Fear of the Pain of Failure is Like Having the School Bully Camped on your Shoulder

J Ran Hill
Aug 24, 2019 · 2 min read

But it doesn’t have to be this way

Photo by Tyler Nix, Unsplash

It took me a year after finishing it to publish Morrina, and a few months more to tell anyone. So what’s changed?

The first thing that’s happened is I’ve become a better writer, and this has given me more confidence. How did I improve my writing? I upped my reading from a book a fortnight to two books a week. I even included a few On Writing. Daily journaling has also helped me to work through ideas and learn to communicate them more effectively.

Next, I spent time thinking about what would happen if I showed my work and why whenever I thought about it, I would break into a sweat.

I discovered that the cause of my anxiety was my imagination, specifically the imagined pain of rejection, as Mark Twain said, “I […] have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened”.

“I […] have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.” Mark Twain

Runners know pain but show up and race anyway. Could the mental resilience borne of decades of training to cross the finish line be the key to managing the anxiety of showing my work?

For the past few years, I’ve been testing out my do-it-anyway theory and with some success. I’ve published a story in Electric Literature, ghostwritten blog posts, and picked up a regular copywriting gig for a couple of eCommerce startups. My work gets rejected a lot more than it’s accepted, nothing much has changed there, but it’s ok, the sky doesn’t, in fact, fall in, and I live to write another day.

Writing Tip No1: Try cutting the first paragraph of your draft. This almost always improves your Writing.

Writing Tip No2: Cultivate a group of trusted readers. Give them your writing to read when it’s a few drafts in; if their feedback scans for you, edit your work.

J Ran Hill

Written by

Writer, maker, runner. Digital gofer @SoseasUK. https://jranhill.com

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