Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Thursday, January 20, 2011

I've really been avoiding writing this post. I came up with several different topics, wrote some on each, and decided to write about quitting. How you might decide whether it's worth your while to discard what you've worked toward and start fresh. But it appears I still suffer from the same performance anxiety I always have, because when I think of actually crafting a post and submitting it for your consumption, I clench. It's the same with novels, short stories, articles, and even my resume. The only way I can write is to sneak up on myself, like I'm doing now.

So I thought I would examine that this week. And maybe next week. Possibly until I figure it out.

I know some of my online friends have a similar problem. Lots of ideas, great ideas, scenes written in the safe space between the ears, characters developed as if we remember them from another life. I'm sure every one of us has different reasons for the disconnect between thinking and doing, and here's my list (which assumes a natural talent for putting words on the page, because if that's not there then none of these will matter):

  • Fear of failure

  • Fear of success

  • Fear of exposure

  • Scattered focus

  • Fatigue

  • Personal subject matter

  • Physical distractions

  • Feeling undeserving

  • Uncertainty of purpose

  • Indecisiveness

I could probably go on, but already a pattern has emerged. All of these things indicate an imbalance in the writer. And as I look at the list it seems very familiar, so I'm sure there is some internal reason these things came up. The fear of failure is probably universal, and there's tons of advice on how to overcome that particular fear. Fear of success might be more subtle, and in my case probably has to do with not knowing if I can sustain any success that comes my way. After all, I had what most would consider a huge success when I landed my agent, but the failure to get that first book published put me at my lowest point as a writer. Maybe that's something I can explore in the next post.

What would you add to this list? What holds you back?

{ 10 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Fear of success is a big one for me. This feeling that when or if I finally make it, people will see me for what I really am and think I'm a fraud or a hack and that I'm not worthy. I've dealt with this "impostor syndrome" for most of my adult life. With every success I've had comes this feeling that I didn't really deserve it, and this creates a sense of inertia sometimes.

    I fight through it every day by putting myself out there as much as I can. It's the only thing that seems to work. I get my work out there, I blog, I immerse myself in social networking because I know if I didn't do those things, I'd probably get to a point where I would just be lost completely. People mistake this for self-confidence, but it is anything but.

    So yeah, I'm terrified of success. But I feel that eventually I'll get over it. And maybe one day I'll truly believe I'm worthy of it.

  2. So you have a fear of success because of a deeper fear of exposure. It's nice to see you're able to write in spite of it, but how does your fear affect the quality of your work?

  3. I feel everything you've enumerated. More specifically for me, it is all part of a larger, more deep-seated marriage of Fear of Failure and Fear of Rejection. For example, I tend to be a procrastinator, distracted and unfocused, and obsessed over details and rewriting at the expense of writing. This causes me to question my desire, ability, and motivation. Sometimes I dont try to work past my difficulties because I fear that even if I SHOULD manage to write a substantial amount of words, I wont be able to do it again--that no matter how hard I work I wont ever be able to finish anything. And even if I should finish something, it will be the only thing I will ever finish. And because it was so hard to do, It stands to reason that im not very good at it, and therefore all the work I do will be crap and its not worth it to anyone to read, so so wahts the point of even finishing if it will be rejected. So I question further my desire, ability, and motivation.

  4. (stupid enter key)

    I am still in the process of figuring things out. But theres something in me--despite my uncertainties--that keeps on trying. I'm not feeling too confident right now, but at this point in the game, I dont think it really matters--it looks like I'm gonna keep on trying regardless. Why, I dont know! its kinda crazy.

  5. I like a lot of what Rachel said, but for me the biggest problem is just getting my stuff together and then HOLDING it that way long enough to write. When I had the time, other things I couldn't address fell apart. When I could finally address them, time is now short and energy? Yeah, forget it. I have NONE.

    But at some point these things will hopefully converge. And when I do have time to write, I have no inspiration and the ability to catch the fire on projects I've started eludes me.


    Ah, well. C'est la vie.

  6. So added to the list is lack of time for DK. What do you think is behind your inability to match up the time and the will?

    Rachel, you're right, it's crazy how we write even when we have no confidence. Maybe we can figure this out together.

  7. I think my issue more affects my ability to finish my work than anything. As for as quality, though, the fear of being exposed as a suck-ass writer makes me want to better myself on a regular basis so that maybe one day, I won't be the suck-ass writer I perceive myself to be. In other words, I'm such a perfectionist, so I'm constantly trying to improve myself. But that's also when the intertia kicks in. When I don't feel I've improved enough, I just quit and then look for something else. Something that will be "the thing" that will change everything.

    The MAIN thing that always ends up stopping me in my tracks on a project I'm initially hot on is the feeling that it won't be regarded as "important." It's just fluff and I should be doing something "better." As if I should be ashamed for writing or liking horror or the supernatural or science fiction. When the reality is, I LIKE "fluff." I think fluff can have value in this often dour and depressing world we live in. I want to take people away and make them forget that for awhile. So I don't know why that evil little voice in my head, the one that's so afraid of me being exposed as a hack, can't see past that. I don't know why I can't just write whatever the hell I want, put it out there and dare people to hate it and then believe them when they say they love it. Instead, I'm always thinking, "Oh, they're just being nice." And then agreeing with the naysayers. Ugh.

  8. Well. I guess I'm in a weird place here. I gave up my writerly aspirations years ago, however, I still study the craft and the industry. And I seem to know a lot of writers, heh, and am married to one. :D

    So I like to sit back and observe and one thing I've seen is that all you writers are passionate people. And sensitive. Both kinds of sensitive - to your surroundings and loved ones, but also with your feelings and emotions. I have come to the suspicion that writing, for most writers, is a form of therapy and that's why it's so hard to put it out there to the public. There is something in the story that is deep-rooted for the writer. It may be a character, or a scene, but something there is intensely personal (and likely sub or unconscious) and handing it over to "the industry" or "the public" really is akin to ripping out a piece of your liver and watching Hannibal Lecter dine on it with his Chianti.

    I think I would encourage writers to submit - (or self-publish on Kindle) - to put their work out there, because you won't make any friends if you don't introduce yourself and say hello. :)

    Not sure that's worth 2 cents but there it is. :)

    Now, go put EG and BVA on Kindle, woman! Stop holding yourself back! *hugs*

  9. Fal, I've considered self e-publishing but decided it wasn't right for me at the moment. I don't really have that fear of "getting it out there" anymore, thank goodness. I mean, sure, it always makes me a little anxious when someone reads my stuff for the first time, but that's not a consideration while I'm writing. It doesn't hold me back.

  10. [...] to assert itself this week. Several things happened to facilitate that, starting with the list from last Thursday’s post. Listing the possible stumbling blocks brought them to my attention, forced them out of the [...]


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