Monday, 19 November 2012

Fight the Fear

The fear of failure stopped me chasing my dream for twenty years.
Twenty. Years.
Apart from making me feel very old it also makes me feel rather stupid. What was I thinking of? Why was I so scared?

Because, I suppose, at the age of twenty failure felt like the worst possible outcome. Twenty years ago I hadn't failed at anything of importance. I didn't know if I could cope so instead of trying to become a writer I gave up writing altogether.

It's a stupid dream I said. Dreams never come true and besides,
Hardly anyone becomes a writer, so,
Why put myself through all that agony for nothing? Might as well be sensible and just get on with life. Get a normal job, settle down, have children, forget about dreams...

So I did. And I was happy. I was fulfilled with my family and my work, it was all fine.
Besides, I had my secret life. The one inside my head. The one where I made up stories. I never attempted to write them down, I never spoke of them but I worked on them, changed them, adapted them, lived them all in my imagination. That was enough wasn't it?

Some years later during a late night conversation with one of my best friends she asked me why I never tried to write if it was what I'd always wanted to do.
I gulped and from somewhere came the truth.
"If I try and fail then I'll have to give up on my dream. If I never try, then I'll never fail and it can always be my dream."
I think I realised how stupid it was when I said it aloud but it took a bit longer for me to change.

It was a prolapsed disc, years of pain, spinal surgery and months spent flat on my back that finally forced me to try. I started to write a story for my son and I read it to him, as I wrote, chapter by chapter and he jumped around on the bed with excitement and rolled around laughing at my words and suddenly I knew how very much I wanted other children to read my words, how important it was that I put my imaginary worlds out there for others to enjoy.

 I didn't think it would be easy. I knew I'd probably fail. Alot. But somehow, twenty years on the fear was finally manageable. Because by now I had failed in other things and discovered that it wasn't the worst thing ever. In fact it was okay. You fail. You try again. That's it.
It's not like losing someone you love. Or living in pain every day. Or a thousand other terrible things that people deal with every day.
A rejection is just someone saying no. No is just a word.

So, finally, twenty years later I am trying to live the dream. I do feel some regret that I wasted so much time but on the other hand life has made me into the person I am now, the mulch of my brain has fermented over all those years in to the compost from where my stories come so perhaps only now, at this stage of my life, could it have actually happened.

These days I write as much as I can.
I cope with rejections and revisions and creative crises.
And I don't fear failure any more. What scares me now is never trying, never giving it a go, never putting myself out there.

So, this is me, putting myself out there and to everyone else, out there, giving it a go and fighting the fear - more power to you and me and all of us!


  1. Fight the fear - I like it! Like you I put off writing for years, raising a family, setting up a business and other distractions. But the thought never went away that one day... That one day came a few years back and I am now chasing my dream. Good luck with your journey :)

    1. Thanks Suzanne, at least we got there eventually! Hope you catch your dream one day soon.x

  2. It was being made redundant that made me start writing. And recent events have made me see once again how the disappointment of having your writing rejected pales in comparison to real hurts like losing someone you love. Great post!

    1. Thanks Miriam, I think perspective is really useful when we talk about the challenges of writing and can help keep us sane!x