Things that Go Bump When We Write – Phone Phobia

Being a successful writer is tied to being an efficient one. We need to put out work in a manner that meets our deadlines and budget lines. Unfortunately, there are a variety of things that keep us from writing as well, as often or as efficiently as we need to – including faux phobias.

I say faux phobias because most of us really just hate doing a particular thing, but don’t necessarily have a debilitating fear of it. The next couple of posts will take a look at some common faux phobias writers find themselves afflicted with and how to overcome them. Today’s biggie – Phone Phobia!

I used to really hate the phone. I worked in customer service for years and this started my hate-loath relationship with the phone and it got in the way of my writing. I’d still make the call to conduct interviews, but it would take me so long to work up the nerve to pick up the phone, I was pretty unproductive. I know I’m not alone.

Let’s clear up a misconception before we go too far – you don’t fear the phone. You fear the possibility of being judged or rejected. You also hate memories associated with the phone or the level of interpersonal communication you are exposed to because of the phone.

Let’s tackle rejection and judgment. Most people being interviewed are just as nervous as the interviewer, if not more. They want you to set the pace and the tone of the interview which means you control the ball. There is nothing to fear as long as you’ve prepared for the interview. Find confidence in the knowledge you have and the interviewee will have confidence in you as well.

Bad memories?

Get over it. I wish I had something more profound, but I can give you a different memory or more like a psychic look into the future – either use the phone or watch your career stall and bank account go empty. Bad interviews, bad news, collection calls – all of it is in the past. You are choosing to connect with the person on the phone, it is not an unpleasant, unannounced interruption.

Interpersonal communication. Well, there’s no way around it. Getting the best sources means talking to people. Sure you can email and IM and Facebook until your eyes fall out, BUT when you do venture out in the world you have to be able to do that good old-fashioned thing called talking. I love a good writer shell as much as the next person, but when you do meet a source, an editor or run into a fan, you want to be able to do more than grunt and point to Facebook on your smart phone.

It’s not just the day-to-day distractions that keep writers from producing their best work. Sometimes, fear plays a part. Preparation, a realistic perspective and a healthy dose of grab ’em mentality will help you sell the query, land the interview, and write a great piece.

What faux phobias drive you batty? Let me know and I’ll tackle ’em. Literally, I’ll make a dummy, put the phobia’s name on it and tackle it. Ok just kidding, but I promise to try and help!


7 responses
  1. Allan Douglas Avatar

    Actually, you just took a flying leap into my biggie: I dread talking on the phone. I never really knew why, I just do. But your discussion points out several likely root causes that I will further examine and see if I can’t “just get over it”.


    1. Terreece M. Clarke Avatar


      Another issue I had stemmed from receiving bad news via the phone, for a while thereafter every time the phone rang I jumped and got anxious. Everyone has a different reason, but most of the time if we really look at the why’s we can get on over the hump.

      Let me know what you find after digging :0)

  2. Alina Bradford Avatar

    From someone whose been there: It is important to remember that some people have social anxiety and saying “get over it” really isn’t helpful. I would advise readers that if they have panic attacks when using the phone, for interviews or not, that they should speak with their doctor to see if they may have symptoms of social anxiety.

  3. Neil Avatar

    I totally relate to this article. I hate talking on the phone but I make myself do it. I once read some advice (maybe even on FWJ) that said 99% of the time it is better to email than telephone. I wholeheartedly disagree.

    For example, this week I called a national to check the submissions email address. They confirmed the address and, as I mentioned the section I was pitching for, they tried to put me through to the editor. He wasn’t in but from his answerphone message I got his name, enabling me to pitch my proposal to a specific editor of a specific section.

    And sometimes you can really strike gold: I called a big international sports mag to get the name of the commissioning editor. As a bonus I was put through to him and spent twenty minutes discussing my proposal. During that time he made it clear what angle they would be looking for. The result? Less than 15 minutes after submitting my piece he replied with an acceptance and I was $300 better off.

    I still hate the phone but I’ve since even interviewed a celebrity and it was fine. Just have your questions printed out and actively listen. Stock phrases to use are: ‘How did that make you feel?’ and ‘Can you give me an example of..?’ if your interviewee tends to say little.

    PS. I highly recommend using Pamela for Skype and setting it to automatically record all calls. The link, if I may, is:

    1. Terreece M. Clarke Avatar

      Hey Neil,

      You make me want to calls some editors right now LOL! Those are great examples. Thanks for the info for Skype as well, I can’t seem to get the program to work for me (Skype) but I’ll give it a try again. I know those who have it up and going appreciate the info as well!

      Have a good one!

  4. Terreece M. Clarke Avatar

    Alina, you’re right. If someone truly has a social anxiety disorder telling them to get over it wouldn’t be helpful. However I expressly stated that my advice was for those who were battling a faux or false phobia. These are writers using stall tactics. Folks with genuine health issues are outside my expertise. Thanks for your comments!

  5. alanc230 Avatar

    I don’t like talking on the phone either – the whole fear of rejection thing. If I’m anticipating making a difficult phone call, I’ll jot down the most important things I want to say, in case I become tongue-tied and forget.

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