Fear of success – after you’ve been successful

I wasn’t even sure I was going to write a post today because I am so excited about the post I wrote yesterday regarding a collaborative story I want to write on this blog. But now I’ve reached the middle of the afternoon (UK time) and I find I have something to say.

I don’t know about any of you, but I am afraid of failing. The thing is, it is my fear of failure that keeps me from succeeding even when I have already begun to succeed. Two things in my life illustrate this very clearly: my weight, and my writing.

In relation to both of these; I want to lose weight and get back down to my happy 136lbs which I was for about eighteen months in Peru, and I want to be a successful author. Strangely, though, whenever I start to see measurable results from my endeavours in either of these arenas, I… stop trying? Actively sabotage my efforts? Give up?

It was a conversation I had just now on Twitter with Tymothy Longoria which made me think about this. He tweeted that we could all “be the next Rowling, King or er… Meyers, should we choose to be.” Of course he’s right. I know not everyone will believe it, but Rowling, King and Meyers existed as perfectly normal people before they became world-famous superstar writers. We all have somewhere to go.

I pointed out, after I stopped laughing at the …, that Meyers was loved by a huge number of readers, and since it’s about them, writers’ opinions of her books really don’t matter. At which point it occurred to me, she may not be the best writer in the world, but has that affected her success? Of course not. Rowling’s books aren’t models of grammatical perfection either, and I believe she is the world’s first billionaire author.

These thoughts inspired me to get back to my novel-in-progress and start editing, because, even though I started editing on Sunday, I have still only done two chapters. Why?

This happens to me a lot. The same with my weight. I make some progress and then it’s as though something inside me gets scared that I might be about to achieve my dream and turns round screaming ‘STOP!!! You can’t do that!!!’

Why not? I know I can weight 136lbs. I’ve done it before. I didn’t even do it by dieting, although I wouldn’t like to repeat the year of more or less constant illness by which it was achieved. For the record, I then maintained it for a year and a half by healthy eating and regular exercise. Not by getting ill again. Since I can’t work out at the moment, I have to rely on calorie control. Willpower is not my strong point.

The writing is a mystery, though. I have been running this blog for nearly two months and have well over four thousand hits, which I am very happy about. But my hits do strange things. They go up and up and up… and then slump. Then up and up and up… and then… You guessed it. It’s the same with my weight, but in reverse. The numbers go down and then leap back up. In the end, nothing changes. I know I can edit my manuscript but I’m avoiding it. I could probably write more short stories, since the ones I have written have been well received, but I’m not. Maybe I just need to believe in myself a bit more? Couldn’t we all do with a bit more faith in ourselves?

What about you? Do you have these kinds of problems? How do you get round them?

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About Mhairi Simpson

Writer, dreamer. Magic, dragons, pink mice, cake. Come say hi!
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14 Responses to Fear of success – after you’ve been successful

  1. You said it yourself. -“the ones I have written have been well received.”

    You can do this. You already have everything you need. Lucky are those that can write without thinking. More blessed however, are those who fight to get to that point.

    It is a fight you must win. On both fronts.

    Be blessed.

    • I thinking knowing you can write and feeling it are two different things. My heart’s being a little slow in catching up to my head. We’ll get there eventually. Thanks for the support 🙂

  2. SamanthaI says:

    There’s a reason for stereotypes, and a damn fine reason many good writers are boozers – it’s torturous to do what we do, and do it well. In order to write, it’s emotional, on some level. All this connects to everything – including weight gain/loss. I know when I write something I particularly love, it’s exhausting! – I do have a relevant point in all this – I don’t know that it’s a fear of success. For me, it’s a fear of failure. If we keep the weight on, we haven’t failed as we haven’t tried. If you don’t work on your editing, it’s incomplete and therefore, it hasn’t failed. I find the more success received increases this fear as well. You now have a level to surpass in your achievements, where previously, up was the only way to go. A vicious cycle in which I have no cure, except perhaps, to care less about success and more about the work, in regards to writing. As for weight, I’ve had the same up and down my entire life. I too am trying to focus only on how I feel, rather than meeting a goal… it’s reducing the pressure I place on myself at least! I don’t think I’ll ever stop being hard on myself, but I need to try on occasion 🙂

    • Thank you. So. Much. It helps to know that at least one person understands this. I think you’re right. As soon as you achieve something, you gain something that you could lose. It makes it very hard to build on your successes when your psyche is determined to keep throwing them away so as not to end with a pedestal so high that falling off it might actually damage something…

  3. I actually wrote a post about fear (and fear of failure) in my blog yesterday. It can be so hard to freeze up and get that “what if it’s not good enough? what if I can’t do it?” I’ve found, since being published, that this increases–where I have always written because I love it and had a story to tell (and other reasons), now there’s this added pressure that I put on myself that everything I write (professionally–I still write some things for fun) should be written with the goal of trying to get it published. I didn’t even realize how much this was stressing me out until I got to the end of this novel. I’ve been writing it for the last year (I’ve finally determined that it’s probably more…sci-fi in a fantasy world with hints of steampunk) and I’ve had so many moments of doubt while writing it–more than with anything I’ve ever written before. But I am determined not to let my fear conquer me. I’m still holding my breath to see what betas/critiquers think of it–or think of what should be improved–but my volunteer betas/critiquers are all crazy busy with school/grad school and other stuff right now, so I may have to wait a while. *bites nails* In the meantime, I’ve taken a reading break to clear my head.

    I think the thing about fear and doubts is that they can be extremely irrational, and we just have to learn to stare them down and have the confidence to keep stepping forward–and listening to what other people think/say/advise and LEARNING. Writing is always learning–there is always, always room to grow and change and develop.

    I love your posts–they always make me think and evaluate.

  4. M. Howalt says:

    Hi. 🙂
    I liked this post a lot. I think of of us have the fear of failing. I know people who have finished writing a book and have wanted to have it published, but simply have been scared of submitting it to an agent/publisher more or less because they are afraid of rejections.
    Personally, I like to keep in mind why I’m doing it. I would certainly liked to be a published author. Definitely. But what’s important is that I have a lot of stories and characters in my head, and I love the process. Even if I somehow knew that I would never get anything published, I would still love writing.

    • Excellent point. I feel the same way, about both my writing and my weight. When it’s something you keep coming back to, regardless of your previous successes or failures, why wouldn’t you want to make the best you possibly could of it?

  5. alberta ross says:

    well if you can find out about this sabotage of weight loss thingy I would love to know – everytime I look like I might be winning I start gaining again!!!

    • It’s a painful feeling, isn’t it? I find the problem is distracting myself from all the good (i.e. bad) things I could be eating long enough so that I either forget about them or the shops shut…

  6. Pingback: The Meme-ing of Life | Doing the Write Thing

  7. Guy Armitage says:

    What if it wasn’t a fear of failing, but a fear of reaching an end. Finishing something takes you away from your ability to dream the ideal ending.

    Anything is possible when you think about it, but even succeeding may not taste quite as sweet as your imagination made it out to be, in which case you’re not fearful of failing, you’re fearful in succeeding in the knowledge that the level of success you are aiming for is not applicable in real life.

    This is as valid for your weight as for writing. Once you’ve reached the ideal what next? Lose more weight, stay disciplined and remain stable or lay back on your laurels and put it back on…maybe you need to change the way you measure your success

    • You make a good point. The goal as far as the weight is concerned is to lose the weight and then maintain the loss, which is an ongoing challenge. I know from prior experience what I will look like once I have achieved the first part of this goal, so I’m happy with that :). As far as the writing goes, that’s another ongoing challenge. Like with blog stats, sales can always go higher, you can always get more recognition. The writing is actually more of a challenge than the weight loss because I will never stop writing so the challenge to make a success of every work I produce will always be there. Unless I become the next Stephen King or Terry Pratchett, by which point the habit will be ingrained and it won’t seem so scary. I will know I can do it, which always takes some of the fear out of an undertaking.

      Thanks for coming by – nice to see you! 😀

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