Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fear of Failure

When I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me, "You can be anything you want to be." I would say, "When I grow up I want to be a [insert unlikely career here]," and my mom said, "If you work hard, you can make it happen."

By about second grade I had narrowed in on what I was going to be when I grew up. It was a couple of things actually, but I had decided I would be, 1) a wife, 2) a mother, 3) a teacher, and 4) a writer. Most kids change their minds a million times between second grade and college graduation, but not me. Aside from a brief stint in which I decided I hated teaching, I never wavered. I am one of those people who makes up her mind and then sticks to it. I never even changed my major in college.

I became a wife at 18, a teacher at 19, and a mother at 21. But what about writer? I've had a goal of becoming published by 25 since I was about 13. Now that I'm closing in on 23, this is seeming like an impossible goal. In my mind, I now say things like, "Maybe I'll have an agent by 25," or, "Maybe I'll have a contract by 25." Published by 25 is quickly seeming impossible. On my more pessimistic days, I think, "Maybe I'll have a manuscript finished and ready to query by 25." Those are usually the days when I have not even been able to fold laundry because of the twins. The days when it's 4 pm, the bed isn't made, the sink is piled high with dishes, the twins are cranky, and I'm wondering if I'm going to manage to get out of my pajamas before hubby gets home from work and/or school.

Sometimes, on really bad days like today, I wonder if I'm even a writer. If I even have the right to be a writer. Because what right do I have to spend my precious free time writing when I have so many other things I should and could be doing?

I have a confession: I haven't seriously worked on The Hostage Heart in almost a month. Yes, I know I have claimed to be "editing." But I finally realized the other day: I'm not editing. I'm avoiding. Avoiding finishing. Avoiding trying. Avoiding failure.

Because I am scared I will fail. It feels weird to admit it. I've always been a fairly confident person, and until my husband and I struggled with infertility I had never encountered a problem I couldn't fix just by sheer will power and hard work.

Writing is kind of like infertility in some ways, now that I think about it. I am putting my heart out there on the line, and it's all up to someone else whether or not my dreams come true. Oh sure, I know I can self-publish. Indie is a great way to go for lots of writers. But not for me. I need someone else to validate my worth as a writer. I need that publisher's stamp of approval.

And that's scary. Because what if I'm wasting all this time writing when I should be making awesome gourmet meals and keeping my house spotlessly clean? I could be canning or hand making baby clothes or something. What if I fail? What if I'm really not any good at this whole writing thing? What if I just plain suck?

I'm being dramatic. I know I'm being dramatic. I do that a lot; I have earned the title of Drama Queen through hard work and dedication. But still. What if...?

It's true; faith and fear cannot coexist. And my fear of failure has paralyzed my writing and made it impossible for me to press forward. I need to sit back, take a deep breath, and have a little faith in myself. I need to give myself some credit.

My personal motto is, "I can do hard things." And I can. I have done hard things, time and time again. This is another hard thing I can do--overcome my fear of failing and actually write something worth publishing. I can do it. I will do it.

August is going to be a more productive writing month than July. It has to be.


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