In talking with other writers, I find that many get paralyzed in their career. They get stuck at different points: some can’t finish a piece, some finish but can’t let anyone read it, some are okay with feedback but can’t bring themselves to submit to the marketplace. In the end, they just freeze in one spot, and their career stalls.
The reasons for getting stuck are usually similar: afraid people won’t like what they wrote, afraid of not selling well if published, afraid of having to write on deadlines, afraid of the marketing, afraid, afraid, afraid.
All these reasons can be boiled down to two basic types of fear: fear of success and fear of failure.
But these two fears can be further distilled into one over-arching fear: the fear of change.
The connection with change and the fear of success is obvious: you have to move into a whole new world of deadlines and marketing and a reading public. Your cozy writing routine is no longer all yours, and your life is turned upside down as you try and fit the new responsibilities in with the old.
The connection between change and the fear of failure is more subtle. If you fail, what are you really afraid of? After all, the world will not end if your writing is not good. No one will die if your book does not sell well. So what’s the fear all about? It’s fear of change.
Because if you fail, people might change the way they perceive you. Even worse, you might change the way you see yourself. And the change in perception is negative. “Failure” is not something anyone wants on their resume. As long as you haven’t put your writing out there, you cannot fail–and that is safe. No change in your self-image or the way you think others view you is needed.
As humans, we crave consistency. Change always brings elements of the unknown, and people fear what they don’t know or don’t understand. Change is scary–it requires adaptation, flexibility, and courage. Once we’ve reached a level plateau, climbing to another level requires hard work and taking risks–and I, for one, am not a risk-taker. Change is hard.
But change is also inevitable. Every day I am different than the day before, because I have been shaped by one more day of life. Circumstances in your life will change, because you cannot control everything. People will enter your life. People will leave. Jobs will come and go. Health concerns may arise. Change is all around us, every day. It cannot be avoided.
There’s much in putting your writing out there that you cannot control. But there is much you can. You can keep honing your craft. You can educate yourself on the business of publishing, so it is not a scary unknown when you finally are ready to enter the fray. You can create a network of supportive friends who will bolster you and help you through the changes. You can control your attitude to reviews and rejections, dealing with them in an emotionally healthy way.
So try not to let fear of change hold you back. Because I believe that if you are called to be a writer, it is because there is a reader out there who needs to hear what you have to say. There is a reader out there somewhere whose life will be changed by your voice, your message. It may only be one person, and you may never even know how you touched their life. But this I know: if you change one person’s life for the better, you change the world.
So go change the world.