Heads up Anxious Authors! This week we have a guest post by the ever so talented Kim Petersen who is popping in to talk about fear of failure and how we can overcome it. Take it away, Kim!
Fear of Failure – How Changing the Way We Look at Fear Can Help Creativity
Some days, it simmers in the background of your mind like a relentless pain. Other days, you feel as if you might just have a handle on it. At least, momentarily.
Those days are like golden nuggets. So, milk them for all you can.
As writer’s, much of the time it feels as if the odds are stacked up against us at the onset. The process of writing is extremely personal and subjective. We spend hours creating our stories from the intricate parts of our imaginative resources, and just as many hours questioning our abilities and telling ourselves that we’re not good enough.
We’re not alone in this thing. Even people like Peter Ackroyd who earns advances in the millions has been quoted talking about his fear of failure:
“My greatest fear has always been complete and utter failure. Hence, you see, all the dispossessed people in my fiction, and why I try and earn as much money as I can.”
I’m with down that, and I bet you are too. If someone like Peter Ackroyd has battled those fear-of-failure demons, then surely this may provide us with a sliver of comfort?
Even the super-successful authors cannot escape self-doubt and insecurity.
In fact, insecurity may play an essential role to the production of writing – not the writing itself, but the act of repeatedly turning out completed manuscripts. Fear of failure may be the emotion driving us to keep going.
More than that though, we write from a combination of our strengths and weaknesses – it may just well be our weaknesses that keep us writing when our strengths have waned.
As Ackroyd suggests, it is within those vulnerable moment’s that writers present between insecurity and self-doubt and confidence that readers respond to because they can resonate with the feeling – their lives are like that, too. It is the raw elements of the human condition that bond us.
When we look at it in this way, we are able to take the steps to transmute our fears into remarkable works of art. In other words, acknowledging and sitting with the feeling of our greatest fears may grant us the tools of creativity. Whereas, allowing the fear to overwhelm and consume us may act as creative stagnation.
Another way of looking at the act of writing that I find helpful, is knowing that we are all equally ignorant – and this is a fact that unites us, too.
Who really knows the answers to the meaning of life and universal mysteries?
Not me, and surely not you. Ignorance is the ultimate groundwork to claim our equality. As we move through life, what we achieve are glimpses of the inner-essence relating to the heart, relationships and life.
These glimpses are shown to us most vividly through stories. It is our stories that teach us in a way that ordinary teaching cannot because writers instil their own contribution toward humanity’s accumulating store of life-meaning.
Stories are a more effective way of learning because writers essentially dance around the core questions of the universe. We share our personal experiences, life-lessons, values and ways of being – our thoughts and feelings spill into our stories which then becomes a way of exchanging information, extending ideas and connecting with other people.
Just as ignorance and emotion unites us, so too do our stories. Moreover, there is little use in comparing yourself with other writers, or even elevating them to a super-human status because they are more successful than you.
The truth is: you are just as worthy and as important to the world as James Patterson or J.K Rowling – and so are your words. To believe otherwise will only serve to fuel those deep insecurities, and let’s face it, there are plenty enough of those to go around without thinking you are less than what you are.
I’m not perfect at keeping the “imposter syndrome” at bay. I have experienced situations with author’s I’ve respected and admired who have stung me. I battle fear and comparisonitis on a regular basis, and some days, I feel as if I may as well just pack it all in. That nobody is interested in what I have to say, or the stories I produce. That I’m not a great writer and I’ll never be able to make a decent living off my words.
But then I remember that the actions and opinions of those who have hurt me do not define who I am or what I can achieve. I remind myself that I can’t write like James Patterson or J.K Rowling, but I can write like me and that has to be enough. Then, I dig deep and tell myself that everything I want is on the other side of fear.
As Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said:
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
If you’re like me and writing is your passion, then you have no choice but to live.
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Kim Petersen is co-author of Creative Writing Energy: Tools to Access Your Higher Creative Mind – a book developed to help creatives discover new pathways to their natural imaginative resources.
Kim is a regular contributor for Medium publications like P.S. I Love You, The Ascent and Curiosity Never Killed the Writer to name a few. Her articles are frequently curated by the Medium editorial team.
Visit Whispering Ink Press for more information on how you can stay connected to higher-creative self – www.whisperinginkpress.com
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A huge thank you to Kim Petersen for her inspirational words, be sure to check out her blog The Whispering Ink press and also her books (she is a super talented author!)
Thanks for reading!