Fear of Failure in Writing

Everyone is afraid to fail, yet that experience of fear varies in intensity, stems from different external and internal events, and influences us in a myriad of ways. Unfortunately, we are often most fearful regarding the things we are most passionate about. Therefore we are stuck in a catch 22. On one hand, we would like to avoid writing, but on the other hand, we would like to persevere. For example, writers are afraid about how others will react to reading their work and they might want to stop writing. Writers are also passionate about creating something meaningful and they want to continue to write.

I’ve received a lot of feedback about specifics of writing since I’ve started blogging, some wanted and some unwanted. The wanted feedback adds fuel to my desire to continue, whereas the unwanted feedback adds fuel to my fear of failure. When I work with people who are struggling to write because of fear, I offer the following advice. Be very careful to monitor thoughts of criticism to ensure you don’t allow it to deter you from writing more. But be equally careful to listen to and internalize the criticism. Ignoring the criticism is a way to protect yourself from fear that you writing needs to improve, but ignoring criticism will hurt your chances truly improving your writing skills.

A good friend offers the following advice when writing. Imagine two people. One person who is your harshest critic who, regardless what is written, will always have something negative to say. The other person is your greatest supporter who, regardless what is written, will always admire what you’ve put on paper. I would like to take this great advice one step further. When motivation is high and you cannot stop writing, imagine the harsh critic just a little bit more. These are the times when you want to push your ability and try to improve as much as possible. But make sure you use this strategy sparingly. Conversely, when motivation is low and you hate the act of picking a pen or sitting at the keyboard, repeatedly imagine your admirer.

The song “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Pertty comes to mind.