Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fear of Success and Self-Sabotage

Now that I've moved from writing my first draft to revising it, I'm getting reacquainted with an old friend. You know the one. He reminds you that you really should get on organizing your Netflix queue (there's got to be something in there that would be great for research!) Insists you absolutely cannot do anything else until you remember the name of that book you liked when you were 12 (it's totally something that your MC would've loved too!) Begs you to join him in just a few hours of video games (because you know, teens play them a lot, it's good research!) Hints that the idea you had but didn't write is actually the better one (you don't want to be wasting your precious time on the wrong idea!) Tells you if you don't spend more time on Twitter and Facebook your friends will forget you and then no one will buy your book - wait, your what? Oh right, that thing you were supposed to be working on until your old friend Fear of Success stopped by to distract you with a little Self-Sabotage.

What is Fear of Success? It's that nagging fear that if you actually finish your book, you'll have to send it out and people will want to read it, and they'll expect it to be good! What if you can't live up to that? Plus, think of all the work you'll have to do if an agent likes it or an editor decides to buy it! What if you do everything right, and someone actually agrees to publish it, and then everyone reads it and discovers your secret - that you are a no-talent hack. Or worse, it's a success and now everyone expects you to write another book! And it will have to be great too!

Whoa! Getting a little ahead of yourself aren't you? That's usually where the self-sabotage comes in. We come up with another, better idea and abandon our current project. We take time off for "research" or to get some "perspective". We reward ourselves for 5 minutes of work with 2 days of relaxation. We rationalize.

When you find yourself doing these things, remind yourself that writers write. And every single successful writer has probably dealt with the same thing. Remind yourself that you deserve to have your dreams come true. The quickest way out is always through. Put your butt in that chair and write through the fear. It will look so silly from the other side.


  1. Valerie - this was something I really needed to hear right now. In between revisions last night, I actually reorganized my Netflix queue! I'm almost finished with revisions of my ms, but wonder if I'm dragging my feet because then I have no excuse not to send it out. The query process scares me to death -- I just need to take a deep breath and jump in!

  2. LOL Kristi! I thought I was the only one who spent too much time with her Netflix queue!

    I'm so glad it came at a good time for you! I really wrote it for myself because I um, spent all day yesterday designing and laying out a town based on my WIP for the Sims 3! *cough* I thought, oh you know, it'd be great to have a visual reference... and also, to not be revising. Yeah.

    Be sure to send me your revised ms! I can't wait to see what you've done with it!

  3. Great post, Valerie. I am proud to say, when He came knocking this Monday, I shoved him off the porch. We've got so much going on here at home, that it's been hard to sit my butt down and write, but I think I've been doing great, all things considered.

    Just yesterday, when I posted my Teaser Tuesday, I was having those "what if" thoughts. But your comments made me feel better and got me to jump right back in the saddle. Er. Desk chair.

  4. Valerie ~

    I'm sorry, I don't buy into the fear of success syndrome. Bring it on! Even if I get one book published, that's just fine with me. As long as you make your goals reasonable, and thus your measure of success, why would I sabotage myself from attaining that.

    What I struggle with is a fear of waking up from my self-delusion. As long as I'm just writing, revising, editing, I can still hold onto my self-belief that I'm might actually be good enough to be published. But when the query's go out and the rejections start to mount, then the harsh reality sets in.

    That's what compels me to organize my netflix queue.

  5. DL,

    You are definitely one of the fortunate ones who does not suffer from fear of success! Lucky you!

    I think everybody has something whether it's fear of failure or success or risk taking or something else altogether, we all fight our personal demons. I say whatever process gets you closer to your dreams is the right one for you. Hopefully we'll all be to busy with our writing careers to bother with our netflix queues soon!

  6. HA! Valerie, I was wondering why I had to approve your comment, and then I read the profile for that acct. Very nice.


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