Fighting Fear of Failure

Whether in our personal lives, professional lives, or writing lives, it’s not uncommon to fear failure. Oh, sure, we appear confident and self-assured, but fear lurks behind that veneer, and we stop short of succeeding. In essence, we guarantee our failure.

It’s time to stop that self-defeating mind-set and be honest with yourself. It takes a little practice to change an old habit of being self-critical or self-defeating, but anyone can do it. Here are some steps to get you started.

  1. Self-appraisal. Take a long, hard look at yourself. How do you rate your dedication to your writing? Do you write because you’re driven to it? Because you dream of being published? Because you have something to share? Once you’re clear about why you write, you’re more apt to give yourself permission to write–you’ll be more dedicated to it.
  2. Pinpoint the areas that stimulate your fear. Do you feel weak in character development, so you avoid that? Do you feel weak in description, so you avoid that? Do you focus on those writers who are wildly successful in their writing careers, then tell yourself that will never happen for you? Once you’re honest with yourself about what stimulates your fear, confront that negativity head on so you can defeat that anxiety.
  3. Analysis. This is a tough step because it requires you to separate legitimate fears from those irrational fears you generate yourself. It requires you sift fact from fiction. Granted, some fears are justified–such as if you don’t work and earn money to pay the rent or mortgage, you risk being homeless. But most things we fear don’t become reality, so do your analysis to see what’s creating your fear of failure.
  4. Action. To conquer fear, you must do something. For example, if you fear criticism of your writing, so you never share at writers group, take a chance and read at your next meeting. If you get any criticism, you decide whether you accept it or reject it. But at least you’ve broken through your barrier of not reading at writers group. Once you’ve done that you’ll probably read at the next meeting. That means you’ll have to write something, which is a good thing.

If fear of failure is holding you and your writing back, consider implementing these four steps. Fear can be mastered by modifying behavior. Instead of thinking something undesirable will happen, take some action to find out if it actually will. You may find people love your stories, your articles, or your book. If just one person encourages you with a smile or a comment, you’ve stepped onto the path to writing success and you’re closer to freeing yourself from your fear of failure. Happy writing!

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2 Responses to Fighting Fear of Failure

  1. Hi Sharon,
    I just subscribed to your blog today. I have been fighting and fearing failure in my writing for a year now. I have been so afraid to even send my manuscript to an editor. I do get compliments on my blogs about my humor and truthfulness. You’re right since more than one person enjoys my writing so far why couldn’t there possibly be others ? Thank You. This blog post was helpful.

  2. Angela,
    I am so pleased you’re giving yourself permission to share your writing. No one else in the world can (or will) write what you do. Actually, if you don’t share, you’re denying others the opportunity to read your writing, so why not go for it!

    There will be those who love your writing and others who don’t. Be thankful for those who do and shrug off those who don’t. After all, not everyone loves Stephen King or Danielle Steele or Mark Twain or F. Scott Fitzgerald, but enough do that those authors did okay.

    I’m so pleased I had some small part in your decision.

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