Conquer fear of failure! (avoid self-sabotage)


by Janet Lane

(Share freely with proper


I have a friend who writes vivid, powerful prose. He’s overcome tremendous personal odds in his private life and decided four years ago to write fiction. He’s completed two novels, researched the market and sent out partials, and currently holds two requests for a full manuscript from a good agent and a New York publisher.

He’s there, poised on the brink of being published, but insists on revising, changing the story. After seven months of trivial picking and polishing–and not responding to the requests for his full manuscripts–he has now decided to change the genre of the novel!

Another writer friend of mine quit, simply quit writing. She hit the brick wall of her final chapter and suddenly encountered myriad family problems so pressing that she couldn’t find even an hour a day to write the final pages. Frozen in time, her novel characters languish.

Perhaps you know some writers like these, good friends with a precious dream who sacrifice and work to achieve their dreams, only to put their own foot out to trip themselves and they stumble, just shy of achieving their goals.

Maybe–just maybe–you’re plagued with the same, internally-based resistance.

Romance writer Jody Dawson spoke of the Fear of Success at a Pikes Peak Writers conference. In her presentation, Jody said we have three goals as writers:

* share a message of hope

* get successfully published

* achieve moderately wonderful recognition

There are three major reasons this won’t happen:

* you won’t finish the book

* you won’t find an agent or editor

* you’ll get dead-ended

Fear of Success. How sick is that? What drives writers who have sacrificed so much to learn craft, joined writers’ and critique groups and battled through first chapters and murky middles, only to throw in the towel in the eleventh hour?

What can we do to avoid killing our own dreams?

I took a self-motivating class at DU many years ago, and the professor (whose name, I regret, has been lost along with my class notes) introduced me to the concept of mental alignment. At the time I was struggling to find a way to successfully quit smoking, which I did after several failed attempts and after absorbing this concept.

Acknowledge the fear.

One strategy I learned was that of acknowledging my fear. I am afraid. There, I said it. Nothing to be embarrassed about, but we try to hide it, don’t we? This simple act of acknowledging (note I didn’t say admitting because it’s nothing we are guilty of, which is an important distinction.)

Identify the fear.

What shakes your knees? Fear of failure or fear of success? Tomorrow I’m focusing on the most widely recognized fear: fear of failure.



Filed under success techniques, The Writing Life

2 responses to “Conquer fear of failure! (avoid self-sabotage)

  1. Janet, you are absolutely right! We must acknowledge our fears. Somehow or another we have been socialized to believe that we must be strong and not show our weaknesses. Well, I know that it takes more strength to really be in touch with our emotions. Once we say “yes, I am afraid, I have monsters” (as I like to call them), then we have the power to take control and make positive changes. How can we overcome our fears, if we can’t even acknowledge them?
    Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work!

    • redplume

      Thanks, Cindy. It isn’t magic, but it is powerful personal empowerment. Have a fabulous day – which I know you do, every day! –Janet

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