with THAT?)

On thinking more about that, I realized how silly it seemed. But, still, I don’t think I can stop hiding my books-in-progress from others.

Perhaps this is the same phenomenon that painters experience when they don’t want any one to see their work until it’s finished?

I can’t believe, after all of these years, that I just now thought to Google the problem. And, guess what?! There’s a word for it!

Scriptophobia:  the extreme fear of writing in public.

Now, I can’t say that I have an EXTREME fear. It just makes me very uncomfortable.

So, I wanted to ask all of you… Are YOU afraid to write in front of other people? And, if so, what are your reasons? Now I’m wondering if I’m in the minority or if I’m just a chicken.

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Angela Hoy is the publisher of, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

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15 Responses to "AUTHORS, I NEED YOUR INPUT: Are YOU Afraid to Write in Front of Other People?"

  1. Michael Timothy Smith  March 20, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    If I can pee in a urinal while standing beside another man, then I have no problem writing in front of others

  2. Joe Mullich  February 25, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    I can’t say I identify with this at all. I spend eight hours a day hover over my laptop in public coffee shops. I am surrounded by other writers and screenwriters pounding away on their various projects. No one cares all that much what anyone else is working on. I’ve never seen anyone peak at someone else’s screen in curiosity.

    In general, I find people are much less interested in writers than writers sometimes think they are.

  3. Johnny Townsend  February 21, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    I do most of my writing in my office at home. When my husband comes in the room, I usually minimize my screen so that just the wallpaper is visible. He sometimes jokes about me trying to hide something from him, and I guess it’s true. If I’m writing a political article, I don’t want him to see it because we have different political ideas. If it’s a short story, I don’t want him to see it because he has an annoying habit of “playfully” criticizing me that I don’t find the least bit funny. Since I can’t change his personality (or mine) or his political views, I find it easiest just to avoid giving him anything to comment on. Of my 40+ books, my husband’s read the first two. It bothered me years ago, but now I’m grateful I don’t have to worry about his opinion one way or the other. And I keep it that way by minimizing my screen when he comes into my office.

  4. Pamela Allegretto  February 21, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    I can’t write with anyone hovering. Not due to fear, but I need privacy and complete silence. The idea of sitting in a coffee shop and trying to write with other people talking and moving about, sounds torturous. Even though I occasionally paint with other artists, I don’t like anyone leaning over my shoulder, too distracting.
    Happy writing!

  5. Stephen  February 21, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    I am not afraid of writing in front of, but rather the concept of writing and then have someone read the mystical aloud. Then again, I write from the unseen, so in that sense of the written word, someone is always looking over my shoulder. Weird I know, but I bet you looked over your shoulder!

  6. Lynne Glenway  February 21, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    I close it if someone reads over my shoulder. I also have found family are not enthusiastic that I write, but friends and strangers are. I carry my laptop with me everywhere and write during down time. Of course, if I use the dictation function, I like privacy:-)

  7. Rhys James  February 21, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    Writing, I’d say no. Although similar my hang up is somewhat different. I remember if ever I needed advice on something at university even when completing my dissertation, I’d hand over my manuscript and have to leave the room whilst my lecturer was reading it. If I stayed in the room I’d start to feel terribly conscious and start sweating. I guess because that person was at that point in time currently inside my head, my thoughts running through their mind?
    Even my now fiance, then my recently acquired girlfriend was subjected to it when we would proof read each others work.
    Although somewhat different, I always assumed I was just terribly odd. Glad I’m not the only one with specific hangups.

  8. wmba dams  February 21, 2020 at 11:33 am

    afraid? NO!
    prefer not to? Very Much prefer to write when I am alone.

    I would never go to a nano write in.
    I need to be able to focus and concentrate and having people around is too distracting.

    It is far easier to write alone at home with my full support system available than to lug a laptop to some noisy place to try to show off by writing in some public space as if that would somehow make anybody think that I am an ‘author’ like so many wannabee walter mitty types do. nano is the worst offender although most so called ‘writers’ are just wannabee pantsers playing walter mitty and then shoving their crap into a desk drawer should it ever be finished.

    these days amazon makes it possible for those so called writers to inflict their crud on the world and help hide the little that is good under a mountain of super smelly slush.

  9. Wendy Jones  February 21, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Am I afraid to write in front of someone/ in public?

    In fact, if I am sitting in front of my writing partner for the ‘Highlander Imagine’ series, we are both more creative and interactive. The story will get written even faster. The same applies to Skype and interactive messaging. I could be in the middle of a stadium and I could write. But face to face with my writing partner is always better.

  10. Chris Norbury  February 21, 2020 at 9:39 am

    Certainly not afraid to write in front of people. I write in public (coffee shops, libraries) most of the time. But I’d find it distracting to have someone looking over my shoulder as I wrote–especially if they started asking “dumb” questions such as, “What does that word mean?”

    The upside is, they’d soon get so bored “watching me write” they’d leave. After all, I usually write in spurts–five minutes of staring at the wall, one minute writing the paragraph I just came up with, a minute re-reading it, then five more minutes of trying to figure out how to make it better (staring at the wall).

    Hmm, if there are people who actually enjoy watching someone write, maybe I could use that to create another income stream. “Come one, come all! Watch the nowhere-near-famous-and-never-likely-to-be-famous-writer write his novel. Only five dollars per hour. Seating is limited. Act now, don’t delay. Tickets are going fast. Daily shows, Monday through Friday, 11 am to 3 pm!”

  11. Tina Field Howe  February 21, 2020 at 9:37 am

    Ang, I wouldn’t say I have a fear of people watching me write – it’s annoying when someone watches me do anything over my shoulder. Interruptions are a distraction which take me out of my writing head – “Oh, now there’s another human being in the room and I need to stop being creative (grumble/growl) and pay attention to them.” But fear? Naw.

  12. D. S. Jackson  February 21, 2020 at 9:24 am

    Who isn’t afraid of the big bad wolf? … I was once painting a pheasant and a passer by remarked, “what a lovely turkey!” No harm was intended, but the wolf was still visited upon me :-)… When my hands gave out a few years back, I began typing with two fingers and so returned to the search for words to ease some of the suffering in this world… Thoughts are like the sun, radiating in all directions, each ray of expression with its own perspective, but the same intent to deliver light and warmth where it is most needed. Each of us has light and warmth to learn how to share, but instinct guides against shining if there is any possibility of a wolf on the prowl. / Now you have a few words I have written on the spot, but not with anyone looking over my shoulder 🙂 Things simply spill out when no one is looking. If I become self-conscious or distracted it cuts the flow. So it goes for me. All the best to everyone! ~ D. S. Jackson, author of “The Secret of Santa’s Songbird”.

  13. Brien Brown  February 21, 2020 at 6:09 am

    Not afraid to write in front of others, I but find it very difficult. I like to work in all but total silence. If my wife is home, she’ll ask questions, talk about her day, put on the radio or call someone and sit next to me to carry on a conversation … With all that going on, I can’t write.

    I often ask her opinion about my work in progress, when she gets home from somewhere and I’m pretty much done writing for the day.

  14. Angie  February 21, 2020 at 12:58 am

    I’m not afraid, but it annoys me to no end. I can’t stop thinking, “Don’t you have something better to do?”

  15. LG (lmg)  February 20, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    Hi Ang,

    I am not the least bit afraid to write in public. Never crossed my mind. My sketching however is another subject…. I mean who draws weird faces like that?