Choose Your Fear — The Fear of Not Succeeding

By Laura Drake

We were talking at crit group the other night. Our “throwdown” blogs have grown into more than we’d planned originally.  In case you missed them, they were:

Plot vs. Character –

  • I took the Character side here
  • Fae took the plot side here.

Linear Writing vs. Non-linear –

  • I took linear side here
  •  Jenny took the dark non-linear side here.

Originally, we thought to interject some humor, give some helpful links, and make everyone on either side of the issue feel like they weren’t alone. But we’ve gotten a lot more than that from it. I didn’t expect to, but I stepped out of my own viewpoint to see how the other half lives – and it’s not very often as an adult that you get to do that. It’s been fascinating to hear our reader’s views and we learned from you all.

So we decided to dig deep this time and explore the fear we writers deal with, on the road to publication. There are certainly enough fears to go around, but we thought they fell into two main categories; the fear of not succeeding, and the fear of success.

As usual, I fall on the rat’s tail of the bell curve into the first camp (gee, there seems to be a pattern emerging here, huh?) I can’t understand why you’d embark on a road that you were afraid of getting to the end of. But I’m sure when Fae takes the other side, I’ll understand better.

My fear is that I’ll die before I succeed.

If you follow our blog, you know that I’ve been at this writing gig a long time. Over 13 years.  I’m a late-bloomer, and my family is not long lived, so this is not an idle fear. Around 40, I woke up to the reality that I had less time ahead of me than behind. It was time to stop whining and start testing my beliefs about what I could and couldn’t do, to see if they were valid.

The first I belief was, “I can’t ride a motorcycle.” My hubby knows me too well; he bought me a motorcycle. I wasn’t going to let that beautiful thing sit in the garage, taunting me by getting dusty. I was terrified. But I did it anyway, and I learned that you can survive in white-knuckled terror for six months. My theory was that I just had to keep at it and it would get better. And it did.

Well, hell, if I could do that . . .

My desire to write has been at the back of my mind since junior high. It turned out to be much tougher skill to learn than motorcycling.  And through all 13 years, I’ve heard a clock, ticking off the seconds, the days, in my brain.

I wrote three novels and sent each of them to 125 agents (yes, I’m the original spammer,) before signing with an agent in July of this year. Yay, success! Well, kind of. I celebrated for a week, until I realized the clock hadn’t stopped. In fact the ticking was getting louder. After all, my goal wasn’t to get an agent; it was to hold a book in my hand with the name on the cover.

So here I sit, terrified that I’ll get hit by a bus before I get an offer. Or worse yet, that I get the opportunity grow old and then die before I have a book published. It sounds stupid to write this but I promised to dig deep, and that’s what keeps me up at night.

Not the bus part – if it’s my time, I’m happy to go. I just want to finish this one thing first!

Okay, I really would like to hear from you – what are you afraid of?

I’ll leave you with some inspiring links, to let you know you’re not alone. And don’t forget to check back  on Wednesday, when Fae digs deep into the other side.

Encouraging success story: http://jennybent.blogspot.com/2009/12/meet-mandy-author-and-agent-who-never.html

An injection of humor: http://writersof.thepurplesage.org/writing-encouragement/

Encouraging words from famous authors: http://www.forwritersandreaders.com/write/encourage/

http://storyfix.com/motivation-the-success-story-of-a-self-published-author

http://www.aspiesforfreedom.com/showthread.php?tid=10450

Oh — just one more thing. If I do get hit by that bus, will someone please print the photo to the left for my husband?

He’s going to need it.

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42 Responses to Choose Your Fear — The Fear of Not Succeeding

  1. You are a she-devil, Laura. Considering our exchange this w/e you already know I am like a deer stuck in the headlights. No spam here. I suffer from … “I’ll just fix it one more time.” “Let me think about it for another–” And down and down I go, round and round I go … it’s that old black magic called … fear🙂

    I told someone I always knew I’d live to be at last 90, but that’s no reason to wait until I’m pushing eighty to stop being afraid. So fine, stop nagging. I’ll do it🙂

  2. Stacy Green says:

    Timely post for me. I have a huge fear of failure, and it’s something I deal with every day. Am I wasting my time? Should I say to heck with it and go back to work? Am I going to disappoint everyone?

    All I know is that if I don’t push forward, I’ll regret it forever.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Laura Drake says:

      Yes, Stacy, that’s the rub, isn’t it? Personally, I’d much rather know where I stand, so I can do what I have to do to correct the problem. Sitting wondering would drive me batty!

      Push on, girlfriend, and know you have lots of us in the boat with you!

  3. Laura Drake says:

    Yeah Florence – you’ll live til 90. But don’t forget the ‘bus factor!’
    Go send it off – NOW!!!

    See why the other WITS bloggers find me irritating? Well that, and the getting up, perky at 3 am…

  4. Ooh, great post, Laura. I have no sense of direction which has enabled my fear of driving. I’d boxed myself in to the point where I only drove within ten miles of our house. Any further and my husband drove. Then last spring, I decided to attend a writing workshop which was a three hour trip from my home. I shored up my nerve, convinced my mom to come with me and visit my sisters while I attended the workshop, and we hopped in the vehicle and made the journey. I only got lost once but discovered the fear was all in the buildup to the trip and not in the actual driving itself. Now I’m trying to take that lesson into my writing life. Fear is what holds us back and keeps us from making progress.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Oh thanks SO much for posting, Sheila. I didn’t address this, but it’s so true.
      When we actually stop, turn, and face the fear, it’s never as bad as we pictured in our minds!
      The best remedy is to practice doing this – yes, it’s hard, but as you showed, the results are so worth it!

      I’m with you on the ‘no sense of direction’ thing. I didn’t realize how much I stressed about this (I can’t read a map, either, which makes it worse!) until I got a new car with the nice lady who talks to me. How freeing!

  5. Oh, Laura. I’m going to have to stop letting you go first. How can I top this? Loved the cartoon at the end. Don’t worry, I’ll give him a tutorial if necessary!
    Love,
    Fae

  6. Laura Drake says:

    Fea,
    What do you mean, ‘if necessary?’ You’ve met the Lazy-boy dweller – you KNOW I’m not kidding!

  7. I fear facing two H U G E projects at once. Life project and Work project…which one comes first when both are SO important? I know women are fantastic multitaskers, but how do you juggle boulders?? Without taking Adderal or Speed😛

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh man…I hope the Dirty Fighting contest isn’t one of the projects – it’s done tomorrow!🙂

      I get wiggy about big projects too and just have to set timed sprints and see how far I get. Otherwise, I get paralyzed with fear about “will I get it done.” The fear means I DON’T get it done, adding to more fear. It’s ugly…

      • Laura Drake says:

        I’m with you, Jenny. If I look at the big picture, I go tharn (Watership Down, Richard Adams)
        If I break it into manageable chunks and put one foot in front of the other, I’ve at least got a shot at it!

      • LOL – I am on the ball on that one – rt now. Will have it to you by 10pm or before.

        Nah, I mean like FRICKEN H U G E projects. Starting biz and thinking about starting a family simultaneously…………………

  8. Kerry says:

    Laura, your perseverance is INSPIRING, especially since I’m querying my FIRST manuscript and freaking out at feedback from two agents as I tell myself to “heel” and not rush and revise–AGAIN– the first few chapters. What a subjective business this is! The need to believe in yourself and your writing is so true (and so dang hard, and so easy to forget). That’s my fear… that I stop believing in my story and why I created my character the way I did. I was so happy when I read on the RWA-WF loop you landed an agent. Kudos to you and for pushing yourself and going after your dreams. Like I said, inspiring. It helps to keep all of us motivated. All best, K

    • Laura Drake says:

      Oh Kerry, thanks so much! Keep submitting, because oddly enough, one of the thihgs that made me believe in my writing was — rejection! I know, sounds strange, but the more rejections I got, the more determined I was — to learn more, to improve. But you have to get those calluses first, and they only come from rejection!

      What a weird thing we’ve chosen to do! But I wouldn’t have it any other way – would you?

  9. I used to vacillate between both fears – not succeeding and wasting my life, or succeeding in getting the first book out only to find I’m incapable of “the rest” or dislike what I’m told I have to do or in some way self-sabbotage. BUT those fears evaporated once I self-published! It’s not an easy road nor one everyone would enjoy traveling. But now I feel like I’m in control of anything that *can* be controlled and I’m happy to succeed or fail on my own merits with no one else to blame. For me, this is VERY exciting! And best of all, I’m back to being excited about the adventure!

  10. davidandersonauthor says:

    We all suffer from these insecurities, don’t we?

    I try, always, to pick myself up and get going again. That is usually after I have wasted a lot of time avoiding the particular problem I am having that day!

    • Laura Drake says:

      I can relate, David. I remember getting tough feedback from a contest, and it kept me from writing for a month! A month gone that I’ll never get back…I’ll probably wish I had that month, on the back end of my life…

  11. Laura Drake says:

    So proud of you, Kitty, for not letting anything get in the way of your dream. I’m 1/3 thru your book, and it’s great! You guys want cute, clever, funny and sexual tension? Check out Little Miss Lovesick on Amazon!

    • Aw, you’re so awesome, Laura! I’m so excited to write Bad Lane Karma soon – I’ll be thinking about you the whole time. Motorcycle dude named Edge. I can’t wait! LOL! I’ll have to ask you lots of research/reference questions! 😉

  12. Lena Corazon says:

    Wonderful post, Laura! I was just pondering this question this morning, thinking about the MA thesis that I NEED to finish. I’m much more self-conscious about my academic work than I am about my fiction work, and that might be one reason why after an extra year or so, I’m not finished with my darn project. I am trying very hard to put aside the terror, focus on the fun of my research and writing everything up, and finishing.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Lena (wow, you’ve got a super author name!) the funny thing about not finishing is that your brain never forgets. I put off finishing my degree for years. . . it sat in my psyche, whispering “Loser” in my ear. It took forever for my to stop believing it and go back to school. Learn from my mistake! Go finish!
      Good luck!

  13. markhstevens says:

    G-r-e-a-t post. If your manuscripts read this well, you have nothing to worry about. I occasionally run into writers who seem sort of la-dee-dah about their progress and lack thereof. I really can’t relate. If you are tapping the well of determination inside yourself and channeling that to your characters and stories, your writing will have enough power to attract all the right people, including publishers and many fans….and that will all happen long before any close encounters with public transportation.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Right back at you, Mark – erudite – I want to read what you write!!!

      I don’t lack motivation (in fact I’m always trying to give away my extra to my friends, who may or may not want it) but I fear the lack of time!

  14. Brinda Berry says:

    Laura,
    I share some of the same concerns. I wish I had started trying this hard on the writing goals twenty years ago. I’ll tell you what I’m REALLY scares me. What if I miss that random opportunity because I did one less thing than I should have? One less tweet, one less manuscript, one less query letter…..

  15. Laura Drake says:

    Brinda, thank God I don’t have that fear — I think that would be worse than mine!
    And it’s one we hadn’t considered…the “it’s-gotta-be-perfect-and-someone-stole-the-rulebook” fear.

    Yikes.

    I guess all you can do is know that your brain lies to you, and push on regardless.

  16. The question is really at what point to you give in to pressure and compromise dreams? If you’re a writer, dreams are life. Aspirations are needed regardless. There is always fear of the unknown, is my work good enough, will my dreams ever come true and so forth. In reality you need to say, yeah the clock is ticking but would I have any regrets? And when those dreams come true you’re just going to find a new dream… it is life.🙂

    • Laura Drake says:

      Phillip, I always thought the worst thing that could happen to me, was to sit on a porch, when I’m 85, watch the world go by, and say, “I wish . . . .”

      I may try and never make it, but I’m NOT going to be on that danged porch (buses withstanding) saying that! I’m not — I’m not — I’m NOT!

  17. Karen Lin says:

    Enjoyed your post. What am I afraid of? Success and lack of success. I’ve been going at this longer than you…keep at it. Addiction.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Yes Karen, it’s all just talk when you’ve got the bug, isn’t it? I couldn’t stop if I tried anyway! Keep at it….even if we don’t suceed, we’ll be farther ahead at the end than if we hadn’t, right?

  18. Ron H says:

    My greatest fear is lying on my death bed thinking…
    “I wish I would have tried THAT when I had the opportunity!”
    B^)

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