Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Monday, May 14, 2012


Last time I made an unexpected connection between the failures of the two huge artistic ventures in my life, singing and writing. (And yes, I do consider myself a failed writer at this point, but I hope to change that.) This realization brought other, smaller connections to light--things I’d already identified independently, but when interconnected make a sizeable web of self-sabotage.

For instance, many, many projects go unfinished. I become bored with them sometimes, but lots of times I’m tenacious and just can’t seem to get to the finish line. Little things outside of my control might go wrong or I can freeze up with indecision, but for any number of reasons I end up spinning my wheels. And I’m not talking only about writing. It’s a widespread problem encompassing home projects, marital issues, financial goals, etc.

This is the mechanism that caused me to stop trying to get published. It is confusion, fatigue and the inability to see the path, just like when I decided to stop singing. But it’s a completely different feeling from what keeps me from sitting down to writing at all.

Another stumbling block is trying to please everyone. I’m skilled at going into other people’s worlds, and terrible at bringing others into mine. Personally, I think this is what makes me a writer—because I’m able to go deeply and intuitively into the worlds I create—but it’s not so great for decisive action, nor for knowing what I really want.

Part of that pleasing everyone thing means I don’t take care of myself, like going to the doctor when I’m sick, or exercising and eating right. If it’s just for me, it doesn’t matter. Writing pleases me, when I let it, but it doesn’t matter to anyone else.

It got to a point where my identity had absorbed so much of other people that I didn’t have any of myself left. I’ve spent a few years trying to unravel that thread, and maybe I’m almost ready to start rebuilding. But something stops me short. Something keeps me from crossing that finish line—not just with writing, but with pretty much everything that would define me as an independent, productive human being. Now, is that fear of success, or fear of happiness?

I’ll explore that next time.

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

  1. Reaching the finish line is a new thing for me too, in, say, the last five years. I'd finished a whopping two books between 2004 and 2007. I've finished two more and started at least a couple of others in the ensuing five years, though. So it looks all weird and wrong for me to say that.

    There's been a lot of growth in there though, so I think the stuff I've started is better than it was, I don't get discouraged or lost in it so easily now, and I think knowing how to write, and "what to write where," helps out a great deal for me. But seeing the stall-out from someone else helps me understand I'm not so unique and weird as I thought.

    Looking forward to the next part.

  2. In my experience, it's the fear of change, and what that change will demand of us. What would it mean to live an independent, productive life? When one person, especially in a family system, decides to try and achieve that, then it means everything else shifts, in one way or another. Scary stuff for everyone involved. But also, how wonderful.

  3. "If it’s just for me, it doesn’t matter. "

    That goes to value, the value you place on yourself and your needs and your time.

    Sure, as moms it become part of our identity to meet everyone else's needs, that's what we do! It's hard to remember sometimes that it's also part of our job to teach our kids not to need us (to take care of them) anymore, to take care of some things for themselves.

    We forget that it's okay to take care of our needs to, because we'll still need ourselves after the kids are grown and gone.

    Also, fear of success or happiness? Well sure, fear of both. Doesn't have to be one or the other. We can get so used to failing or not being happy that any kind of change in those circumstances is strange and scary and something we'll try to avoid.

    People with disabilities are sometimes afraid of being "cured" too. Like, a deaf person might not want to get hearing aids or surgery because being deaf is familiar and safe.

    Looking forward to see where you end up with this. :)


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