Why Not? — Fear of Failure

by LimebirdRaven

My dad was a work-aholic.  He decided to check out of his home life when things got a bit difficult.  He definitely taught me to work hard, but he didn’t teach me much else since he wasn’t a present force in my life.  The only other thing he really taught me was to be terrified (not just scared) of failing. For over a year now I’ve been stuck on my Pandora story.  Things got a little complicated for me and I chickened out.  I’ve had some good reasons for not working on it, but I’ve also had a lot of excuses.  I’m scared to put that much effort into something only to have it fail and it to all be a waste.  So in my dumb logic, apparently I decided it was better not to try than to try and have even a tiny chance for success.  Insert applause here.

Well, I’m still stuck and I have no idea what direction to take the PK story from here.  I really need more time to research Greek civilization.  Still…no matter how long it takes me given that I’m working and in school–both full time, I really want to finish PK and another project I’m working on writing.

The heart of the matter is this…I’d rather know that I’ve done all that I can to accomplish something in my life, to know that I wasn’t just a waste of space.  I want to have a reason for being.  I’ve never found one, so I’ll create one.  For now..that is Pandora.  Even if it fails, at least I tried, right?  Why not??

What is your fear?  What is your purpose?  What do you do to overcome your fears and implement your purpose?


49 Comments to “Why Not? — Fear of Failure”

  1. Great post Raven, I think we all have a bit of this in us. The fear of failure holding us back. I definitely have this with the thought of publishing, I just never think I’ll be good enough, never. I still have that fear, but I’m hoping to overcome it some day.

    • Beth, whether you are good enough or not, you’ll never make any progress without trying. This is what I’m trying to teach myself. Sometimes you just have to do it no matter how scared you are. I self-published something I probably never should have with my lack of experience. A year later, I was floored to get an email stating I had a $30 royalty check. Two weeks ago I got a second one just like it! It was totally crazy actually claiming a royalty on my tax return. I’m still scared all the time, but I keep trying to tell myself just to do it anyways. It’s the only way I can keep going…

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think I’m facing the same type of fear. It’s paralyzing and frustrating. Here’s to hoping we find our way out of it soon 🙂

    • I may never find a way. We just have to find the courage to keep going, no matter what. Even now I’m kicking myself in the butt for saying this to you and not listening myself. It’s hard. I know it is. I may never get over it, who knows. My father never did. He spent 17 yrs getting a degree in accounting and was too scared to take the CPA exam. He spent his life in someone else’s shadow, paying him to sign all the returns he worked on. I don’t want to be that person.

  3. I quit my full-time job to focus on writing and publishing. Best decision ever. I’m happy and I’ll never die thinking “What If” (unless I die today or tomorrow. Then, yes.)

  4. Oh yes, I can identify! My novel’s been lying idle for more than five years, still uncompleted. But a new wind’s blowing and I’ve picked it up again because really you have nothing to lose, only to gain. Try thinking ‘I’m going to finish this novel’ and then see how that feels compared to ‘I’ll never finish it.” Then decide which feeling you prefer 😉 Good luck! Emmy

  5. You only fail if you give up! Like Rebecca above, I left a full time job to take a risk on writing – sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.

  6. Honestly, I feared success more than failure. There aren’t any pressures when you fail. It’s relatively easy. But if you succeed at something, suddenly there are demands. You need to do it again, better than before. You need to keep doing it. You might have to deal with people (depending on what it is you’ve succeeded at). But, whatever your fears, you can overcome them and move on. All you need to do is recognizing, punch it in the nose, and walk away. Game on! 🙂

    • Oi! That put a lot of my fears into words and now my heart is fluttering wildly in my chest. YIKES!! Punch that fear of failure and even greater fear of success in the face!! Umm…where would that be, again? Just kidding. Maybe someone should give me a big kick in the butt!

  7. Thanks, Raven for a really brave post.
    Mine is only one person’s experience, but for what it’s worth, I got more joy and sense of fulfillment from working on my writing technique and finding my voice; researching, writing and editing my novel, than I had in completing it. As the old saying goes, “it’s sometimes better to travel hopefully than to arrive.”
    The important thing is to keep enjoying your writing, because for many (me included) it’s not always an easy journey.
    But as i say that’s only one viewpoint, and we writers are a very mixed bunch, with lots of different hopes and expectations.

  8. I was nodding my head all through that! Very best of luck with it – although remember not to put yourself under *too* much pressure, it’s still meant to be fun 😉

  9. How long have you got? When it comes to fear of failure I could write for England! My speciality being fear of emotional rejection. Provides so many reasons not to finish the book! Paul

    • Paul, I don’t really have a deadline. It’s the first book I’ve ever attempted. I personally would like to finish it this year, but with all my other responsibilities I’m not sure that will happen. I just have to keep trying.

      I understand completely about the fear of emotional rejection. As well as being an example of fear, my father took every opportunity to tell me how anything I did wasn’t good enough. Then he just stopped talking to me altogether, which at the time I took as being my fault. I know now that it wasn’t but it’s hard to break the old patterns of belief.

      Please finish your book, Paul. Even if it’s rejected, at least you finished!

  10. Don’t write to “accomplish something.” Write because you have a story that needs to get out.

    • I’ll do that too, but I’m getting old and it’s really time that I had a reason for being. I don’t know how to explain it without coming off all ‘woe is me’ but I really want to have done something in my life before I die. I hope the book will be it.

      • I’m sure you have already done something in your life worthwhile. It just might not be obvious to you — or exactly what you had in mind.

        Trust me. Writing a book to secure a legacy is not a good reason to write a book. Your motivation for writing can never really compete with those who are *driven* to write.

        The following doesn’t exactly apply to you, but it does cover some common ground. Check it out if you wish. http://mikeallegra.com/2013/01/14/the-prose-poseur/

      • It’s more about finishing SOMEthing. I didn’t finish high school, and I don’t have a bachelor degree. I do want to write, but it’s important to finish something (hopefully the book) sooner rather than later. I’ve dabbled in many things and I’m kind of a jack of all trades, master of none. For once I want to focus on something long enough to follow through. Writing just happens to be the one that inspires me the most and the one I really hope I can accomplish something in.

      • I get you. And I’ll be rooting for you, Raven. Now stop talking to me and write your damn story! 🙂

  11. Now, Raven, you’ve stimulated my curiosity. Your book is entitled Pandora and you need to research Greek culture. Are you retelling the myth of Pandora? – because retelling myth (a lot of Greek myth) is what I do. I’m going to email you (I got your address from the “Meet the Limebirds” page, so you’ll have my email, and I’d love to hear what you’re doing with this. Is there anything online where you talk about it?
    I was never taught fear of failure and I was quite successful academically, so I never had this problem. I never liked failing, though, and I think I lacked the persistence that people who are less successful have to cultivate. I always hated rejections from editors and it didn’t take much to discourage me. However, I basically wrote because I loved it I probably wrote for 7 or 8 years before I even tried to market anything. These days I have a lot of confidence in what I write, and I am making a little progress at getting attention. This last giveaway, plus joining a number of online groups, are helping. Patience! Patience is my byword these days! And that old bugbear persistence!

    • Hi Lorinda,

      I’m not sure how much Raven checks that particular email. Did you want to sent it using our contact form, and I’ll forward it onto her address?



    • Yes, it’s a retelling of the myth involving vampires. The first four chapters (first draft) are on my blog at http://insanityreignssupreme.wordpress.com although the prologue has been intentionally left out because that is where I have stated the premise. I didn’t want anyone to publish the idea before I got around to it.

      This story has been calling to me since long before I believed I was a writer, or even had any inkling in that direction. I was helping someone else write it and helping him with ideas. He finally said the whole thing was my idea and told me to write it basically stopped talking to me at all. It was still another year before I wrote the prologue, and another yet before I wrote the next few chapters for Nano. Then life and illness got in the way and I had to put it aside for another year. I’m just now getting back into writing. Still PK never leaves my thoughts. Even if I wind up writing other things first, I will never give up on it. I don’t think I can.

      I’m glad for your confidence and excited about all your success! You’re an inspiration, Lorinda. Thank you for sharing this with us.

      • Well, thanks! I’m not as successful as I’d like to be because my writing demands a reader with rather specialized interests. Besides, my books are mostly really long, and people don’t have that much time to read these days. But my advice would be to write what you love and don’t worry about success (if you define success as selling books or getting attention). If you love what you write, there will be somebody else out there who loves it, too, because there are going to be people out there who are like you.
        I’m going now and write a quick blog post, then I’ll go read your chapters. 🙂

      • Wow Lorinda, it’s funny you should say that. Since vampires are definitely not the big thing anymore and it’s far more difficult to publish a vampire novel than it used to be, I’ve been telling myself exactly that. Surely I’m not the only one who still loves them. If I still do, there must be others out there who still want to read about them.

        I don’t think the length has anything to do with sales or popularity, though. Brandon Sanderson rarely writes anything shorter than 1000 pages and is still wildly popular. You are right about the interest level, though. There is nothing wrong with having a specialized audience, even if it is smaller than the norm. You have probably made your fans far happier than most writers ever do because you’ve written what they love.

  12. Go for it Raven! I always say that when I am on my deathbed and look back I would feel terrible if I had never had a go at what I want to do because fear had crippled me – that is my worst scenario – when I think of that, failing doesn’t seem that bad. Believe in yourself and embrace your dreams – you’re worth it.

  13. Perhaps I misunderstand your post, but maybe you need to define what exactly “fear of failure” means to you? Does it mean letting someone else down? Letting yourself down? Does having this piece of finished writing mean you’re “worth” something? Are you worth “nothing” if you don’t finish? Should your sense of self worth be based on a work product? If you fail, what exactly will happen? Questions worth pondering?

    I’m with Mike, writing should happen because there’s a story burning a hole in your pocket. Otherwise, it sounds more like torture. Good luck!

    • Jilanne, you are right on target. I fear that I won’t be able to make an interesting enough plot to hold a reader’s attention. I fear, as mentioned above, that I will finish and it will succeed and then I’ll be expected to succeed even more but I’m still not sure I can. I fear never finishing. If I fail, I’ll be letting myself down, but also my son who is the one who gave me that final push in the direction of being a writer. After talking about it for so long, he told me how cool ti would be to have a published writer for a mom. There is a long story there that I do not wish to share, but it is extremely important to me that I finish for him.

      • Oh yeah…I’m also really bad at rewrites and I’ve had to rewrite some of PK in order to proceed. I had some of the history wrong and I needed to make it more accurate, which required more of the story to be repaired than I had realized. Some things I couldn’t change. I couldn’t kill my darlings. Eventually, though, I did rewrite the prologue and discovered that I needed to fill in more at the beginning than I originally had. I’m getting there, slowly but surely…it’s just a lot too slow for my tastes.

      • I am so sorry that you have to shoulder this burden in addition to all the other weight mothers carry on their backs. I can only hope that you stay strong and find a way to feel free enough to carry through on this commitment. Sending you good vibes!

    • I don’t think of it that way. I think my son gave me a gift by pushing me in the direction I was supposed to go. I’d never dreamed of being a writer, never even considered the possibility, until he said that. Then I remembered hurting so much when I was a kid, feeling like I should write something but once the pen and paper was in my hand, I had no idea what to write. I wrote letters and song lyrics just to have something to write, but I had to do it. I’d forgotten that along the way. There are many other reasons why I feel this is right for me…but I do want desperately to make my boys proud of me. I know my daughter is, but my sons are a different situation and I’m not sure they ever will be. Whether they are or not, at least I’ll be able to say I did the best I could. That, more than anything, is what matters. I’ll fight every day to do the best I can do with every minute of it.

  14. It’s debilitating. I sit in front of that mass of an MS and I can’t push it forward. Fear of falling.

  15. I can really relate Raven. For a very long time I just wrote for myself and so, if I didn’t finish, it was ‘excusable’. Then my partner pushed me, she said I should publish and so I did.

    That initial decision to publish a poetry collection has led to many things, and really built up my confidence that I could do whatever I set my mind to. My first novel is out in a few weeks and I’m currently writing a short story to submit to a very prestigious anthology (so fingers crossed).

    So all you really need to do is do it. As someone far wiser (and greener) than I once said “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

    • Dennis, I’m so glad to hear he is greener than you are!!! If not that would be rather awkward. LOL!! Seriously, though, it sounds like you have an amazing partner and I’m so happy for you that she pushed you to publish and it has worked out so well for you! Congrats! And best wishes and much luck on all that is to come!!

  16. This is definitely something I identify with. I constantly back away from things for fear of my efforts going to waste. Im constantly in a love hate relationship with my own writing, a self doubt riddled with embarrassment and self consciousness permeates my whole experience. Consistency is not a strong point in my life. I just try to be forgiving with myself and not let my past failings affect my future work.

    Word vomit aside, great post 🙂

    • And the longer it takes, the more awful the prospect of all that work with nothing to come of it. I can relate to that too. I guess the best answer for that is to get it finished quickly so there is less pressure, but that is also quite difficult. Actually, the only reason I’ve written all that I have is because of the process that NaNoWriMo recommends. Get it out quickly and then fix it later. They say the most important thing is to get it all on paper first. All stories need editing so quit listening to the inner editor and just get it down. 50k words in 30 days was a big motivator for me. Unfortunately, three days in something happened and I had to take a second job which, with school and everything else, killed any spare time (and half my sleep time) that I had left. At least I got 10k words done that year. Now I can at least see that I do have enough material in there to fill out an entire book-length novel. That was another fear too. I’m not known for being long-winded. I wasn’t sure I could maintain any story for such a length.

      Hungry I hope we both find the confidence, or at least the determination, to forget the fear and forge past it. Good luck!!

  17. Fear of failure. Yup. I’ve dealt with that nasty demon. The only way around it that I know of is to write anyway. As long as writing makes you happy, then you need to do it. And take the whole end result out of the equation. In other words, don’t think about the publishing aspect, or even the sharing-it-with-others aspect, or what-do-I-do-with-it-when-I’m-done.

    Just write to write.

    • You’re right, 4AM. I need to finish it even if nobody ever sees it. My daughter (who is NOT a reader, by any means) just told me I’d better finish it because she’s really interested and can’t wait to see how it ends. She started by saying ‘and you know it’s hard for a book to get my attention but I’m so mad I’m having to wait to find out what happens to Pandora!” *sigh* Being a mom has definitely made her a pushy brat and she was already stubborn!!

      Thanks again.

  18. I can relate, Raven. Now that I finally feel I’ve ‘finished’ with my WIP I went to send it…then decided maybe I’ll sit on it for a while, work on my other WIPs instead. I know I need to get the guts to risk it and take a chance on failure, though. Fingers crossed I get there one day.

    • That is interesting, Lauren. What are you afraid of, exactly? Submitting to publishers and getting rejected or self-publishing and not making any sales? Maybe for your first book, you should try KDP Select (after you have a semi-decent platform, of course) so that it takes any pressure off from being rejected by publishers. This serves a couple of purposes. One, it gets your work out there so it can be seen. Two, it eliminates the possibility of rejection on your first work. Three, if it sells fairly well, you’ll be a lot more likely to get published through a publisher for any subsequent works. I’m not sure this is what you want, but I hope it helps you get that WIP out there. It sounds like you need a little push. Worst case scenario, the story goes no further than it already has. It certainly isn’t going anywhere now. You’ve already accomplished the hard part. You FINISHED!! Get it out there!! 🙂 Blessings

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