You hear a lot on writer websites and writing conferences and in writing books about dealing with rejection and the fear of rejection. But lately I've been thinking about the elephant in the room, the thing I'm almost embarrassed to bring up. Fear of success. Lately, when I see an email or an envelope from a place to which I've submitted my work, I think I'm a little terrified of the "yes." What will it unleash? What expectations will be involved?
With my short stories it's slightly less terrifying. After all, a "yes" to a short story isn't likely to wreak massive ongoing changes on my life. Still, that fear of success is there. I think I'm anxious about the anticlimactic nature of the "yes" to my short stories. I've been down that road with contests before, where I finally won, and even got a nice chunk of change, and had that "now what?" moment. If I get a story published, then what? Will I ever be satisfied? Probably not, as long as there are more stories to tell. And that's a good thing.
But what if one of my books gets a yes? First of all, I have no idea how that will happen, or what I will say. But, let's imagine it all works out and those initial humps and bumps are managed. I know a book deal would mean changes for me. What would I be expected to do in terms of promotion? I know on a vaguely theoretical level, and even that scares me. That process of putting myself out there scares me. What would it mean for my life as a teacher? What about things like editorial letters and revisions and deadlines? Contracts and legal stuff and rights? Not to mention reviews (cue scary music) - people judging me and my work publicly and brutally. Sometimes I just hope for some simple, modest success where the changes won't be too overwhelming. Other times I ask myself "Why in the world do I believe I deserve any kind of success?" And let's face it, that's not the attitude you want your author to have if they're going to go out there and do any kind of publicity or promotion.
So, yes. I fear change and therefore I fear success. I wonder sometimes if this fear keeps me from doing all I could to achieve my writing goals. In fairness, though, I don't think I'm holding back. I write every day. I regularly submit my work. I have a blog and a website and a facebook presence. I attend conferences and get critiques and pitch my work. I'm in two critique groups. I'm sticking my neck out there in spite of all sorts of fears.
I suppose fear of success is just one more reason for me to focus on the writing and let go of the endgame. Whatever degree of success I end up having, the bottom line is that I write because I want to write. I like weaving stories about the world. It's one of the ways I interact with life. No matter what fabulous success, abject failure, or mediocre versions of either might await me. No matter what mammals invade the room of my brain.
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