Monday, August 12, 2013

Fear of Success?

A couple of years ago, I read a blog post from someone who seemed interested in writing. I don't remember the entire post, but what stood out to me was that they held back on something they were interested in because of their deep fear of success. At least, I think it was a deep fear. Not that it matters for the sake of this post.

It got me thinking: what does fear of success look like? And as I thought about it over the following years, I came to the conclusion that I have no idea.

In various areas of my life, I do face a lot of fears. Most of them are minor and barely affect me, but they do remind me of the fact that life isn't easy. As far as my writing is concerned, I do fear failure. It's something that I think about from time to time, and with the lack of forward-progress in my career thus far, it sometimes feels like a looming presence over my life. But I don't give up because that would be REAL failure.

As I work through the final edits to this current project, knowing for a FACT that it's the BEST book I've EVER written (because I've learned SO much over the years!), I start thinking about the possibility of moving to the next step in my writing career. My fear in that area is a simple fear of the unknown. I don't know what the next step will look like. I don't know how I'll have to go about producing more work, what my job situation will look like, or even who may be representing me as I move toward publication.

I don't even know IF I'll get this book published.

But am I afraid of success? I still don't know what that looks like.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't about belittling someone else's genuine struggle. I don't think less of anyone for mental and/or emotional roadblocks that might standing in their way. In fact, the whole point of this post is that I really don't UNDERSTAND what that fear looks like, and I'm trying to "think out loud" in the hope that I might be able to comprehend a different mindset.

At the end of the day, though, success is why I work as hard as I do. And it's why I'm trying to work even harder every day. Yes, fear of the unknown makes me want to crawl into a hole and hide, but it also makes me want to move forward and take those unknown circumstances by the collar and "work out a solution" to any "problems" that they might bring my way.


  1. I have an idea... because I DO suffer from fear of success. Fear of success looks like a handful (at least 8, maybe more) novel length manuscripts languishing as first drafts on an old floppy disk somewhere, or a thumb drive, or even as printed out, half marked up hard copies. Fear of success is not knowing what the next step is and thus not pushing forward to get to that next step. It is abandoned projects. It is starting over again and again and again on the same project. It is bragging about writing a novel in 30 days, NaNoWriMo Style, and then not editing it or moving it on to the frightful "next step." That is what fear of success is.

    Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the fear of failure and the fear of success. There is a fine line between the two. I think I actually have both. But not to a point where it cripples me. I still write almost every day. I still think about my current WiP as often as I can. I still beg the Sandman to send me ideas for what happens next. But I have yet to finish a novel length manuscript to the point of submitting it to agents.

    Like I said, I have a ton of first drafts. Even a few revised first drafts. But nothing beyond that.

    I'm hoping being part of an awesome critique group will really help me and push me to get to that next step.

    1. I think that's where the disconnect is in my own brain. To me, all of those examples sound like a fear of failure. And I definitely relate to ALL of your examples as I've experienced each one at some point, and many of them simultaneously. Maybe my REAL disconnect, though, is that the blogger I was referring to let their fear of success keep them from starting up any projects. Because I AM afraid of what comes next, especially because I don't KNOW what comes next. But with that fear comes excitement. It's like buying a new house, starting a new job, or getting married. Everything about my life COULD change, and probably will, but many things may stay exactly the same.

      Thanks for sharing and giving me some insight. As writers I think it's important for us to lean on each other for support, especially when we're afraid.

      Am I going to see you at the RMFW conference this fall?