This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.
Fear of Failure
None of us wants create something that doesn’t work, and so we naturally do all in our power to give our work its best chance at success. However, sometimes our attempts at avoiding failure can actually prevent us from making progress. In fact, at times our subconscious may believe that the best way to prevent failure is to prevent us from finishing.
The fear of failure can cause symptoms like:
- Difficulty making progress in your novel.
- Reluctance to try writing something new.
- Procrastination or a slowing of progress as the end of the story approaches.
- Becoming distracted by a new idea. (Yes, a plethora of ideas may actually indicate a hidden fear or barrier, e.g. fear of failure or a fear of completion.)
- Continual rounds of minute edits in an attempt to get the manuscript just right.
We may find ourselves worrying about what others will think about our work, and at times become anxious wondering if we’ve actually accomplished what we set out to write.
In order to work past this fear, we need to come to terms with the following:
- There is no such thing as perfect. Remember, aim for beauty, not perfection.
- A missed typo isn’t the end of the world. Even the most polished books have tiny mistakes. Don’t sweat it. Do your best and then move on.
- Stories are never really finished. There’s always something more you could tweak. Stop the endless revisions. Polish and then ship it. Send it out into the world and move on to the next thing.
- The real failure is never attempting something. If you’ve given something a go, then you’ve achieved success. Even if it didn’t turn out as you expected, you were adventurous and you learned along the way.
Some writers view the fear of failure as a good thing, even a marker that they’re on the right track. If they aren’t facing the possibility of failure then their project isn’t unique and interesting enough.
Failure isn’t the terrible thing it first appears, it’s simply the moment you discover something didn’t turn out quite as you planned. That may be a temporary disappointment or it may be an opportunity to learn a new way of doing something.
Whatever the outcome, it isn’t fatal (at least not in writing). So embrace the possibility of failure and keep going. It means you’re trying something worth doing.
Fear of the Writer Stigma
Some writers do not like calling themselves ‘writers’ because they worry what other people will think. They dread questions people may ask them about their writing, and they worry about how people view writers.
This fear shows itself in various ways, like:
- Refusal to use the term ‘writer’ when talking to others.
- Embarrassment to admit you spend your free time writing.
- Nervousness at gatherings where the topic of ‘What do you do for a living/hobby?’ may come up.
What you call yourself and your writing is up to you. Some writers prefer the term ‘author’ while others gravitate towards ‘storyteller.’
What’s most important is becoming relaxed and confident in yourself as a writer. Often our fear of what others think about us and our writing is actually a reflection of how we view ourselves and our writing. If we’re not comfortable being thought of as a writer others will pick up on that discomfort.
To overcome this fear, you could try the following:
- Begin calling yourself a writer when no one is around. Create a sign or a poster saying, “I am a writer.” Put up on your door or next to your computer – somewhere you will see it regularly. Become comfortable telling yourself you’re a writer.
- Make a list of the questions you’re afraid to answer. Your list may include questions like, “What have you had published?” and “What kind of things do you write?”
- Think of answers to the problem questions. Consider how you could answer each question in a sentence or two. For example, “I’m working towards publication at the moment actually. I sent out a query letter just this week.”
- Tell a stranger you are a writer. You may find telling a stranger is easier than telling a friend or family member. Next time you’re out shopping or at a party and a stranger asks you what you do, tell them you’re a writer. Notice their reaction. You might be pleasantly surprised.
- Work your way up to telling a friend or family member. Remember, first you need to be comfortable identifying yourself as a writer. Feel confident and at ease with the word, then allow it to naturally flow into the conversation. Then note the reactions of those around you. They may be more at ease too.
Even if you still find people less than enthusiastic about your writing life, that’s okay. You don’t need their approval to enjoy your writing. You write because you love doing it, and that’s the sign of a real writer.
Add your comment below. What questions do you dread hearing? When someone asks you an awkward writing-related question, how do you respond?
Right now I’m extra busy preparing my e-book for publication, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.
I’ve you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.
Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.
Thanks for dropping by.
May 9, 2014 at 2:11 pm
Reblogged this on Confessions of a published author and commented:
great post and very helpful
May 10, 2014 at 10:07 am
Thanks. 🙂 Glad you found it helpful.
May 10, 2014 at 10:32 am
Reblogged this on Robin L. Martinez and commented:
Awesome advice. I’m guilty of a lot of this 😦
May 10, 2014 at 10:41 am
You’re not alone! But it’s possible to work through the fears and come out the other side a stronger and happier writer. 🙂
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