As a writer, what are you afraid of? Many new writers have fears because they don’t know yet if they can succeed. But even experienced writers have fears. Most writing fears can be grouped into three categories: fear of failure, fear of rejection (and these two are different), and fear of success. I’d like to talk a little about the difference between the fear of failure and the fear of rejection as well as how to determine which of those three you may be dealing with.
A fear of failure is when you don’t think you’ll make it because you believe your personal efforts, skills, achievements, and so forth aren’t good enough to help you reach your goals. The fear of failure is very inward based and points directly to your personal efforts as a writer.
When you think about reaching a goal or making it as a writer, do you have doubts that say you can’t because of an intrinsic ability or characteristic? Do you look at your shortcomings and think they’re going to hold you back? Granted, we all have insecurities when it comes to our writing. But if they great enough to keep you from thinking you’ll ever succeed, you’re likely dealing with a fear of failure.
A fear of rejection is more outward based. This fear believes that even if you do your part others in the writing world will reject you and cause you to fall short of your goals. This may take the form of a publisher not being interested in your book or magazine article, or other writers not being accepting of you for whatever reason, or the writing industry not ready for your writing style or approach.
Many writers are actually way ahead of their time, and industry influencers aren’t willing to take a chance on them, so they get rejected. It’s only those writers who can rise above this fear of rejection and remain persistent who will eventually find their way.
To combat the fear of rejection, it’s imperative to learn not to personalize the rejections. Often books and articles get rejected, even if they’re well written, due to market trends, budget constraints (for books), topics that miss the mark, etc. You must approach each project realizing that rejection is a very real possibility and have a plan of action in the event you are rejected. Maybe you can re-target that article or send it to a different magazine. The more market research you can do before submitting any work, the greater you’ll decrease your chances of rejection.
Determine beforehand that you will not take the rejections personally. Use them as a learning tool to see how you can improve next time. I had a writer friend who used to say she’d visualize each rejection letter as a stepping stone that was paving her way to being published. I thought that was a great image to keep in mind! So, if you’re adequately confident in your own ability to succeed, yet believe there are “forces” “out there” that are going to stand in your way, you’re probably up against a fear of rejection.
“[Fear of success] is definitely a sign that we’re running out of fears. A person suffering from fear of success is scraping the bottom of the fear barrel.” — Jerry Seinfeld
I laugh every time I read that quote. But for many people, this is a very real fear. In my earlier post on the fear of success, I go into detail on ways to overcome it based on getting at the root of what you’re really afraid of. For now, I’d like to simply identify it so you know if it’s affecting you.
When you think of succeeding, are you happy about it? Do you have a sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction, of joy when you see yourself succeeding? Or, do you have a sense of dread, of anxiety, or uneasiness–even if you can’t put your finger on why? Most people with a fear of success can’t really identify it as the culprit, maybe because they think it’s absurd. But being successful launches you into the unknown–and fear of the unknown is a very strong fear.
There are various roots to the fear of success, but if you have any negative reaction or emotion to the thought of succeeding, then you’ll have to look further and find out what about success is making you wary. Because, regardless of what fear it is or where it comes from, it will absolutely paralyze you as a writer and create roadblocks you may not even be cognizant of. Your fears will ultimately become self-fulfilling prophecies that dictate how far you will go as a writer. It’s worth checking into!
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve posted about writers’ fears,but if you’d like to learn more about conquering the fear of failure as well as the fear of success, please take a moment to read those articles.