5 Ways to Overcome Fear of Success for Writers


These tips for overcoming fear of success for writers are a follow up to my article called Signs of Self-Sabotage in the Writing Life. There, I describe what being afraid of succeeding looks like for some aspiring and established writers….and here I share ways to overcome fear of success.

“You just have to work with what God sends, and if God doesn’t seem to understand the concept of commercial success, then that’s your bad luck.” ~ H L Mencken.

That’s a great way to overcome your fears of writing and getting published! Work with what you have – whatever God or the Universe sends – and flow with whatever happens next. Put your fears, anxieties, and “what ifs” aside, and live it out.





Here’s a book that a fellow writer recommended, about overcoming fear of success The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

And, here are a few ways to cope with self-sabotage for writers and bloggers…

5 Ways to Overcome Fear of Success for Writers

Writers may never get over the fear of success or fear of failure, but that doesn’t mean we can’t progress towards our writing goals! These tips won’t make fears disappear…but they can help writers write and bloggers blog…and maybe even get happily published…

1. Accept your fear. Be scared. Are you afraid of sending article pitches to editors, asking agents to represent you, writing sample chapters that may never be read, or otherwise sharing your writing dreams? Don’t fight it, fellow scribes. Accept it. We’re all scared – even the most successful writers. Read Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers (one of my favorites!). Make that phrase your motto. Simply feeling the fear and forging ahead anyway can help you cope with fear of success.

2. Figure out why you’re sabotaging your writing goals. You don’t have to see a psychologist to figure out why you fear success (though I admit I’m a big fan of counseling!). To get to the bottom of it, talk to people you trust, write in your journal, and be as honest and objective as possible. What are you afraid to admit? What do you know, that you aren’t allowing yourself to know? What’s holding you back? You don’t even have to go further than that.

Just allowing your fears and anxieties to permeate your consciousness can free you to be more creative, more productive.

3. Accept failure as part of succeeding. “It’s a common assumption that if you really try your hardest to get something and don’t get it, you’ll be shattered – so it’s safer not to risk going out at all,” says Barbara Sher in Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want (another of my favorites books). “That is totally false. The exact opposite is true.”

If you try and fail to get published, you won’t feel as bad as you think. You’ll gain experience, education, contacts, and self-confidence as a writer. Failure makes you smarter, stronger, more savvy, and more likely to succeed (if, of course, you don’t give up).

4. View your writing and editing skills as changeable. Research from the University of Toronto shows that if you think your professional skills and abilities are fixed, then you’ll become anxious if you’re successful. These psychologists found that people who think their capabilities are fixed get disoriented when they succeed, and their performance then spirals downward. To overcome fear of success as a writer or blogger, remind yourself that you will be a better writer in a year or two (or ten!) and you will be able to handle your success and your fears.

Remember: your writing and blogging skills are constantly improving – they’re not set in stone.

5. Compete against yourself – not other writers or bloggers. “Competition in which one person must lose in order for us to win tends to undermine the best in most of us,” writes Robert K. Cooper in The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life (another great book!) “It makes us wary and distrustful of others, causes us to withhold and distort information, makes us intolerable of uncertainty and change, and it so narrows our focus that constructive creativity is practically shut down.”

To overcome fear of success as a writer, don’t compete with other freelancers, bloggers, novelists, screenwriters, etc. Instead, compare your achievements and goals to where you were a year ago. Focus on your own progress, and celebrate the progress of others. 

Is there a part of you that is afraid to pitch editors of magazines, ask literary agents to represent you, or send your book manuscript to publishers?

Are you afraid of failing…or of succeeding? I welcome your thoughts below…

xo


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20 thoughts on “5 Ways to Overcome Fear of Success for Writers

  • LK Watts

    I can’t remember who said this: ‘Feel the fear, but do it anyway.’

    I always think of this whenever I’m scared of doing something.

  • Bonnie

    I don’t know whether I fear failure or success. I know that I wonder if I’m faking the whole thing. I’m afraid that I’m not a writer, I just play one on the internet. But if I write things people want to read and if I get paid to write them, I guess that makes me a real writer, doesn’t it? Even if I’m not doing book signings in New York or selling pieces to major markets or getting rich and famous? Who am I kidding? Any day now somebody’s going to pull the curtain aside and expose the fraud. Where did I ever get the idea…

  • Bailish

    Loved your post. For me, I always think of writing as a job that I have to do, like brushing my teeth. If I don’t do it, then I feel incomplete.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Thanks for your comment! I see why you think comments on this post may not be read…I’ve neglected to respond to the comments that readers left. My bad.

    “year and a half late for this blog”, I wrote this article for you:

    Overwhelmed by the Thought of Selling Your Writing? Help is Here

    I hope it helps, and welcome your thoughts there or here.

    Everyone else who commented — thanks! 🙂 I appreciate your tips on how to overcome fear of success for writers.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  • year and a half late for this blog

    Your article and supplemental book suggestions are inspirational. Wish I knew exactly what I fear. I think it has a lot to do with my inner life needing calm and quiet and a very slow pace—like a prayerful monk. The thought of all the details I must be sure to cover in this hypertechno age of social media in order to sell my work wholly overwhelms me and paralyzes me. I write. I have two books published. A third is completed but has some plot holes to be repaired and other polishing. A fourth is being fleshed out currently. However, the amount of time and energy to market in this climate sucks the life out of me. I have only two months a year I can write. Perhaps another issue is the “comparing mind” of knowing my stories are good, I write great sentences, I have had fabulous feedback from readers…but I don’t feel like I’m good enough, compelling enough… I want to be a better writer—that is what I work on. But I don’t want to write in obscurity—I am a storyteller who naturally wants people to read and enjoy my work but I can’t seem to find the best and most effective bridge for that. So part of what I fear is getting a ball rolling into marketing and attempting to do all the social media engagement and not being able to follow through because ten months out of the year I am 100% teaching a very heavy load and have nothing for writing let alone marketing… Even now I’m rambling on because I’m sure no one is reading this anyway since it’s a year and a half old…I was compelled to write, am compelled to write…but otherwise I retreat to my garden.

    On the outside chance someone does read this and has some kind of simple, step by step, hand-holding, practical things to do to chip away at getting across this chasm, I welcome the thoughts. If anyone knows of an agent looking for a novelist who wholly prefers to stay out of his/her way in the process of marketing and public relations, and would love to work with someone who is interesting, low key, talented, creatively energetic (just not politically extroverted) and who will love to go to book signings, speaking engagements, and all that but can’t do it herself, please please let me know!

  • Steve

    Hi Laurie:

    All 5 are important, especially %5.

    Never be envious of other writers. Focus on your marketing, work, etc.

    One of my favorite quotes is from Herschel Walker: “Run the race against yourself.”

    ‘Nuf said!

    Sincerely,

    Steve

  • Fear of Failure or Fear of Success?

    You have to fail, you would fail, it is always piece of the building process, part of the way in which we mankind learn, and the only method we basically learn. Failure is definitely accomplishing something the wrong method. We may come with nine variables right nevertheless the 10th inappropriate resulting in our plan failing. Using this method you can overcome the fear of failure.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments….I think fear is very real for many writers. Fear of rejection, of judgement, of criticism, of not being good enough, of succeeding, of failing…so many possibilities! And, different writers have different fears.

    Anyway, I hope this article helps you overcome all fears of writing success, and spurs you to become a successful writer — beyond your wildest dreams!

    Laurie
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..6 Ways to Keep Your Blog High in Google’s Search Engine Results =-.

  • Fear of Success?

    I ran across your post and I have to say “Wow!” Its like you read my mind. I have been battling this issue with my own writing for many years. Its something I deal with on a daily basis and at times becomes very scary.

    Thank you for posting this…its not a wake up call but a confirmation that I am not alone.

  • George Angus

    Wow.

    This is me, self reflecting.

    Powerful post this time, Laurie

    George
    .-= George Angus´s last blog post ..Flash Fiction The Good Knight =-.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments — this was one of my favorite posts to write! A combination of psychology and writing…could life GET any better?

    Christine – that’s so interesting, that your perfectionism is coming out now that you’re an experienced freelance writer. I can see how knowledge of how the business works can affect your pitches and response to rejection…..though I think it’s the opposite for most writers! You’re a unique woman 🙂 But I too miss those carefree days of pitching with ignorance — I know exactly what you mean.

    Samantha – I’ve been trying to teach myself that for ages: external responses to me don’t change who I am. Thanks for the reminder — it’s important.

    Lorie – fear of failure is a very real struggle for many writers, yes. One of my fellow writers summed fear of success up well when she said it can involve fear of change. If you get a book contract or literary agent, your life may look alot different! That can be hard to handle.

    Jon – I like that approach, too. Focus on success and going after it with your gloves on and your dukes up. “Think and Grow Rich” is a classic!

    Gini – thanks for your comment on failure. How we handle failure determines how successful we’ll ultimately be, as writers and as human beings in general.

    I appreciate your comments, fellow scribes!

    Laurie
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..How to Make Conversation for Introverts – Tips for Small Talk =-.

  • Gini Grey

    I love number 3, Laurie – accept failure as part of success. Why do we often only see the extremes of success OR failure. Really, everything is just an experience and can be an education as you mentioned. Without failure, most people wouldn’t achieve great things.

    I love the books Jon Bard mentioned but I had to laugh about the comment “I’m not much on touchy-feely new age…”. As I see those books as new age – especially the Science of Getting Rich – it’s all about trusting the “stuff” as Wallace called it – the Source, God, Universe as others would call it – it’s all touchy feely stuff but it’s also reality as far as I see it.
    .-= Gini Grey´s last blog post ..Intuition =-.

  • Jon Bard

    I’m not much on touchy-feely new age sort of stuff, so I turn to some old-school books for inspiration. And man, do they provide it — these guys were all about obtaining success and their brashness really rubs off on you.

    Get the audio versions of these books and spend some time every day to listen:

    “As a Man Thinketh” – James Allen
    “The Science of Getting Rich” – Wallace Wattles
    “Think and Grow Rich” – Napolean Hill
    .-= Jon Bard´s last blog post ..Video: What Should I Write About? =-.

  • Lorie Huston

    There are some great suggestions in this post. For me, and I think for a lot of writers, fear of success at least in part equates to fear of failure or rejection when we pitch something to an editor or agent. So, I think your advice about accepting your fear and learning from your “failures” is important. As Samantha said, “you can’t gain without trying”.

    I also think it’s important for all of to realize, as you so correctly pointed out, that our writing skills improve with time. Our goals also tend to change over time and that’s okay too, as long as the change is in a positive direction.
    .-= Lorie Huston´s last blog post ..Dental Health Care for Dogs and Cats =-.

  • Samantha Clark

    Great list. Thanks.

    It’s hard not to doubt yourself and think the worst, but ultimately, you can’t gain without trying, and if someone says no, it doesn’t change who you are.

  • Christine

    This is a great post, though I have had the opposite problem…when I started my freelance writing career, I was fearless. I pitched everyone and anyone, and landed quite a few writing assignments. I look back at my query letters from those days and cringe, but ignorance is bliss…and when I started, I must have been pretty blissed out!

    Now that I know more about the magazine industry, what makes editors tick, how to craft a query letter, I get hung up on perfection. I also begin to fear and doubt my ability. Rejections sting more nowadays than they used to…maybe because I now have the credentials to write, so if I am rejected, it is simply because there is no interest in my pitch. Before, I could just assume I lacked the experience.

    Anyway, I am constantly working at overcoming my fear…but I can’t help but long for those bygone, blissful days!
    .-= Christine´s last blog post ..Conversation Hearts =-.