16 May

Mindful Writing: Dealing with High Stakes

Posted in Mindful Writing, Process, Writing

It’s pretty normal to have a fear of failure but fear of success?  That’s just plain weird.  Yet in my writer-brain, somehow it’s far more terrifying to succeed at something than it is to fail.  Why?  Because success means higher stakes, and if failure does happen later on it hurts all the more.

It’s like the Earth in the picture, just floating through space, la-dee-da, until some huge meteor smacks into it.  If the Earth were just a barren rock, then the stakes would be low because the Earth wouldn’t have much to lose.  But the Earth has spent millions of years growing life from one-celled organisms to sentient beings.  It’s because of the Earth’s success at making living things that a meteor hit would be so unbelievably catastrophic.

It’s sort of the same with writing.  The more you write, the higher the stakes get because you’ve invested time and effort into the project.  If you don’t finish the book you won’t get rejected by agents and editors because you’ll never get to that point, so it’s actually a comfortable place to be.  But if you spend all that time writing and editing the book and then you get rejected, it hurts.  Big time.

This is where mindful writing comes in.  In mindfulness, you need to be aware of the things you can control and the things you cannot.  You can’t control whether people will love or hate your book, but you can control whether you actually finish writing it.  Success and failure are out of your control.  What you can control is whether you write the book.  After that, all you can do is accept the successes and failures when they come.

What scares you more: success or failure?  What can you do today that will take you one step closer to finishing a project?


Comments on this post

  1. J.L. Campbell says:

    I do believe it's normal to fear both failure and success. As a published writer, I still fear that somehow I've written drivel that has been circulated to the public. However, as you said here, knowing that some will love and hate the book is a reality that has to be faced. And truthfully, I'm satisfied knowing that at least, I've completed something!

    1. Gabriela Pereira says:

      That's a great point about the satisfaction of completing a book. I'll have to keep that in mind as I continue working on my projects. 🙂 I can't control if people like my work but I can control whether or not I finish it.

      1. Meaghan says:

        I am more afraid of finding that my friends and family still do not support my dream of writing for a living even after I finish and publish my first book… I can deal with not finishing it, I can deal with not getting it traditionally published (well, I don't plan on trying for that at the moment anyway,) but I don't think I could handle not being accepted as a writer after I have something to show for it. It's a hostile writing environment I have going on here, which is why I spend so much time talking to other writers and readers online, haha!

        1. Gabriela Pereira says:

          Meaghan, that's so tough to have friends and family who don't support you and your dream. I think all writers or artists deal with that at some time or other. I personally have a hard time keeping myself from saying "E tu Brute" to some of those naysayers. Just know that you have a network of writers out here who are cheering for you all the way.

          1. Shirley Wells says:

            A lot of years have gone by since I was first published, but I still remember the fear of waiting for that publisher to come knocking at my door to tell me they'd made A Terrible Mistake.

            The important thing, I think, is to finish a book and make it the best it can be. That way, at least you're happy with it. If you love it, other people will – it's just a matter of finding them.

            1. K.V. Briar says:

              Great post Gabi, this definately hits my feelings on the nose. I'm terrified of getting published and discovering that my writing truely stinks and isn't worth reading. All those nightmares about bad reviews haunt me. I think this is why I've gone through so many drafts of my book without sending out queries. I keep finding things to tweek. Little things, big things, things that don't really need changing. I wish I could believe in my writing enough to send it out into the world, but geesh that's scary.

              Today I will commit myself to this being my last draft. I will send it out to beta readers when I'm done. Then send out queries. No More Procrastination!

              1. The Red Angel says:

                I still have a fear of failure, but I see what you mean. I guess it's kind of the same with a fear of not knowing what you want to do–and knowing. When you know you want to do, the fear of failure/success is all the greater because you love that one passion so much.



                1. Gabriela Pereira says:

                  These are all excellent points! I definitely agree that we have to finish the book because that's the only thing we can control.

                  KV Briar–That's an amazing plan! Good luck with it. I'm rooting for ya!

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