5 tips to keep fear of failure in check

I’ve come a long way from the decision to become a published author to establishing the discipline to achieve that goal. I’ve found the insecurity of it all insanely fascinating, but entirely familiar, I’m afraid.

My mind has developed multiple personalities – the angel and the devil called in for back ups and my head’s become the stage for a schmaltzy drama! (I even eye roll myself.)

Why is it so hard? I wrote about that here, but, in summary, you can blame your ego and the chunk at the base of your brain, the amygdala, responsible for primal urges such as anger, fear and reproduction. For me, the big one (thank you amygdala) is fear: Fear that my writing will never come up to scratch, fear that I’ll be scoffed, fear that I’ll never measure up to all those talented and clever already published authors, fear that I’m wasting my time… and so on. In truth, my ego could use a bit of taming, also.

I worked out (fairly quickly) that you’ve just got to get over and on with it. But, how do you keep that fear in check?

1. Turn the devil down

Tune in to your own self talk and turn that bitch down a few notches. Notice, I said a few notches? You want to write a book, not construct a new solar system. You need a little bit of devil to keep your ego in check and make note of the bits of your writing that don’t work.

2. Turn the angel up

While you’re there, give your angel self a high five. She’s trying to give you credit where it’s due. Lap that stuff up and show a bit of love to the voice that’s trying to keep you moving forward.

3. Just keep going

There are days when I do write utter rubbish, can’t get past 100 words and there have been times when I didn’t come back to the laptop for days. But, I persist (see point four).

4. Commitment beats deadline, for now

There will come a time when the deadline is critically important, but while I write alone, that is sans agent or publisher, it’s the commitment that’s more important than anything else. So, every day, I write. I’m building my writing muscle up to 500 words a day, because I think that works well for me. At the moment, I don’t achieve that every day, but I’m increasing the weight and repetition. One day, I’ll be pumping 500 words like a pro.

5. Don’t just fit it in, make time

I owe this tip to writer and author Allison Tait via So You Want To Be a Writer, a podcast she co-hosts with Valerie Khoo. It resonates, because Allison’s challenges somewhat mirror my own – we are both freelance writers and Mum to two boys. The only critical difference is that she is a published author, and I’m not. If making time to write is how she did it, then that’s what I’ll do, too.


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