Fear of Success Vs. Fear of Failure

Over the last couple of days I’ve thought a lot about my childhood writing dreams and why they ended up where they did. Confined to a ‘one day, when I have enough money/time’ future. For years I told myself I was just lazy/didn’t want it enough/the dream had run its course, but it was always there, in the back of my mind, breaking out when I least expected it.

A few weeks ago, I read somewhere that when we feel held back from chasing our dreams, we are either afraid or failure or of success. I pondered that for a while.

Fear of failure didn’t bother me. Rejection letters are something every writer quickly gets used to. Based on the feedback I’d got from my friends, my editor and my toughest critic (my mother), I was sure I wasn’t sending something out into the world that was complete rubbish. If I didn’t sell, at least something I had written was out there and alive.

Which brought me back to fear of success. What did success as a writer mean to me? Not on an emotional everything-is-awesome level, but concretely. Why now, when my first novel was published and people were enjoying it, did I still feel this resistance? How would success impact my life?

To me, success as a writer would mean having enough money to give up the day job. It would mean a future where I could leave the 8 – 16 drag at the office and work on my own. A world where I could have a dog, because I would now have the time for walks three times a day. A future where I would always be there when my son came home from school. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Except for the first time in my life I really love my day job. Having a dog would mean moving again and all the expense involved, because where we live now does not allow pets. But mainly it would mean NO JOB.

The way I was raised, you had to have a job. Even if was scrubbing toilets, you went to work and paid your taxes and were a useful member of society. For some reason, I had trouble seeing writing as legitimate job that allowed you to do all these things.

It would also mean loss of security. When you’re employed, you know what’s going into your bank account at the end of the month. Even as a successful writer, you might never be sure of that. I couldn’t go back to knowing that some months I might just have enough for the bills but ten days later I’d be turning out old handbags to find enough coins for a carton of milk.

As I write this, I take a deep breath. I need to redefine what success means to me.

It doesn’t mean that I would have to give up my job. It doesn’t mean that I would have to move. It doesn’t have to mean that I’d struggle to pay my bills. It doesn’t have to mean anything except what I choose to let it mean to me. But at the moment, what I think it means is holding me back from pursuing my dream.

I prefer the term author entrepreneur to indie author. To me, an entrepreneur is someone who works hard and runs a business. Indie reminds me of the music and fashion I didn’t like in the 1990s.

Perhaps if I think of writing as a business, I can overcome this fear of success. Besides, I’ve always loved the feeling of starting a business. I have had successful ones in the past.

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3 thoughts on “Fear of Success Vs. Fear of Failure

  1. I see writing as a business too! For a long time I kept thinking if I finish writing something then the money for the books sold would make life complete – haha yeah right. I have realised that whilst I’m still in the process of writing my first book that I don’t care for the money side at all, it’s more important to put heart and soul into every word to ensure the business has a purpose, money should never be a factor unless you’re a Z list celeb wanting a more fame!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I once thought that, too. Then I realised it’s about creating the life that will make you happy – not about the money you think might get you there or the things you want to buy with it. (Definitely don’t want to be a Z list celeb!)

      Liked by 1 person

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