Fear of Success?

Dude, what the fuck does that mean?

That’s what I keep thinking when I hear people drop that line. “Oh, so and so is just scared of success, so they self-jeopardize, yadda yadda.”

I don’t understand what that means.

Or at least I didn’t think I understood what that meant until a few minutes ago.

The Yankee game is on a rain delay so I thought I would sketch out a plan of action to tackle the various projects I have jumbling around in my head. Prioritize, make a timeline, create an outline, do some research, that kind of thing. And then I realized that I have a novel I am about to release any minute now.

What am I doing working on other projects — juggling several of them, in fact — when I have a life-sucking day job, two toddlers, a commute from hell, and Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn to release? Since my last book’s promotion was brought to a screeching halt due to circumstances beyond my control, I owe it to myself to push Back(stabbed). So then I thought, am I that scattered, or am I really just trying to escape what could be a disappointing, anticlimactic release? Or is it the other thing — that fear of success thing?

For those of you who know what my last book was about (the young me), you’ll recall that it was a series of goals that I set which I met, and became disoriented after having met the goal. It’s kind of disappointing when you set out to reach what you tell yourself is a lofty expectation, and then you get there and it’s not so fabulous.

So perhaps it’s not a fear of “success,” in its immeasurable form, but a fear of continued disillusionment. Or, worse, (and this is where you say, babes, go see a shrink), an inability to feel satisfied not just with my own work but with its acceptance in the world.

So what does this all have to do with writing? Because it is a tremendous emotional and personal investment in our work and while we rely on external validation to a certain extent, much of how we feel about our work is measured on an internal scale. I write because I like to tell stories. I feel personal satisfaction once I’ve read the story I’ve written. I am proud of a lot of the stories I’ve written. But I cannot help but to put my work on a larger scale with the hopes that I’ll find gold at the end of the rainbow. Part of that desperation is due to the fact that the gold is simply unattainable.  It is like asking to live in bliss, to be able to support my family and writing.

Well, girlie, this life doesn’t work that way (for me, at least). My fear of success isn’t the problem so much as my expectations to win over fans and readers, adulation, demand, and my overwhelming desire to have the freedom to start any project I want. In order to really hit the next level as I want, I have to take some serious risks and just focus. I realize that I probably am not willing to risk what I have now (lame) in order to pursue what I really want. I did that. 29 times. And failed.

Projects I would like to get off the ground:

  • Sports Blog – http://TheIntentionalWalk.wordpress.com (this is live, but sucks a little bit. need graphics.)
  • Freelance articles and interviews with sports figures
  • Maggie & May full length novel (4 chapters done)
  • Jean-Baptiste Foulon is a Brilliant Liar full length novel (3 chapters done)
  • Screenplay for Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn and set up some major meetings to get it produced
  • Find an excellent food photographer and publish Intuitive Cooking cookbook (manuscript is complete)
  • Biography of Jay-Z (alternatively, a story or novella about a fictional character attempting to write a biography of Jay-Z.) Not started yet.
  • Launch Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn with more readings and appearances (1 appearance scheduled, here on August 22 for Katelan Foisy’s book release party)

Can I do it all? Check back to measure my progress. Nudge me, will ya? Thanks.



Filed under Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn, commentary, essay

6 responses to “Fear of Success?

  1. Wow, there certainly is a lot on your plate. I think you can do it all, but it should be step by step. A triage of sorts. What needs the most attention first? Do that. Then move on down the line.

    It’s wonderful to have goals. It’s wonderful to reach them. It’s also scary as hell.

    And you know what? You “failed” 29 times? So get up and move to number 30.

    • Aw, thanks…!

      What’s on my plate isn’t enough to guarantee my satisfaction with results, though. So perhaps that’s why there is so much there.

      Someone more organized would offer that once I succeed at one thing then I should move on to the next. Eh, I just don’t function that way.

      I’ll keep going. I have to.


  2. yearzerowriters

    very early on I was informed that I had a fear of success as much as a fear of failure. I haven’t done anything to disabuse them of that view. I think it’s a well-know psychoanalytical diagnosis.

    marc nash

  3. This post strikes a lot of chords. I’m also an everything all at once kind of person and literally cannot write one thing at a time (I can’t clean one room at a time and move on to the next either so that’s the kind of brain we are dealing with). This way of being displays extraordinary multitasking but also a kind of attention and focus deficit that always reminds me of Da Vinci, so many ideas, so little time, ‘tell me if anything at all was done’ he is reputed to have despaired. Your list of projects within the circumstances of your life are just not doable all at once but projects can feed each other. Pick 3 or 4 if you must but know what the number one is. Start with that and move to the others occasionally as a change. As a not so young mother of four, really just getting started with writing in earnest, I understand your panic. The novel promotion may not be where your heart lies but it can still be an avenue for creativity and it can open up so further opportunities. We need to be clever where we spend our time so choose the best vehicles for promotion for you. I don’t know if you have fear of success just disillusionment with the grind. I have found the #fridayflash great to make me complete work and get feedback and raise my profile. This gives me the satisfaction and the acknowledgement that keeps me going. I love writing but its better when its not in a vaccum. Lots more I could say but I will shut up for now. All the best.

    • Alison — thanks. (Holy cow, four kids??!!)

      It’s so easy to recoil and feel paralyzed in the face of such a long list of wish-list accomplishments. That’s how I am today, now…not a good feeling to have.

      But your words have a compelling case: “I love writing but it’s better when it’s not in a vacuum.”



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