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The Writing Life: Fear of Failure and Which Way Now?

12 April, 2010

I have something of a confession to make. For all my numerous projects and the hundreds of thousands of words that I’ve written in the last six months to a year, I’ve finished very little. There have been a few first drafts never revised, a couple of halfway finished then aborted novels or short stories, and plenty more false starts. Dozens of false starts, in fact.

In fact, it’s got to the point where I’ve backed myself into a bit of a corner. I’m so desperate to finish something – anything – that I’m convinced that I need to pick the exact right project to work on. If I make the wrong choice, I’ll never finish it, I reason, which will lead me to yet another abandoned novel. And that’s not somewhere I want to end up again. The problem is, I’m now simply too nervous to start anything new for fear of failing all over again.

It’s a vicious circle, I know. I make a half-hearted start on a hastily conceived idea, it all goes pear-shaped, I abandon it, I become too scared to start anything that I’ve put too much thought into, so I start something not properly thought out and it fails again…

So, I’m effectively stuck. I don’t know what to work on but I don’t want to fail again either. This is one of those writing problems that I don’t really know how to solve – I’m working from trial and error here – but I have decided that I need to work out a plan of action and stick to it. Here are my thoughts so far:

  1. Forget about the failures. So a few projects didn’t work out. So what? I need to put them aside if they’re really not working. I can come back to them later or I can move on to something new. The point is, I need to stop getting hung up on the number of unfinished works I have. There’s too much stress involved in worrying about them. They didn’t work out. End of.
  2. Research. To stop new projects failing, I need to put a lot more research and time into developing new ideas. I’m working on this one already, with a handful of books from the library and a list of similarly-themed fiction that I want to get my hands on. I’m also not going to start anything too quickly – I need time for these new ideas to sink in.
  3. Forget the schedule. I am not a published writer. I do not need to produce a book a year, or every six months. I can write entirely at my own pace, with no pressure whatsoever. This also links into giving new ideas and research time to sink in.
  4. Relax! This is is self-explanatory, really. The pressure I’m under is all coming from myself. I need to leave it behind.

Overall, I’m hoping that these simple points will help me discover which one of my many ideas I want to work on – and eventually help me finish whichever one I choose.

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2 Comments
  1. 12 April, 2010 1:23 pm

    Ah.. And the number 5: HAVE FUN! 😀 Happy writing!

    • Amy permalink*
      13 April, 2010 9:31 am

      Cassle, you’re absolutely right. There’s no point writing if you’re not enjoying yourself and I have to make sure I remember that!

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