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The Fear of Success

April 18, 2011

We all have it. ‘We’ as in writers. If we’re any good at our art/craft. And if we’re good, we know it. We may (and often do) have personal lives that are a complete emotional train wreck, but we have literary egos as vast and solid as the Bering Sea.

You may think we fear we won’t be able to handle the constant rejection that inevitably comes with the territory, but we can handle that. We can take that on the chin. We know how many rejection letters any given famous author got for any given famous piece of work. We can recite it to you like jocks can recite baseball stats from 50 years ago.

We sniff at rejection. It’s a badge of honor.

What we really fear, more than anything in the world… is success…


Because if we’re successful… then we aren’t doing it strictly for the love of the art anymore. We’re doing it for… *shudder*… money

It’s become our… job.

(Which is, of course, precisely what we dream of.)

Will we still want to do it? Will we still crave it? Will it still be our truest love when we have agents, publishers, readers, editors… breathing down our necks to get it done?

Will we still leap out of bed at 3 AM to peck away at a glow in the dark keyboard at night because we awoke with a literary orgasm so strong we broke a nail on the headboard, or be up before our spouse on a camping trip so we can fall face down in the decaying leaves in the wee hours so we know what that feels, smells, and tastes like when we write about our heroine falling into them as she’s being chased through the forest by a madman? (And hopefully we either have understanding spouses, or, ideally, writer spouses…)

We’re not sure.

So… we procrastinate. Make excuses. Waste time with other mindless, non-productive entertainments.

Fellow writers get published, and we’re happy for them. We secretly envy them. Not in a mean way, but in a ‘”Cripes I know I could be there too, if only I’d get out of my own way” way.

Cause we know we’re just as good, if not better, than they are…

And yet… we hesitate.

We work feverishly on a WIP… then walk away from it.

It might be ‘finished’, but it’s never ‘polished’.

Never ready for submission.

Why do we do it? Or, more appropriately… not do it?

Because, as the quote from T.C. Boyle states in my headline…

It’s an addiction… and it’s a sweet one. It’s one we don’t want to break. One we don’t want to fall out of love with.

And we’re afraid that if we find success… we’ll lose the love of our lives. That muse draws us stronger than any flesh and blood lover ever could… and we never want to lose it.

And that, my friends, is the plight of the ‘starving artist’. It isn’t because they aren’t good enough.

Like any other addict… they’re not brave enough.

See how I’ve suddenly switched from ‘we’ to ‘they’, so as to distance myself from such weak creatures?… because surely I don’t fall into such a category…

One Comment leave one →
  1. freedomtights permalink
    April 19, 2011 1:16 am

    Great post! It made me laugh, love the phrase “literary orgasm.” Beauty! I could relate to so much of what you have written. Ahh, its so conflicting the addiction of writing and wanting to be a writer but fearing success. I often find that the process is much more enjoyable and that the depression occurs when the project is completed.

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