In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure

–Bill Cosby

Fear, Fear, and more Fear

I’ve written a lot of blog posts about writer’s block and rejection and many of the other things that plague most writers, including fear. This past week I’ve been absolutely crippled by fear and I am writing this blog post in hopes that writing it will force me to follow my own advice and get over this fear.

The first thing that I have learned about writing and fear is that, for me, fear of success is actually far more powerful than fear of failure. When people ask me what’s getting in my way, I can’t say writer’s block because, as I’ve written before, writer’s block is a myth.

I was writing along at a fairly rapid pace. Then, a group of agents told me that they liked what they read and that my story actually had some potential. This news actually crippled me for a couple weeks. I was so scared of failing to live up to the expectations of the agents that I let that get in the way of my writing.

Now, I’m over 70% of the way through one pass through my manuscript (I work on it in sweeps, editing in large chunks to preserve continuity). Every morning I wake up and my first thought is: I hate my story. My second thought is: the story isn’t tight enough. And my third thought is: It’s not worth finishing this story because nobody will ever read or enjoy it.

This last thought is the death knell for a writer and I realize this and have to force myself to suppress that thought every time I sit down to write.

The subconscious mind plays tricks on your conscious mind. It plays these tricks when you are trying to get over an addiction, convincing you that you cannot function without the object of your desire (my preciousssssss!).  It tells you that you should give up now because it is actually trying to spare you the pain you might feel if you spend another 8 months on this book and it fails.

The trick is to ignore the little voice in your head. Lately, I’ve been giving this voice too much power, too much power to prevent me from writing and to prevent me from doing the thing I enjoy doing most – creating stories.

So, if you happen to be one of the two people who actually read this blog, take heart. You have the ability to tell that voice to screw off and that you’re going to finish your book because it needs finishing, not because you think it’ll get published or because you think it’ll be a bestseller or even because you think one person might read it.

You’ll finish your book because you have a story that needs an ending and that’s that.

Now to follow my own advice. I’ll post sometime next week to let you know how much I have gotten over the feeling that my story is terrible, and we’ll see how much closer to the ending I have come.

  • Ann

    Hi, Michael! I enjoyed this post. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” :)