I’m back from the RWA National writing conference but still feeling rather zombie-like. Mix an introvert into an extroverted (2000+ attendees!) situation, add tons of great workshops to stretch her brain, and subtract decent sleep for the week leading up to the conference and continuing through the conference, and you have a mess. That is, you have me. *smile*
I want to thank Mary Buckham for going above and beyond with her “takeover” of my blog last week. She did a phenomenal job answering questions and replying to comments—in addition to her great posts on improving our setting descriptions through deep point of view and anchoring our scenes. And congratulations to Amanda and Serena for their wins in Mary’s giveaways. Yay!
My workshop went well and I attended several fantastic sessions, so I’ll be sharing additional thoughts in the upcoming weeks. But for now, I need a topic I can fake being coherent for in a short post. *grin* Then I can return to being brain dead for another day or two.
Perfectionism and Fears
My regular readers know I’m a perfectionist, as I’ve mentioned it many times, but I try not to let it hold me back. After all, logically I know perfection is impossible. So every week I manage to publish blog posts and share my work with others despite its flaws.
However, facing various choices and issues in my writing career has forced me to recognize that sometimes I do suffer from a related fear. And that fear does hold me back.
- I’m a perfectionist.
- The drive for perfectionism can trigger a fear of failure.
I would bet that I’m not alone with this dual whammy of issues. While I don’t let my perfectionism hold me back in day-to-day life, I struggle when facing choices: What if I choose “wrong”?
This might not be the typical “fear of failure,” but I think it is related. Whether we call it failure or not, it’s a fear of doing something “wrong.”
In writing, it might be a fear of writing our genre wrong, or writing the wrong kind of character. Or maybe we worry about whether an agent or contract is wrong for us. Or maybe we fear the publishing path we’re on will flop or that we’re too late to the game to find success.
In short, this fear of doing things “wrong” can paralyze us from making any choices at all. That paralysis is what’s really wrong.
Failure Isn’t the End
Bestselling author Sylvia Day was the Keynote Speaker at the RWA Annual Conference, and one of the themes of her talk was the danger of failure and fear. She pointed out that not only does fear of failure hold us back, but it also prevents us from learning from our mistakes.
Sure, we might choose “wrong,” but very few mistakes in our life won’t come with a lesson we can take away for the future. With each new book, we can experiment with our writing techniques. Maybe an agent is “wrong” for us, but we can change agents. A “wrong” contract doesn’t prevent us from writing new stories for new options. Self-published authors can change books covers and blurbs if they turn out to be “wrong” for attracting readers.
Even a choice of a publishing path doesn’t have to be permanent. Plenty of authors have gone from traditional to self-publishing and vice versa—or found a middle ground with hybrid publishing.
If we make a choice and it turns out to be a mistake due to one thing or another—and we learn from that mistake—is our choice really a mistake?
The problem isn’t with making mistakes. We all make mistakes every day and can’t avoid that fact. Living life without mistakes is just as impossible as living life perfectly. The problem is only if we don’t learn anything from our mistakes.
Failure Is a Learning Experience
It’s only by “failing” to receive “everything is perfect” feedback that we learn how we can improve our writing. It’s only by receiving rejections that we learn which agents aren’t a good fit for our work. And it’s only by trying that we’ll learn what doesn’t work.
We see this in the rest of our life too. We often need to date several “not right for us” people to learn what we don’t want in a life partner. Or we might have to try a class in school to learn the subject isn’t nearly as interesting to us as we thought.
Writing isn’t any different. It’s only by “failing” that we learn.
But that truth means failure has value. If failure teaches us something, it’s not strictly a bad thing.
If our goal is not to “succeed”
or avoid failure or mistakes,
but to learn something,
we will never fail.
I’m going to try to apply this perspective to my writing life. If I can stop stressing about “doing something wrong” and instead focus on “learning to do it better next time,” I might be less intimidated by decisions. Maybe I can stop being paralyzed when faced with big choices so I can move forward. Someday, I might even look forward to the opportunity to make new mistakes. *smile*
Do you agree that a fear of doing something wrong is related to a fear of failure? Do you struggle with the “what if I do something wrong” style of fear of failure? Can failure have value? Do you think it’s always possible to view failure as a learning experience? And if not, what makes that attitude difficult or impossible?Pin It