There are a lot of reasons and excuses we give, but in all honesty, there is only one thing stopping you from writing: the fear of failure.
In my books, Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, and Blueprint for Writing Success, and in my course The Daring Writer Academy (opening soon), I discuss a lot of different fears that stop us from writing. There is the fear of not being original, the fear of conflict, and yes, even the fear of success. They all represent a different aspect of failure.
How The Inner Saboteur Uses Failure to Stop You From Writing
Our Inner Saboteur likes to to mask our fear of failure with other fears and all kinds of excuses.
We reject every possible story idea because it may have been done before, sure. What’s really behind it, though, is that if we write a story we believe in and submit it, and even if it gets published, someone will review it and say it wasn’t that original, it’s been done before, and our writing career is ruined. Failure.
We don’t write because we don’t want to disappoint our family, or we worry that the time we take for writing takes away from our time with our family and that will create conflict. What if we spend all that time writing, away from family, and we get rejected, fail, then what? It will all have been for nothing.
We worry that if we do get one book published, or two or three, that we won’t be able to live up to that initial success. No book we write will ever be as good as that first one so why bother writing at all? It was a total fluke that those first books got published. Somehow we managed to fool everyone into thinking that we’re good at telling a story, but they’re going to find out we’re not. Failure to believe in ourselves.
Whatever reason or excuse we give for not writing, whether it be that we don’t feel like it, we’re stuck, we don’t have time, what we are really saying, is that we are afraid that we will fail at this, so we shouldn’t bother with it at all.
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
If the fear of Failure is the one thing that is stopping you from writing, then not writing is the one thing that is causing us to fail. In other words, by not writing, we make our fear of failure a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are no rules that say you have to have a certain number of novels published, or short stories published, or textbooks, or novellas, or journal articles. Nor are there any rules that say you have to have anything published by a certain age, or by a certain publisher.
One rejection or one-thousand rejections, do not mean you have failed. Maybe that book or that story isn’t the one to get you the contract you want or the sales numbers you want, but that doesn’t mean you have failed.
The first book is just the first book. There will be more; there better be more. Choosing to self-publish after pursuing traditional publication, is not failure. Rather, it is a shift in goals. Shifting from writing novels to short stories, or the other way around, is not failure. Again, it is a shift in goals.
The only way you can fail, is by not putting the words on the page.
If you choose to pursue traditional publication and everything you write gets rejected from the time you are twenty until you die at one-hundred, that is not failure. You will have done everything you possibly could. You will have grown as a person and as a writer. Think of all the manuscripts your family will have to read. Perhaps they will choose to publish them. More importantly, you will have put the words on the page, and taken the chance by sending them out.
The next time you sit down to write and you think, “I don’t feel like it,” or, “I’m stuck,” ask yourself why. What is behind the reason or excuse. What are you really afraid of? Not being original, or success, or something else? Then ask yourself what is behind that fear.
By not writing, will that fear go away? Will your fear of failure really be gone? Or will you regret that you didn’t write?
If the fear of failure is the one thing stopping you from writing, the one thing you can do to defeat that fear, is write.
How does your Saboteur mask your fear of failure?