Start Your Week Off Write: Writing and the Fear of Failure

First, a news update:  I’d like to send a big ‘Thank You’ to Christy Farmer for nominating kristin nador writes anywhere for the Liebster Blog Award. It’s the first award this here little blog has gotten, and I so appreciate it. Please send Christy some blog love by checking out her great posts over at Christy Farmer. Now, on with the show…

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

I was catching up on my blog reading and found a great post over at Jeff Goins, Writer. He’s one of those awesome bloggers who does crazy things like point out the truth, ask questions and make you think. Jeff’s blog post ‘What Would You Do If You Couldn’t Fail?’ focused on how fear holds us back from doing what we really want to do because we are afraid to fail. Some of his thoughts I could really relate to both in my personal and my writing journey (although I’m not sure how you separate those at times, or if you should).

“…more often than not, we don’t fail. The things we fear will happen don’t.”

That was my experience when I drove to St. Louis to work on book research in August. I planned on going in May, but I conveniently got pneumonia. Not that pneumonia is ever convenient. Then a lot of life circumstances happened. Finally there was no excuse, in August I would only be an hour away from St. Louis visiting family. I started to make up excuses not to go: I was too tired from the visit, I would have to spend more money that wasn’t really in the budget right now, the weather was so hot I might get heat stroke. Crappy Excuse Trolls reared their fuzzy little heads by the dozen. (See Kristen Lamb’s blog for a definition of Crappy Excuse Trolls.)

crappy excuse troll reminder that sits on my desk - cute but deadly

The truth was that I was afraid. Afraid to do what I had never done before, afraid to be uncomfortable and push myself, and afraid that all my plans would evaporate into failure. So what did I do? I did it afraid.

“Fear is overcome like any enemy – inch by inch, one small victory at a time.”

If you wait until you are unafraid, you may not accomplish much. Stepping out in faith towards your dreams is scary, but small steps add up to a solid path moving towards where you want to be. The first time I took a writing class I thought I was going to throw up right in the classroom. You, start a new career in writing? At your age? What do you have to say that anyone would be interested in? But I did it afraid, and discovered writing was what I wanted to do.

The first time I had a short story read in a critique group, I felt as naked as a newborn baby. Surely, these writers will all laugh themselves out of their chairs with my horrible prose. But I did it afraid and received helpful and encouraging words.

So, despite the fear, two weeks ago I drove to St. Louis by myself and stayed for three days. I went here and there, exploring and taking photographs. The scariest thing of all? Walking into the research library of a museum and answering the librarian when he said in his Librarian Gatekeeper voice “Why are you here?” “I’m a writer doing research,” I managed to squeak out. I waited for the sky to fall, lightning to strike, the ground to swallow me, because surely I was the biggest liar on the face of the earth. You, a writer? The only thing that happened is that I discovered one very important thing: YOU are the one who gives your fears the power they hold over you.

“Nothing is holding you back now. You have permission. You can go back to being safe tomorrow.”

On the other side of your fears is freedom, and once you get a taste, you might not want to go back. Does fear of failure hold you back from making decisions towards your writing dreams? Be bold and make a decision, because no decision is still a decision. A decision to let fear hold you captive.

I encourage you to head on over to Jeff Goins’ blog and read the entire post ‘What Would You Do If You Couldn’t Fail?’ and post an answer to the question. And if you need more encouragement to face your writing fears, check out these links:

Question: Does fear of failure affect your writing? How? What small step could you take to conquer that fear?

15 thoughts on “Start Your Week Off Write: Writing and the Fear of Failure

  1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Iain. I loved your advice about thinking about the worst that could happen and seeing it was manageable. I agree there is a strange sense of fun in fear. When you do something that held power over you and you gain the power, it becomes fun. Seeing how things will turn out can be fun. Pushing through the fear can be fun. It’s the panic part I have to work on. 😉


  2. I’m a technophobe who is convinced that computer technology was brought to us by aliens and my biggest fear has been understanding and using social media. It took me forever to understand Twitter and the thought of adding widgets to my blog makes me break out in a sweat. But I’ve managed to make progress without bringing the Internet to a halt and causing a worldwide crisis. I try to look at every day as an oppurtunity to learn something new and most of the time, I succeed. Facing our fears can be very liberating.
    This is one of the best blogs I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for putting it out there.


  3. Well, you’re doing a pretty good job of pushing past the fear, Diana! Whether its technology or a social situation or career decisions, fear of the unknown is something everyone has to deal with, and I think living life successfully is confronting fear where we find it in the best way we know how. Avoiding fearful situations stifles forward movement. Thanks for the blog love, Diana. You are a wonderful and faithful commenter. 🙂


  4. Kristin, great blog and wonderful resources. Thank you. I go through life handling my fears by recognizing Plan A never works out and I need to be ready with Plan B. So I focus on shifting gears to keep from wallowing in the worries of what-ifs. But as a freelancer, I know exactly what you mean. When Plan A is in my control I can still obsess about interviewing a new source, getting the right tone to an article’s opener, and don’t even get me started about meeting a client for the first time. However, you’re exactly right–our fears rarely happen. Best of all, history allows us these same touch points to remind us “It ended up being a great experience the last time” or “The librarian/client/interviewee didn’t throw me out of the building.” We’ve all been there, and we’ll all be there again. Thanks for showing it happens to everyone.


  5. Hi Kristin (waves)
    I agree with Diana’s comment 100% in that facing fears can be very liberating and I do not fear rejection at all (or failure depending on one’s point of view 🙂 ) I am working on an upcoming blog post that will explore that theme and if all goes as *planned*…I may have to give your post on this a shout out too 😉 Great Post! 🙂


  6. Great post. We’ve all had to battle that fear in some form or another.

    I would also suggest reading Stephen Pressfield’s ‘The War of Art’. Here’s a link:

    I just finished this yesterday, and I read it all in one sitting. Pressfield speaks on Resistance, which often makes itself know in the forms of fear, procrastination, etc. He has solid advice for creative types looking to get over the battle with Resistance. I will be doing a longer review of this in the next day or so, but it seems to match up pretty well to what you were speaking on today. 🙂

    And congrats on showing that librarian who was boss! LOL!


    • That is in my Kindle TBR list (I have to disable that one-click purchase button!) 🙂 I will have to move it up the queue with your recommendation. You are always spot-on so I’ll look forward to the review. Resistance is a good word for the fears and behaviors we creative types confront. But Resistance must know, resistance is futile, we will win. 😉


  7. It’s a combination of ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu and ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron…..all wrapped up in Pressfield’s clear, no-BS style. I definitely recommend! 🙂


  8. Very good post. Fears are tricky things. You think you’ve overcome them, then ZAP! They’re suddenly back and seem worse than ever. I try different things at different times. Then I remind myself that I’ve always been an awful coward, but somehow I muddle through. So I just keep working. It also helps to read Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. There’s a chapter that deals with this topic by using a tiny picture frame. BBB is a wonderful encouragement to us scardy cats.
    Jackie King


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