Fear of Failure. Oh No, It’s Real!

Last Friday was a pretty cruddy day of writing in that I didn’t get any done.  Had nothing to do with available time or goofing off on the internet.  No, friends, I came down with a slight case of Fear of Failure.  Here’s the weird thing; I wasn’t fearing failure from the release of my book.  I’ve sort of set my expectations for what I think will happen and I’ll be tons more relieved once it’s out.  I was afraid of what would happen when I sent this off to be critiqued.

You see, I have a lot of respect for these authors because of their high level of awesome AND talent.  Plus they’re not in extreme wealth with the time, but like me enough to set aside a little of it to read my draft and help me make it better.  I find this to be nothing short of amazing and I suppose this has hit me as I near the end of my revisions.  I’ve still got some chapters to go, but I plan to be done sometime during round two of ROW80.  Then it goes off to the awesome AND talented people.

Enter fear.

In my head, somewhere around the irrational part of my thinking, I’m presenting my book to some seriously talented talent folk.  What if . . . they don’t think it’s that good?  Not, it’s got issues that need fixing to make it better.  Flat out, not good.  Like not on their level of awesome.  I know, slightly insane.  And even more embarrassing to admit.  There is a reason I’m writing this, though.

It’s therapeutic to share this stuff with you guys.  And I figure if anyone has or will one day go through this, maybe my little post will help.  As of now, I’m feeling pretty good and have gotten some writing done.  The horse and I are riding again!

So, that’s it.  Just sharing my struggles and irrationalities.  I know the way to be over this is to finish the book, get it critiqued and out there.  Because whatever’s in my head is way worse than what will actually happen.  It’s strange having these rational thoughts and having the complete opposite coming from the same brain.

And now the floor is yours!  How has the cuckoo part of your brain tried to sabotage your dreams?

Info stuff- Round 2 of ROW80 starts April 4th and I’ll be posting my new goals on Saturday. And be here Tuesdays and Thursdays for new posts on me, writing, superheroes, monsters, comics and any other geeky stuff on my mind.

36 comments on “Fear of Failure. Oh No, It’s Real!

  1. Oh, dude. Didn’t you read my sandworm blog yesterday? My subconscious is my own worst enemy. I write like crazy because I don’t know how to stop, but most of the time, I seriously think my work is A-1 crap. No where near a level of awesome where people would actually buy and READ it.

    Then the rational side of me (a.k.a. my husband) talks me off the ledge and reminds me that I’m actually pretty good at the writing bit, and it just takes time, and etc.

    Well… Okay… But…

    It only works until Crazy Amy shows up again. Which is usually about twenty minutes later. The Man is a saint, seriously.

    So yeah, I completely get what you’re saying. I have no advice except to just keep moving forward and recognize that some days will be good, some bad, some in-between, and you’re probably a lot better than you think you are.

    Lame… Mostly I’m just agreeing with you… Sorry….

    • That’s the beauty of commiseration, solutions not required. I think just knowing you’re not alone is the biggest help of all. My wife gave me a good talking to, which helped a lot. She needs a sainthood nomination too. It’s awesome having that support.

      I DID read the sandworm post. Great imagery. I try to keep up with my reading, but it doesn’t always leave me much time to comment during the work week. Just too many talented folks.

  2. I can totally relate to this. Especially the time thing (which I’ll be having a good rant about in my soon-to-be-written post lol)

  3. I can relate to this… I gathered quite a stack of rejection letters on Ordinary Angels before it got picked up by a publisher. And every single one had me asking myself if I was wasting my time, if I had any talent at all, what the hell I would be if it turned out I couldn’t be a writer.

    All those talented writers you admire have been through the same thing. I guarantee it. Every single one.

    Nobody is born published. =)

    • Agree re: “Nobody is born published.”

      One tiny thought of self-doubt and it becomes a snowball rolling down a hill. Before you know it, everything sucks. The funny thing is I’d be upset if my draft came back with nothing to fix. You wish you didn’t make rookie mistakes, but that’s how you progress from rookie to pro. Like you said, that’s how it was for everyone we admire. It’s an evil circle, I tell ya!

  4. Dude, let’s not even talk about me. Half my blog is about being sick with fear. Let’s talk about you…

    No, wait. Let’s talk about me, because I’m one of the “awesome and talented” peeps in line to crit this thing. o.O None of us is as awesomely Talented (omg, my automatic capitalization of Talent is becoming a problem) in the drafts as we are in the finished work. That’s just the deal, right? We all have flawed manuscripts that include some awesomely craptastic moments that, for some reason, we really need other people to point out for us. There are always weaknesses in a draft, things that were in your head that never made it to the page such that you get notes that say, I could use a little more of this here, and you’re going what? That’s all over the page, bitches. Oh wait. No it’s not. Shit.

    The thing about getting a critique is that there really is never anything to be embarrassed about. Because if you’re playing at a level where I trust you to take the criticism without getting defensive and angry, it almost doesn’t matter what the writing’s like. Because any writing can be fixed if you’re willing to do the work. Any story flaw can be filled in with brainstorming and sweat. I can work with writing. But if you don’t have the attitude that you’re open to the help, I can’t work with that.

    India just said nobody is born published. That’s true. No one is even born writing. Do you have any idea how much The Adventures of Theodore Boopsikins Bear lacked in real conflict? Sadly, over thirty years later, I’m still working on this issue. Despite everything I’ve learned, I still go to Kait all excited a story idea and several paragraphs into my enthusiastic synopsis she goes: is this book going to have a plot? Because I think it would be better received if it had, you know, a plot. And then I hand over some scenes and it’s: where’s that plot we talked about? And then she helps me be better.

    And then I get her back. But I’m also getting her back, you know (in the I got your back sense)? She knows that, and I know I’m lucky that she won’t stand for two tragically flawed characterizations with traumatic backstories stumbling into each other and devolving into a puddle of emo-porn (a series of emo-for-the-sake-of-emo scenes loosely connected by a mere semblance of plot).

    Sometimes it helps me to read published work that doesn’t really impress me. So I can get that, pffft, I can do better than this vibe. What else could I say that might be helpful? Think of us as manuscript doctors. We’ve already see in it all, so get over it and drop trou.

    This is your brain on insomnia. Any questions? I’m going away now. Just finish the damn book. That’s going to be our mantra.

  5. “We’ve already seen it all, so get over it and drop trou.”

    If you and Kait decide to go into the manuscript doctor business, THAT has got to be your slogan.

    I really thought hard about posting this at all because it I wondered how whiny it sounded. Ninety-five percent of the time, I feel pretty confident about what I can do with a story, but the stupid shit pops up occasionally and it’s amazing how powerful it is. Then it’s gone and I feel like a douche for letting it happen because all of your points? Spot on and stuff I know, hence the douche-like feeling. Thanks for saying it out loud. I’m sure if we lived closer you’d have no probs giving me the skake/slap combo ala Airplane!

    I don’t think I’d be trying so hard if I thought I had nothing to offer. Definitely never went after music like this.

  6. Everybody is afraid. We all have weak points and things that we worry about even AFTER we send out books out in to the world. My first novella, which I was very proud of at the time, has caught quite a bit of flack for the unbelievability of the rescue set up. Yep, that hurts. Know why? ‘Cause it bugged me too when I did it and I couldn’t think of any other way to do it that wouldn’t be a full novel (and I didn’t WANT it to be a full novel). So when a reader comes back and calls me on that, it’s kind of eye-twitch inducing. Not enough to go back and rewrite it (because the vast majority of readers have been mostly happy), but it’s there as a fear with every review.

    As for critique…well we hear as writers all the time that you have to have thick skin. And you do. Good, constructive critique that has the intent of pointing out all your weak spots in a book is HARD to endure. You are totally allowed to wail and gnash teeth for a few days (ask Susan, I always do when I get one back from her). I recommend chocolate and booze. Then you get over yourself and look at things with a more objective eye and do whatever best serves the work. That’s the thing you have to remember. We are here to help make sure you don’t fall flat on your face with readers–to make sure you have the best book possible. Sometimes that involves being nitpicky and harsh. But as long as you’re willing to serve the work, you can take that criticism and use it to polish the story into something so pretty and ooo shiny! that readers can’t help but love it.

    • Many, many good points in this comment. I think I have a thick skin because of my time in the band. The songwriting was totally collaborative and many times I was given the “meh” for a riff I was really into. But we agreed it was all about the song and not the individual parts. Sometimes an awesome part would need to be cut because it clashed with everything else. Those were tough, but I got through them and I KNOW I became a better songwriter for it. I know I can repeat the process with writing. Most of the time.

  7. Hang in there, Andrew! I’m sure all will work itself out. Just from reading your posts I think you are a very talented writer. You’ve also got good friends to help you out. Kait and Susan I’m sure will be a big help on getting your thoughts that are on paper (ahem…digital paper that is) all nice and lined up.

    I try to help Lauralynn out with her stories as she’s writing them. I’m not real good on editing (not because my grammar is bad but mostly because I’m not the type to read something more than twice…oh well) but if you need one more person to beta read it after Susan does her thing and before you hit the publish button just let me know. I would be glad to let you know what I think about it and if I see any last minute plot problem (although I’m sure Susan will probably catch them) and let you know. Oh, and I’ll still buy your book once it’s out there anyway just because I want to support all the indie readers I’ve been following as much as I can. This coming from someone who would love to write storires myself but don’t have the patience for it. 🙂

    Love your posts! Look forward to them each time they come through on my email.

    • Thank you very much, Anya. That was really nice.

      I know it’ll all get worked out. I look back at my early posts and see improvement in what I’ve been writing about lately, which is funny because you’d never think talking about yourself was a skill. Granted, writing fiction is a more complex skill, but I feel every new thing I write is better. And unless I have no perspective of my own work, that’s a good barometer of where I’m at.

  8. Your fears aren’t unknown to others, me in particular. After the umpteenth reading, your prose can suddenly look like the ramblings of a deranged mind. Another fear comes later; what if the book is widely read and widely panned? What if your painstaking research is ridiculed by experts? Grit your teeth. Someday a reader will say, “I just loved your book. I couldn’t put it down.” That’s the reward phase.

    • That would be great to hear. Plus every reader’s expectation is different. In Kait’s comment, she talked about the prison break sequence in Forsaken by Shadow being looked at as implausible. When I was reading it, I was so into the characters it didn’t phase me at all. In my opinion, it’s a five star book.

      Fortunately I’m not too worried about reader reaction. I know I’ll write the best book I can. That’s all I can do. But my peers? I want them to think I’m good.

  9. It is a ride. Sometimes when I finish a draft I think ‘I’m so awesome! This is going to be fantastic!’, but there are the times that I think ‘This is utter crap’. This used to bug but it doesn’t anymore, I just keep on writing regardless of my opinion about it. Simply because I must… if not for me, for all of those who support me and believe in me. Believe in me even when I don’t, especially when I don’t.

    I’m afraid of all my readers. The true is that we all want approval so freaking bad it hurts. I have been there… there was a time I used to write fanfiction and it was crappy, even so people managed to like it! That inspirited me to write ‘for real’, but still I catch myself wondering, plotting fictitious crazy outcomes of my possible failure. And it is senseless!

    Do your best and “Just finish the damn book” (susan_bischoff). It is what you can do. The game is not over until you say it is, so don’t call it quits.

    • No way. No quitting for me. Occasional whining, private tantrums, but no quitting.

      I like your point about continuing for your readers even if you think you suck. That’s a pretty cool way to look at it.

  10. When isn’t the cuckoo part of my brain trying to sabotage my dreams? It lives for that.

    But with work, it gets better. Or I should say it’s so much easier to ignore it now. Sometimes. When it wants to lull me into a false sense of security. It kinda plays rough.

    Don’t worry though. You’ll be fine. I can say this, but you’ll probably still have this sinking feeling until your friends read it and get back to you with their feedback. The wait sucks. And I’m including in this wait the time it takes to write the book and agonize over sending out chapters for review!

    • I know what you mean. I’m way more confident in my blogging because of the positive response it’s gotten. I’ll bet the same will be true once I have some books under my belt. I’ll get there.

  11. Hi Andrew. I kind of have this balancing act I have to do. I let ideas percolate on the back burner of my brain until they are warm and bubbly. At that point, they are at critical mass, and I have to sit down and write. Otherwise, the fear creeps in. What if they aren’t any good? What if I can’t find the words? What if I’m too edgey or abrasive or boring? I turn into a tharn rabbit in the headlights, walking around my computer and suddenly having to dust the items on my shadow box that I haven’t even noticed in a year. Then I have to back up, take a nap to let my brain settle, because everthing is better after a nap, and then sequester myself until I break the ice with a paragraph or two.

    Thanks for your post. It helps me to take a moment and absorb the fact that you and the other talented folks commenting here understand what it takes to approach the page.

    • Definitely a balancing act, but oh when that blank page is filled with ideas from your head, even if they’re not perfect? The best. Then you have to let someone else take a look at it. Ahh! I want to go back to the page filling joy.

      And about the naps? Soooo right. Really, they should be a medical requirement.

  12. I’m right there with you Andrew. I just sent my draft to several readers and I was terrified they wouldn’t like it, or they wouldn’t “get it”. I was afraid I would hate their comments and suggestions (but I DIDNT!! They were great critiques!).

    I’m still waiting for one more reader to get back to me and it’s the most terrifying of them all because she’s my sister-in-law. A SIL who studied creative writing at a hoity-toity university and is a fabulous writer (she should be writing books, not me). I’m almost embarrassed to have her read my stuff.

    But I gotta suck it up because if I want to tell my stories, I have to realize that not everyone will like what I have to offer. It’s just like films. I love trashy horror flicks, most people don’t 🙂

  13. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to confidence in what I write and yet as you correctly say even deeper down you know realize it will never be as bad as you fear.
    You are right to just say come on, lets get it down and get it critiqued. By throwing ourself to the lions as it were is often the best way. I know that as soon as my current novel is completed I will be getting it thoroughly critiqued and am indeed already suffering from the fear of “it’s not bad its awful” comments.

    • I know I’ll be better after a few books. I can think I’m as a good as I want, but it won’t completely take hold until I get told so. That’s where the fear comes in, the uncertainty. I hope your crit goes well for you!

  14. Wow…this article seems like you’ve been sitting next to me for the past few months. I’ve been working hard; but I’m so scared of my first book being sucktastic!

    I was actuallly thinking of trying to form a group of people to read eachothers work and give feedback. Its hard to meet reliable people do that sort of thing.

  15. Dude, if you didn’t feel like this, you wouldn’t be a writer. Any one of us has more angst than a bus full of teenagers.

    My fear of failure isn’t about the quality of my writing, it’s about my ability to network and sell my book. I can’t stay on top off all this commenting and tweeting, let alone posting to my own blog. And I can’t seem to attract people to read my blog, either. Don’t really know what to do about it, until they invent a 50 hour day.

    • I just went to your blog and by the amount of comments, it seems like you get a lot of traffic. But until this comment, I didn’t realize you had one. I found it through your Facebook page. Try putting the url of your blog in your comments so your name will be a hyperlink or if you’re signed into wordpress when you comment, it will come up too. I see you on lots of blogs and I’m sure I’m not the only one. People might not know you’re blogging.

      Totally understand about the time. I can’t do social media nearly as much as I’d like. Some days I have just enough time to chat and do a few RTs, but you have to do what’s comfortable for you.

  16. Andrew, I don’t know why my name isn’t coming up as a link. WordPress has me signed in. I’ve had that happen to me on Zoe’s blog, too, and it might be happening other places because I don’t always check. I can’t see why WordPress would recognize me but not make a link. Then again, I don’t understand why it arbitrarily signs me out, either. Could be worse. Could be Blogger. 🙂

    I do get comments from my local writing buddies, but I’m having a harder time breaking into indie circles. Of course the number of comments I get is a small percentage of the number of hits, so it could be people are reading but just not commenting.

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