Fear of failure can become a powerful tool if used correctly. Motivation, character insights, and growth as a writer… all can come from examining and facing your fears. Wait, what?
Fears of failure, fears you aren’t good enough, and fears you will fall behind your friends. All these have implicit goals in them. And the best way to fight these fears is to write. Keep going until you succeed. Get better. Write faster. You can use your fears to give you that little extra boost of energy and motivation to reach your personal goals.
All characters need a flaw and fears of failure can be crippling until overcome. A great character arc, eh? Further, a fear of failing to reach the story goal is a natural phase that the character goes through – it makes the story more intense. But this fear needs to be believable – not just through external obstacles but through the character’s feelings. Your fears and those of others can help you develop believable characters.
The precise nature of your fears (just what you are afraid of) may highlight your weak points as a writer. Some fears are meant to be accepted and harvested as fodder for your books. But fears that reveal personal or writing weaknesses can be accepted, harvested, and overcome. Fears of failure are often overcome by changes in perception of failure.
First, allow for failure as a part of success. You are an inventor – not every idea will be genius. You are an artist – you need experience to create a masterpiece. You are a writer – you aren’t stuck with what you first produce, you can revise.
Second, learn to forgive yourself. It is easy to fear failure when you believe failure reflects on you as a person. If you fail and you tried your best (or almost best), the flaw was not in you but in your materials, your skills, or your approach. These may or may not reflect on you as a writer and can be enhanced, changed, or exchanged. Examine your “failed” project. Once you know why it has failed, congratulate yourself instead of beating yourself up. Make a goal of changing. Now you can move forward out of self-blame.
Writing is an intensely personal, intense, and involving act. But even when it is an integral part of you, it is still only a part. You may have failed, but You-The-Person are not a failure just because a character, subplot, or entire project does not work. Everyone fails sometimes, which it is why to base your personal identity on any one thing. It is a good idea to have several important areas of your life that you can retreat to for success or affirmation when your writing goes bad.
So bring it on.