Happy Halloween! Today’s guest post is from author Kelsey Browning with Romance University dot org, who writes about one of my favorite topics: the fear of failure AND the fear of success. Both of those can hold you back from achieving your dreams. Kelsey gives you sound advice on how to identify what’s holding you back, and tips on how to overcome it.
To add a little fun to today’s special post, leave a comment and include who your favorite Sexiest Bad Guy is…you’ll be entered into a contest to win a free kindle edition of a writing craft book!
Four Essential Questions to Banish the Writing Boogeyman
by Kelsey Browning
If you’ve read my Brain Candy blog, you know I’m afraid of clowns, mimes and china dolls. Those are personal phobias. But I’ve found when it comes to writing, we tend to be afraid of two things:
I can hear you scoffing out there (yes, even you folks in Australia) and mumbling things like: “Me, afraid of success? Kelsey, you obviously haven’t had your clear-the-cobwebs morning coffee yet. I’ve been working my little patootie off for the past (insert number here) years to become a published author. What do you mean I’m afraid of success?”
And, yes, I heard that shrill high note on the end of your question, too.
Maybe you’re placing in writing contests and your critique partners love your writing and that’s become your measure of success. Sometimes pre-published author status becomes a comfortable career stage, and we have a hard time moving beyond it. I know, because I’ve been there.
But by asking yourself a handful of pointed—and possibly painful—questions, you can get over the fear of success hump.
- What do I get to avoid by staying where I am?
- What guarantee am I looking for?
- What emotional payoff am I receiving?
- What am I afraid of losing if I succeed?
Take a minute to skim those questions again. And if you’re serious about moving forward in your writing career, take several minutes to scratch out answers to them.
Do your responses look anything like these?
What do I get to avoid by staying where I am?
- Learning how to _______ (plot, develop characters, market my work).
- Networking with editors and other authors.
- Setting myself up for rejection.
- Realizing my story idea isn’t (or is) good. (from Mary Jo Burke)
- Discovering I really do suck as a writer . (from Adrienne Giordano)
What guarantee am I looking for?
- Time well spent. Am I spending a lot of time writing something no one may ever read? Am I spending my time on the right thing? (from Nancy Naigle) Fear that I’ll spend months writing and no one will buy it. (from Joan Leacott)
- Career certainty/staying power. What if I make it only to find out writing isn’t my calling? What if I become a bestseller, but can’t handle the pressure? What if I get a book contract, but it’s not with the press I want? What if I can’t meet my deadlines? What if I hate my editor?
What emotional payoff am I receiving?
- Sympathy. My critique group moans and groans with me each time I receive a rejection.
- Self-pity. I allow myself to mope and eat a half-gallon of Rocky Road for a week after hearing “No, thanks.”
- Anger. No one will give me a chance, dammit!
What am I afraid of losing if I succeed?
- Reputation. What if people find out I’m a fraud, that I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing? That I’m really not as good of a writer as I think? What if I get a bad review?
- Relationships. What if my critique group is jealous? What if they resent my success? What if I don’t have as much time for my family and friends? What if I outgrow the people around me? What if they abandon me?
- Comfort Zone. What would people—my editor, agent, readers—demand of me? What would I have to do differently?
Honestly answering these four questions can feel a bit like food poisoning—you know that crampy, sweaty, nauseous feeling I’m talking about. Breathe through it. Then revisit your answers, and I think you’ll find many of your concerns may begin with the words “What if…?” And what if almost always means you’re borrowing trouble, that you’re placing artificial barriers in your own way.
So there’s one more powerful question that can help you get beyond many of these unfounded fears:
What is the absolute worst thing that could happen?
Answer this for each one of your biggest, scariest what ifs. How likely is your worst case scenario? And what would you do if it actually happened? I bet you’ll find yourself laughing at some of the outlandish answers you come up with. And we all know laughter is a great way to banish any boogeyman.
Kelsey Browning writes sass kickin’ southern love stories. She’s also a co-founder of Romance University blog, one of Write to Done’s Top Ten Blogs for Writers. Originally from a Texas town smaller than the ones she writes about, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she’s either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in a hobbit house in northeast Georgia with her IT-savvy husband, baseball-obsessed son and seriously spoiled dog. She’s currently at work on the third book in her Shelbyville, Texas, series. For more about Kelsey, visit www.KelseyBrowning.com.
Who’s the Sexiest Bad Guy you can think of? Leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing to win a free kindle edition writing craft book!