Overcoming self doubt and criticism

At some point, the satisfaction I felt from reading a well written story crossed over to wanting to be able to write a well written story. I wanted to learn the craft of storytelling to see if I could tell a compelling story, one that stuck with the readers after they finished it. I wrote a story that I thought would be fun to read. And now the ultimate test is coming up: releasing it to the public to see if I succeeded as a storyteller. I should be ecstatic. I am not. I get nauseated thinking about it. I’m still learning how to write. I’ll always still be learning how to write. Even as a teacher, I’m learning. And I found a publisher who is willing to invest in my process of learning the craft. I am thankful for that. But now, I’m terrified of letting them down. I’m terrified of letting my friends and family down. My mom and her friends are going to read this. My characters smoke a lot of pot, drink a lot of booze, ingest psychedelic mushrooms, have sex and I tried to write these things honestly which may be too graphic for some people. Will it embarrass my mom?  Will it embarrass my wife? What if people hate it and they think the writing is terrible? Will it embarrass the university I attended? My professors? Will a debut novel that bombs, ruin not just my chance of a writing career, but will it also affect my personal life? These may sound like stupid questions to have, but it is a real fear I’ve been dealing with as time moves closer to the release date.

The only thing I have found to comfort me is that I’m taking the risk. We only get one chance to live this life the way we want to, at least only one chance that we can remember. I could have let my fears keep the manuscript locked away inside my computer. That’s an easy way to avoid fear. But I chose to listen to the voice that said, what’s the worst that could happen? It bombs? At least I gave it a shot, right? A bigger fear than my debut novel bombing, is me lying on my death bed thinking I was too afraid to take chances. Some say the fear of success keeps people from reaching their full potential, but the fear of failure scares the hell out of me.

A good buddy of mine and fellow writer (if he ever overcomes the goddamn debilitating fear of a writer and finishes his story) has a toast that I think sums up the attitude of just going for it. He likes to say, “Here’s to it and to it again. If you ever get close to it and don’t it, you ought to be tied to it and made to do it, till you never want to do it again. So fuck it. Here’s to it.”

joseph campbell

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