Three Reasons Why You Can't Handle the Truth (of Success)

Monday, October 02, 2017
Recently one of the Muffin writers wrote about her fear of failure. After reading Beth’s post, I wondered. Are we afraid of failure? Or sometimes, is it a fear of success that paralyzes us?

For me, I know it's often a fear of success that keeps me from moving forward on a project. Fear of failure? I don't think so. Why? I teach kids who are 13-15. They're hardly ever equipped with a filter on their mouths.

I've seen my name scratched into bathroom stall walls (such as comparing me to a female canine), so the idea of getting a "no" or a nasty letter from an editor doesn't scare me.

However, getting out of my rut does.

Wondering if my "fear of success" theory about myself was completely whackadoodle, I read an article. I realize that I am scared of succeeding, and this might be why:

1) fear of becoming someone else

I get it. With success, a writer is sometimes transformed into somebody else. Their head grows. They puff up with clouds of self-importance. They become too superior to deal with those poor pathetic writers who haven't made it yet.

photo by pixabay

However, I have writer friends who have gotten books published. Lisa Ricard Claro. Cathy C. Hall. Sean McLachlan. Margo Dill. Sue Bradford Edwards. Pat Wahler. None of them (I don't think) are flouncing around in a feather boa and a tiara and charging for autographs. (Sorry, Sean.)

That’s not it.

2) fear of selling out

Some writers think that "selling out" means self-publishing. Other authors consider the compromises that (I guess) must be made when getting a book published in the "traditional" way as a threat to the writer's artistic integrity.

In my opinion, any way you can get your work out there is fabulous, so I don't think this is why fear of success puts me in a state of paralysis.

3) fear of not being able to cope with success

Ding ding ding. We have a winner. I know what my rut is like because I've been stuck in it for decades. I write for the same markets. I submit. I get more rejections than acceptances. I do occasional author events/book signings. It's a life I'm comfortable with.

However, if I put the finishing touches on my manuscript and wrote a decent query and submitted it and snagged some interest and ended up getting it published? Whew. That kind of success would throw me into unknown territory. What kind of expectations would be heaped onto my back? What new pressures would I have to contend with? That level of success would necessitate me becoming a marketing machine... which I've never thought I'd be good at. More spotlights would be shining on me, which would (hopefully) mean reviews (and hopefully some of them would be positive).

Google image

I get it. Failure and rejection are hard to take but I have age on my side. You get to a certain stage of life and it often equates into a I-don't-care attitude. My day job also helped me build a suit of sturdy armor.

No, for me it's fear of success. And hopefully I can soon succeed in overcoming that fear...

How about you? Are you scared of success? Or is it failure that has you fearful?

Sioux Roslawski is afraid of success, but she's trying to overcome it. During the day she works with middle-schoolers who really are polite but also quite honest, resulting in much laughter and much good-intentioned back-and-forth ribbing. If you'd like to read more of her writing or you'd like to cheer her along, please check out her blog.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Sioux! For me, it's a little bit from column a and b--fear of failure and success--but I decided that I need to have a book published before I turn fifty, if not sooner. I recently quit drinking and went vegan again (I go on half a year and then go off for half, and have done this since my early twenties), and every time I do, I feel highly aware that life is short and I need to finish a book to feel fulfilled. I'm working on my "I-don't-care attitude" or as I call it "F-it attitude." :)

I like that everyone is getting creative with their bios!

Val said...

That's it! I'm afraid of success!

If my work is accepted, it will become actual WORK. I'll have to edit and meet deadlines and make decisions. It's so much easier to coast along, writing what I want, thumbing my nose at people who don't have the good taste to like it.

You, Madam, are a genius! In five short minutes, you have allowed me to understand why I have made no efforts toward publication for the last year and a half. Thank you.

Margo Dill said...

We all know fear is a mind killer and also it turns out a career killer! Thanks for the thoughtful post!

Linda O'Connell said...

This was a thought provoking post. For years I thought I was afraid of failure, but it really was success I feared, for many of the reasons stated. you have all the tolls to succeed. Go for it!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--Once you turn fifty, that f-it attitude becomes more pronounced. I think it's because by that age, we realize what's important and what's not important at all.

I'm with you on what would fulfill me. Perhaps some day there might be a bookstore that has a book by both of us on its shelves... ;)

Val--If only we lived closer. If we did, I'd be coming by and using a cattle prod on you every week to get you to push yourself into publishing more.

Margo--And did you notice I used a number in my title? ;)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--Thanks for all the encouragement and nudging you do on a regular basis. (I'm glad you overcame your fear.)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Wanted to leave a comment here but that dang tiara keeps slipping into my eyes. :-)

I don't know if it's fear, exactly, that keeps me from getting out there. Like you, I rather enjoy my nice, comfortable rut. So fear, not so much. Laziness? Probably. (But thanks for making me take a closer look, Sioux!)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--Oh, I have a generous helping of laziness that prevents me from progressing as far as I can, believe me.

Pat Wahler said...

Procrastination is my biggest obstacle. Why, oh why do I always put things off until tomorrow?

Wonderful post and definitely something to think about.


Mary Horner said...

Not sure which for me, fear of success or failure, but I'm trying to work through it. And you're right about turning 50, it makes a difference.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Another thought-inspiring post, Sioux. I'm thinking I fear both failure and success. Failure would mean my work doesn't measure up; success might not be what I expected it to be. The writers you mentioned are successful, and I agree the success hasn't changed them. They still are the kind-hearted writers they will always be.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Pat--Thanks for reminding me that not only do I have a laziness component going on, I also have a huge dollop of procrastination plaguing me. ;)

Mary--Does that more sensible attitude make up for the sagging skin and fat rolls I've developed? I'm not sure...

Donna--I can't wait until your book is published. (And notice I didn't say "if," I said "when.") I am sure your work DOES measure up (it does all the time) and I'm confident you can handle the success.

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