I started Monday's post by saying sometimes it's hard to admit what you want. Today I'm going to look at that statement more closely. Why is it so hard? What holds us back? Over the course of the last year I've identified the components that caused me to hold back on announcing that I was a writer. Today I'm going to talk about one of them.
The first one, and the one I would guess is most common, is fear of failure.
I'm the kind of person who loves my A pluses. Or as one of my friend calls it, my A pluses with a circle around it and a smiley face in the middle. I don't like bad grades and I've never been graceful about receiving them.
In college, while some people my age were risking their lives fighting in a war I spent three days (yes THREE whole days) sobbing about getting a B on a report card.
If you tell me the steps to getting an A+ I will go through hell and high water in order to make sure it happens. And interestingly, most of life is set up that way. There are clear instructions and definitive steps. All you have to do is figure out the trick to doing each step well and you get the A+, the raise, the amazing review or the unanimous praise.
When I practiced law I specialized in transactional finance which is a special sort of heaven for people like me. Guess what a transactional lawyer uses to close a deal? A checklist!
Tell me you want to finance a bridge somewhere in Brazil and I will happily produce a twenty page checklist along with all the documentation necessary to make the deal happen. This might sound like a lot of work, and it is, but there's no ambiguity about how to get from point A to B. It's all clearly defined (and if it's not you can look it up in the definitions section that I would draft to go along with the deal).
Then there's writing.
I'm sure there are checklists about how to become a successful writer. In fact I've seen them. You can do every last thing on those checklists; read the works of great authors, write, rewrite and edit until your fingers are bloody, network, use social media, go to conferences, get your MFA and you still might not meet with success.
Writing is nothing like putting together a transaction for the financing of a bridge in Brazil. There is no clear path to success, no boxes to check, no formula to follow and A+'s are given out sporadically at best.
Which, for someone like me, produces a lot of anxiety.
How could I admit I wanted to be a writer when there were no boxes to check and ladders to climb? How could I claim to be good at something when someone, somewhere was going to tell me I was terrible at it? How could the person who spent three whole days crying about getting a B on her report card risk doing a career belly flop in front of the whole world?
I spent more time than could be considered healthy making up pros and cons lists. I even tried to rationalize keeping my writing a secret by promising myself I would shout it from the rooftops the minute my novel hit the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for three months straight.
But in the end it was much simpler than that. Of course, most solutions are. Hope you stop by on Friday as I continue my series on growth. And if you are holding tightly to your own failure fears I would love to hear about them in the comments.