One way to tackle a fear of failure (or, its equally prevalent and powerful cousin – fear of success) is to stop focusing on the outcome of your creative work.
When we think ‘today I’m going to write the next chapter of my book’ or ‘I’m going to finish that short story’ we’re inviting a terror spiral that goes something like this:
I don’t know what happens next in the story and the characters feel kind of flat which means – argh -I’m wasting my time with this piece and I ought to start something new… But that means I’ll never finish anything and be a Real Writer, and if I do finish it what if it doesn’t sell? Or what if it does sell and then people actually READ IT? Uh-oh, I’d better take out all the blasphemy, my mum won’t like that. And, I can’t write that scene I was thinking of because it’s twisted and everyone will think I’m a horrible person. Perhaps, I’ll just go on Twitter…
Instead, try this: Today I’m going to practice writing. I will write 300 words because that’s how you get better at writing, by doing it.
Or: I will write for one hour, because I’ve been managing 50 minutes for a while, now, and it’s good to push myself, to stretch my goals and improve my concentration.
Every time you catch your mind throwing out an end-result-related thought (such as: ‘If I write 1000 words I will be halfway through the book’ or ‘is this YA or Crime Fiction?’) gently push it aside and think something process-related. It takes practice, but I promise you it helps.
Over time, you will naturally focus more on the process of writing which will help you to be more ‘in the moment’ of your creative work and to be more productive.
Here are some more examples of ‘process-thinking’:
- I will write some sentences today and each and every one will make me a better writer.
- I will write for at least ten minutes today and will work at extending my focus for longer periods until I can write for thirty minutes at a time.
- Okay. I’m working on this scene. What are the characters feeling? Where are they? What would happen if I changed the setting? Or the POV? I’ll try it three different ways and see which I like best…
- I’m stuck. I’ll just do some free-writing on another project because all writing is practice.
What do you think? Do you already focus on process-over-outcome? If not, are you willing to give it a try?