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 Success
There are times when the very thing we think we want is the cause of our greatest fear. Fear of success can come in many forms, ranging from a simple avoidance of situations where our work might be seen to unconscious acts of self-sabotage.
The signs of this fear are many and varied. They may include:
- Inability to finish writing projects.
- Making excuses or blaming others for your lack of motivation.
- Avoiding opportunities to submit your work.
- Panic at what other people may say about your achievements.
Fear of success is not as easily treated as some of the other fears we’ve discussed in this chapter. It can often come from deep-seated, emotional causes which are unique to each individual. If you find this fear preventing you from making progress in your writing life, then you may need to consider turning to a writing coach or therapist for extra help.
At a basic level, fear of success can come from the belief that you are not worthy of reaching your dreams. Low self-worth may lead you to think you’ll never be one of those people who actually ‘make it.’
You may also believe that becoming successful will change you somehow – that once you’re rich and famous the things that make you you will disappear.
The path to overcoming this fear depends on the reasons for your feelings, which are unique to each person. A therapist or coach can advise you on the best route for you to take.
However, there are a few things that apply to everyone:
- Think positive. Unfortunately, we often become self-fulfilling prophecies. If we spend time focusing on the negatives, then more negatives will appear. Conversely, thinking positive thoughts, such as being grateful for the things and people around us, can lift our spirits.
- Be deliberately kind to yourself. It can be much easier to say kind and encouraging things to others than to say them to ourselves. Imagine you are talking to a dear friend who is battling with the same problems you are. Write down what you would say to that friend, and then start each day by reading your message back to yourself.
- If you’re worried that success will change your best qualities, then write out a ‘pact’ with yourself expressly dictating what aspects of your personality you wish to remain the same. Remember though, with or without success, you will continue to change as you age. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to grow and experience new things.
- Check your definition of success. Do you have a balanced view of yourself and your plans? Write out the type of success you’re expecting and how you feel about it, and then ask an experienced friend or mentor to go over it with you. Listen for any insights they may offer.
While it’s important not to pin our self-worth on pursuing or reaching success, it’s also important to have a good opinion of ourselves. There will always be things we won’t like about ourselves – that’s part of being human. Finding things we like about ourselves may be a little more challenging, but the search can also be rewarding.
Fear of Not Being Able to Reproduce Success
Although it seems counterintuitive, success in your writing (through publication, or through recognition of some description) can actually make it harder to write your next project.
The signs of this fear are:
- Avoiding your scheduled writing sessions.
- Never being happy with your words.
- Becoming timid or predictable when making writing decisions, for fear doing something new would risk disappointing people.
- Rereading your past work in the hope you’ll be able to find the magic formula.
So why does this fear come after success? Usually because we feel the bar has now been set, and anything we write after that has much to live up to. We may even feel that we could never write something that good ever again.
One of the causes of this fear is not having enough understanding of what makes a successful book. If success comes early in our writing careers, we may not yet understand exactly what we did to achieve that success, therefore how to reproduce it is a completely mystery to us.
Another reason is the belief that we now have to meet the expectations of our editor, publisher, readers or reviewers. If our debut novel is met with acclaim, we believe everyone will be expecting the next book to be even better. This belief adds extra pressure to every word we write, and may even cause us to consider giving up on writing all together.
Here are a few things you can try to counteract this fear.
- Start your next novel as soon as your first is in the mail, or up on Amazon. Get straight back into writing. Don’t leave a gap to see how things go with your first book. You’re a writer, so write.
- Avoid idolizing a certain reader or reviewer. Write for a type of person, not a specific person.
- Choose writing projects that interest you. Avoid writing something just because you feel you have to. If it’s a chore to write, then your trademark sparkle won’t be there.
- Continue learning about your trade. Learn what makes a gripping first chapter, what keeps readers turning pages throughout your book, what brings characters to life. The more you know about writing, the more effectively you will weave your tales.
- Find yourself a writing coach, or an experienced friend who can talk you through your worries, offer you reliable feedback and serve as your cheerleader to point out the things you’re doing well.
- Most importantly, make sure you are enjoying your writing life. If you’re afraid that you won’t be able to write another novel your readers will love, then write a novel just for you.
The best writing happens when a writer is enjoying themselves. If you’re not enjoying yourself, take the time to understand why and then try to find a solution.
Add your comment below. Have you faced fear of success? What steps have you taken to overcome it?
My writing is my living, and I’m currently working under some tight deadlines for upcoming fiction projects, 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.
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