Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fear

There is a lot of fear when it comes to writing.

Fear of beginning--what if you can't finish? Fear of finishing--what if it isn't good enough? Fear of feedback--what if he/she/they hate it? Fear of querying. Fear of meeting new people--at conferences, in critique groups. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of bad reviews. Fear of not being able to do it all again in book two, book, three, book four. Fear of not being able to revise. Fear of not being able to revise well enough. Fear of rejection. Fear of rejection. Fear of rejection.

Which all adds up to something simple:

Fear of failure.

But there is another fear that is often overlooked.

Fear of success.

It easy to dismiss this fear. It's like a skinny girl who orders a salad--she already has a killer bod, why does she need to eat healthy, too?

But there's safety in failure. We forget that often. If we fail, we still have the chance to blame someone else. You can blame failure on anything and everything. Your book isn't good because you didn't have time. Your critique partner was bad. The publishing world is against you. You can still blame them, still walk out of the ring with your head held at least somewhat high. But success takes away the safety of failure. Success takes away the illusion that your work is anything but your work. Success strips away the armor and leaves you in the ring alone.

Ultimately, behind every single success story is a person. A naked, scared person without a stitch of armor on.

Stephanie Perkins shared this link of a TED speech by Elizabeth Gilbert that I found particularly insightful. It is totally, totally worth seeing, if you've not already. And if you have? Olay!

22 comments:

Lady Glamis said...

This is beautiful, Beth. I've had that Ted Video linked on my blog for about a year now. I watch it every time I feel low and scared. She is truly an inspiration.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That was amazing! I'm having a heart-to-heart with the sky or perhaps ceiling of my office right now...

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Love it! Thank you!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Thank you for this. It's a gift to every creative person who ever struggled with the twin fears of success and failure.

storyqueen said...

I love this clip. It's right up there with my new favorite quote (from Winston Churchill):

"If you're going through hell, keep going."

Is that the best, or what?

Shelley

Katie said...

So funny. I told Elana this one time - that I was more scared of succeeding really big than failing.

And I love that video. I heard it about a year ago and have watched it at least 4 times since. It always makes me cry.

Christina Farley said...

Fantastic post. So many important things to concider. Thanks for the video link. Very inspirational.

Corey Schwartz said...

What a GREAT post, Beth!!! You captured the feeling very well. The fear is sort of always there.. in good times and bad.

Chantal said...

This was really great. Thank you for sharing...Now I'm gonna go out and start sending my queries!

Vivian said...

I love this. Thank you!

Angela said...

I thought this was brillant--thanks for posting it. :-)

MeganRebekah said...

I saw this at Stephanie's blog and loved it!
And I definitely think that Fear is my greatest nemesis. Well, fear and John Grisham. :)

Crimey said...

Beth, thanks for posting this video. I've never seen it before and today as I struggle through some chapters edits, I feel inspired by the video to keep at it.

Marcia said...

Oh man, this is all so true! Another fear is fear of losing potential. As long as you're still an aspiring writer, with neither many rejections nor publications, you can live on your marvelous potential. To give up the potential for the actual, one way or another, is hard.

Solvang Sherrie said...

That fear is tricky to overcome. Thanks for the link to EG. She is so inspiring.

Susan Quinn said...

Thanks for the awesome, thought-provoking post and video. I think we often delude ourselves into thinking everything would be better "if only" we published, or sold a million books, or whatever. Finding peace where you are is key in so many ways.

Tricia said...

not sure how i stumbled onto your blog but so very glad i did! will be back to visit again. :)

Elana Johnson said...

I recently blogged about this too. It's so darn hard to get over your fears, even if they're of GOOD things. And I love that video. :)

Zoe said...

Great post. I just blogged about that the other day - http://zoecourtman.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-is-it-about-fear.html. I wasn't thinking so much about fear of success - but maybe I should be! Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Tabitha said...

Well... I have to say that I completely disagree with her. I think she has some valid points, like the daemon or genius, which has basically been translated into today's muse. That might be helpful for some people to share the burden of both success and failure. But that philosophy doesn't apply to everyone. It's too specific.

The real problem comes down to one's own self-confidence (believing in yourself, not having a big ego). If you believe in yourself, then you will be able to let the fear roll off of you. If you don't, then the fear will find places to grab hold and hang on.

The real solution is to search within yourself for ways to let that fear go, and chances are you will be left holding on to the love you have for your work.

Interesting topic...a blog post is forming in my mind right now. :)

Juliane Haley said...

I loved this post! I've just found your blog and am excited to keep up with it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the video on fear. :)

Jillian Sullivan said...

How do you keep going with a creative project when doubt and rejection loom larger than belief?
For years I wrote one unpublished novel after another. I knew about the struggle to create, all right. I had 5 children to support. I loved writing and the texture of a sentence. Yet I faced such doubts that at times I almost couldn't carry on.

It was easier at the start, when I could still believe in the possibility of success. I wrote seven novels before one was published. How to keep going? I still didn't know. I was stuck halfway through yet another novel and nervous about taking on a project to write a mythology textbook. A writer friend, Bridget, and I came up with a plan ~ we would text each other two random words at night and in the morning, before dawn, we would make something out of them. In this way we would shortcut doubt and procrastination and begin each day already being writers.
On the third day, I started to write what seemed like lectures from a guide I called Godfrey. I thought I would photocopy them for Bridget. On the day I wrote there were fifty more lectures to come, I realised it was a book length project. I wrote almost every dawn over a winter, in my house beside the sea. I wrote a book I didn't set out to write and I did it without thinking, without stopping, for twenty minutes a day. That was the first thing I learnt ~ that by simply doing it, something would grow.
I went on and wrote the myth book, finished the novel, published two more. The fear has mostly gone. Doubt still lives on and procrastination thrives in many guises. But after meeting Godfrey in these pages, I think I know enough now to carry on.
Jillian Sullivan