You are a writer and you want to be an author. But you may be sabotaging your success from fear. Remember the famous quote by Franklin Roosevelt:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
I never really understood this quote until i started working in a previous career with people who wanted to start their own businesses I saw all kinds of self-sabotaging behaviors. Like the people who couldn’t close on a deal to buy a business or they couldn’t find the “perfect” location, or they looked for loans but gave up after a few “No’s” from banks.
Recently, I realized these same fears sabotage writers too.
Why does fear paralyze us?
1. Old voices. We all have voices in our heads, from times when someone (parent, friend, spouse) told us: “You can’t make a living as a writer.” “There are too many writers; you will never be able to break through.” “You can’t afford to quit your day job.” You may have heard one or more of these old voices. As long as we listen to these voices, and let their fears overwhelm us, we can’t move on.
2. Perfectionism. It’s great to want to do things well, but we often are way too picky about how things must be. We get stalled on that first draft, trying to make the first 50 pages perfect, when really just need to plow through and ‘git ‘er done.’
A friend gave me the best advice about writing:
“My rotten published book is better than your perfect unpublished one.”
3. Fear of Writing Rules. We figure we have to start at the beginning and work toward the end, in some kind of specific sequence. We are afraid that the Writing Gods will smite us if we deviate from the linear approach. When we (invariably) get stuck we figure there’s no way around. No necessarily. James Scott Bell, for example, suggests you start in the middle.
You can start anywhere, stop anywhere, work from anyplace, to any other place. The only rules are the ones you make yourself.
How to overcome fear of writing success
Note that the title of this post is “fear of success.” Some psychologists believe that we fear success because the emotions we feel when successful are too close to the emotions experienced when we are anxious.
Mindtools says we fear success:
- Because we will have to change our lives
- Our relationships might change for the worse
- We fear the added work, responsibilities, and criticism (i might have to do a book tour!)
- We might be asked to do things we don’t want to do.
Failure is simple, but success is more complex. The sooner you get over your fear of success, the sooner you get where you want to be – a published author.
1. First, define your nightmare. What is the worst thing that could happen if you fail in your writing career? Spend some time creating a worst-case scenario. Then consider two factors: probability and severity. These are insurance terms, but they apply to many areas of life. First, what’s the probably of failure (on a scale of 0% (never happen) to 100% (guaranteed to happen). Be realistic. Then look at the severity – the cost – of failure. Consider costs as time and money. While I’m not a fan of dwelling on the negative, i do believe you need to look under the bed to convince yourself there really are no monsters under there (like Grover).
For many would-be authors, the only cost is time, because they have a full-time job or some means of support. Even if the probability is relatively small, the cost is also low, so why not give it a try? Convincing yourself you have the time to spend on this without a major negative cost is a good way to get past some of your fears.
2. Then, look at the steps you could take to repair the damage. How could you get your life back on track if you fail at your writing career? Could your ego recover? Some authors have put manuscripts away for years, only to get them out again when the time is right.
3. Consider the outcomes and benefits of positive scenarios. Think about what your life would look like in a “best case” scenario. Creating a positive, specific image of what you could be, and keeping focused on that image, is a wonderful way to overcome fears. Several years ago, I created a poster with photos of my goals (a house in Florida, a dog, a best-seller). Seeing the things I want happen gives me encouragement and helps beat back those fears.
4. Prepare to succeed. Start taking baby steps to your goals. Do one small task every day that will move you toward publication of your first novel or memoir or book of poetry. You don’t have to write 2,000 words a day, but you do have to something every day, even if it’s just writing a blog post or posting something writing-related to Facebook. I keep a writing progress spreadsheet, so I can see how much I’ve done.
Onward and upward!