Scared of Being Ungrounded by Success?

When you imagine yourself into your own future writing success, how does it feel? Is it exciting but terrifying, all at once? Do you imagine yourself changed irrevocably by your fame and fortune? Do you sense yourself being overwhelmed by attention, energy, and even money? Will you still be a good person?

Will success change you?

A Sneaky Kind of Resistance

I’ve seen in myself and others this terror of success manifesting as a very sneaky kind of resistance. We self-sabotage because we’re afraid we can’t handle the success. Another way to think of this is as an “upper limit problem,” where you thwart your future success by imploding in the here and now, even in the smallest of ways.

Does “I just don’t feel like writing today” ring any bells?

Under the terror is a fear of losing your very sense of self as a result of being successful. As if you'll be so overloaded with the intensity of success that you’ll transform into chaotic energy that floats you away into nothingness.

Sometimes we stop ourselves from writing because we’re afraid to fail.

And sometimes we stop ourselves because we’re afraid to succeed.

Symptoms of a Fear of Success

It could be as simple as procrastinating or being a perfectionist, but it might also look like taking on so many tasks that you can’t write, failing to do your best work, stopping just short of finishing project after project, fearing that you'll betray your loved ones if you succeed or are happy, or even allowing emergencies to erupt and backlogged work to accumulate so you can’t write (or write well) because you have too many demands on your time, space, and energy.

Interesting how those symptoms match both a fear of failure and a fear of success, isn't it?

Addressing a Fear of Success

But the solution for moving past the fear lies in understanding which fear it is.

Having a fear of failure means needing to adjust your mindset about what failure means.  

If you're struggling with a fear of success, though, the solution lies in bringing yourself into the here and now, into this moment, right now, reading this piece with me, and remembering that you get to decide how to handle your life. You’re the author of your present, and your future. You get to practice being grounded, centered, present, and calm, right now, right here. You get to make decisions and plans for your money, time, and energy now, so that when success arrives you're well prepared for it.

So just breathe with me, right now. Notice the air, the light, the sounds around you. Take a deep inhale, and then let it go. You don’t have to worry about the future right now, because you're getting ready to be your future self, one step at a time.

Your job, right now, is to calm and soothe yourself. To bring your attention back to the work you’re doing right now. The learning you’re having right now. One step at a time.

Enjoy it.

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Learning from endings

I’ve finished the rewrite of my script.

And I’ve learned so much about endings as I’ve approached this one. It’s a different scenario from the usual drill of having a forced, external deadline. This one has been entirely internally motivated. There’s no due date, there’s no have-to.

Look at the pony show

And the fancy tricks I started to pull at the end were very creative. Hilarious, in point of fact.

As soon as I could “see” the end — when I had it in my sights and knew it was only a matter of about 10 to 15 pages to get there, my insides got all squirrely. I decided I wanted to finish it right then, even if it took me the rest of the day.

When reality struck and I realized I had other work that had to come first (I am running a business here), I found myself wanting to postpone working on it again until I had a Long Block of Time to write (the precise opposite of what I recommend). What a joke! I got myself back onto my regular, moderate, well-paced schedule of 30 minutes a day pretty quickly once I caught on to the dog-and-pony show my inner critic was putting on.

I also found that my inner critic fired up a whole new level of criticism — she’s been pulling out all the stops, laying it on fast and thick, “It’s not as good as the last draft. You’ve wasted your time, it’s still no better. This still isn’t marketable.”

Good thing I know better than to listen to all that.

Creative expression is deeply vulnerable

Here’s what I also know to be true — part of me IS scared, and that’s okay. I just can’t — and won’t — let it stop me. I only need to acknowledge it and move on. It’s a big deal, after all, bringing something into being. It’s bound to stir up fear and vulnerability.

Shame researcher Brené Brown says that there’s nothing more vulnerable than creating something that has never existed before.

She’s right.

I’ve also heard it described as being like taking down your pants, in public, very… very… slowly.

It’s no wonder so many of us hesitate when it comes to completing our work.

It’s all about the fear — and the old wounds

So many of us have been so wounded around our creative expression, it’s no wonder we hold back when it comes to “shipping.”

Shipping, in case you’re wondering, means completing and delivering our work, whether it’s a website, book, ebook, script, painting, or widget.

I can’t tell you how many people I see never shipping their work, full of excuses, not realizing it’s really fear that’s stopping them. (If you want help keeping your fear and doubt from stopping you, my new mentoring programs will help. More on that next week.)

It happens with so many different kinds of projects — getting almost to the completion point and then deciding we’re “stuck” or “bored.” Websites that never go live. Ebooks that never get published. Scripts that languish in endless revisions.

It’s all just smoke and mirrors

Stuck is a smokescreen for fear.

Bored is a smokescreen for fear.

The fact is, we are terrified. Getting to the end of a project stirs up all our issues around being seen, heard, scrutinized, read, listened to, failing, succeeding.

But in the end, isn’t it better to try?

Brené Brown brought this quote from Theodore Roosevelt to my attention, “It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he’s in the arena, at best he wins, and at worst he loses, but when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.”

I’d much rather try and “fail” then never to try at all.

Your turn

I’d love to hear from you. What’s your experience with completion? Do you keep going until the end? Waffle? Run out of steam? Get bored? Are you daring greatly? Dipping in a toe or diving in? Does the fear of failing stop you?

Warmly,

 Jenna

Coming Attractions

~> March 8th at 11 a.m. Pacific — Mark your calendar! If you enjoyed my Creative Productivity TeleClass Series and you’re wondering about the next steps to put what you learned into practice, you’ll want to join me for this free information call next week. I’ll walk you through identifying your next steps and fill you in about details about how I can support you along the way through my 1:1 mentoring programs. More information on its way soon! Watch your inbox for details about how to sign up.

~> March 21st: Register for the next Writer’s Circle session. Register by March 21st for the next session of my Writer’s Circle (starts March 25th). Build a solid habit of daily writing and finish all your writing projects: http://JustDoTheWriting.com. We’re running four groups of fantastic writers right now and it’s a ton of fun. Come join us!

 

What I'm Up To

~> Daily. Working on rewriting my script, Progeny, with my mentor Chris Soth after finishing the ProSeries. Just about done!

~> Reading How to Speak Dragonese with my son. Finished ScriptShadow Secrets* by Carson Reevesa great one!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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