Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nothing to Fear...Part One: Fear of Failure

"The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
Nelson Mandela

"Cowards die many times before their deaths
The valiant never taste of death but once."
William Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar

Fear can be a healthy emotion.

For example, fear of being mauled and eaten is what keeps most people from walking up to a hungry bear and smacking it on the rump (by the way, those who may wish to conquer this fear are not what I consider brave--they are something that I like to call "morons").

Without fear of predators, the human race would probably not have survived; our ancestors would have been eaten long ago, and Chihuahuas, who fear everything, would probably have evolved into the dominant species on this planet.

Perhaps I'm being a bit extreme, but the point is that fear has its place as a positive, healthy feeling.

But it can also be poison.

For the writer in particular, fear burns and destroys.

Fear kills.

There are two kinds of fear that can keep the writer from accomplishing his or her goals. One of these is easy to understand, so we'll look at it first.

Fear of failure.

Like I said, easy to understand, isn't it?

Think about it; you've spent countless hours constructing your tale. You've sacrificed time and relationships for the solitude necessary for craft. You've built up your world and your characters. You've laughed with them, bled with them, and wept with--and for--them. A great deal of your energy, your soul, has gone into this.

And now it's time to let it out.

It's time to share it, and you can't help being afraid.

What if no one likes it, you ask yourself. What if all of this sacrifice, all of this emotion, is for nothing?

The rejection will hurt too much, and only prove that I'm wasting my time. It's better to not send it out; if no one reads it, no one can reject it.

No one can reject me.

As Drew Carey's character in Robots says, "Never try, never fail."

Rejection is inevitable. It's part of the business.

It's part of life.

But the fear of rejection, of failure, is also a ridiculous waste of time.

How many great works, how many world-changing ideas, have died with their creators because those creators were too afraid to take a risk and put their work out into the world?

How many people spend life as the walking dead because they are too afraid to truly live?

Fortunately, this fear can be fought.

This fear is built on the "What If's", and you can use the "What If's" to fight it. What if no one likes it? What if everyone hates it? What if I just can't do this?

Yeah, well, what if you can?

What if you can do this?  What if people do like your work?

How different would things be then?

C'mon, folks. We're writers. We live and breathe by our imaginations. Use 'em.

Picture your book on display at a store. Picture your name in the "based upon the novel by..." credit in a Spielberg film. Picture an interview with you, where you tell how you overcame fear of failure, inspiring someone else who has those fears to step up to them and say "What if I can do this, too?"

Doesn't that feel better than, "What if I fail"?

I'm not saying there won't be rejection. I'm not saying there won't be more pain, frustration, and heartache.

What I am saying is that if you don't try, there will be nothing.

That's how fear kills. Yes, it can keep you alive.

But it can also keep you from living.

Just so you know, this is something I struggle with myself. Writing this helps.

I hope reading it does, too.