Fear of Success for Writers – Signs of Self-Sabotage in the Writing Life

If you think fear of failure or rejection is the only thing holding you back from being a successful writer, think again! Fear of success can be just as paralyzing as fear of failure. Here’s a brief definition of “fear of success” as it relates to writing, plus a few signs of self-sabotage for writers…

Before the tips, a quip:

“The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.”  ~ American novelist William Styron.



Don’t just be aware of your flaws, weaknesses, fears, and neuroses – use them to become a better writer! Remember that everyone is abnormal in some way, and don’t let your quirks get the better of you. If you’re struggling to live up to your full potential, do something about it! Click Success Is Not an Accident: Change Your Choices; Change Your Life for help, and learn how fear of success works for writers…

What is Fear of Success for Writers?

Writers may fear success because they don’t know if they can live up to their achievements. They may feel they’re not good enough or smart enough to keep writing, keep getting published, and keep satisfying editors, publishers, agents, and readers. Writers may think they don’t have what it takes to rise to the challenge, and they don’t know if they can sustain their writing success.

Sometimes writers fear success because it tests their limits and makes them vulnerable to new situations. Even worse, success can expose weaknesses and force writers not just to face, but to deal with their flaws. Other writers don’t believe they have a writer’s personality.

Writing or publication is scary because it involves change. Success can be intimidating and hard to handle! And, with success comes more challenges and responsibilities – and that can be threatening.

Possible Signs of Fear of Writing Success


Procrastination. Putting projects, assignments, or duties off while you take care of non-essential fluff or “make-work” chores can be a sign of fear of success. If you putter around instead of taking care of business, you may be subconsciously sabotaging yourself. Instead of avoiding your dreams of being a published author, re-evaluate your writing goals.

Talking the talk…but not walking the walk. Sometimes writers look unmotivated, undisciplined, or downright lazy…but their behaviors may be a symptom of fear of success. For instance, some writers blog and talk about their writing dreams and goals constantly, but watch TV every night and surf the Internet for hours every day. They don’t take practical, specific steps to achieving their writing goals, and they don’t exert the self-discipline it takes to write and get published. This is a primo example of self-sabotage.

Negative, pessimistic thoughts and behaviors. Fear of success can involve an extremely negative perspective of the writing business. “What’s the point of pitching query letters to editors? There’s no money in freelancing these days.” Not trying to get published – and focusing on all the things that can go wrong – is self-sabotaging and defeatist. It doesn’t lead to writing success because thoughts become action!

“Partying” the night before the big presentation. This can be literal partying (drinking too much, experimenting with drugs, staying out until the wee hours) or metaphorical partying (cleaning the house until 3 a.m., drinking too much coffee or soda pop and making sleep impossible). It’s similar to procrastination, but a little more destructive. Writers may be flirting with self-sabotage if they somehow always ruin a good night’s rest before a big presentation, exam, or job interview.

The Benefits of Self-Sabotage for Writers

These self-sabotaging behaviors allow writers an escape hatch. That is, if there’s no point in querying magazine editors, then writers can shrug off their writing dreams performance. If the market is already glutted with suspense novels, then there’s no reason to query literary agents.

Writers who dabble in self-sabotage have a ready-made excuse for not succeeding – and it’s not their fault. Instead of facing the fear that they’re not good or smart enough, they chalk it up to uncontrollable, external forces (book publishers aren’t giving high enough advances these days, or editors aren’t hiring new freelancers anymore).

Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published
Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published - Yes, you CAN get published! It's not impossible - but only if you're willing to do the work. Writer's Market 2020 offers thousands of opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards and literary agents — and even new playwriting and screenwriting sections.

Self-sabotage and fear of becomes a habit that destroys creativity, self-confidence, and dreams. Don’t go there, fellow scribes. Instead, learn how to fail and bounce back as a writer!

What do you think – are you a writer who fears success? My next article will be about overcoming fear of success…so stay tuned!


Need encouragement? Stay in touch!

Get my free, faith-based "Echoes of Joy" email. Once a week, short and sweet.

* indicates required


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

12 thoughts on “Fear of Success for Writers – Signs of Self-Sabotage in the Writing Life”