Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Overcoming the Fear of Writing Failure

by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

Overcoming the fear of writing failure.
"So Mom, how's book two coming?" My son's voice echoed through the phone. "Mom. You there?"

"Uh, yep. I'm here. I have some ideas."

“That's never been a problem. How's the book coming?"

"I can't seem to get started?"

"Why?" He asked.

"I don't know."

"You got a story in mind?"


"Then just write it."

I'd stretched my fiction wings so far, the muscles ached and I was successful. Now I faced writing book two.

The wooden door to my mind bolted shut.
I’d worked hard to hone the craft of storytelling. Write, rewrite. And when my agent called to say, Success! I was ecstatic. The book released. Good reviews, good sales. Good story. Where's book two?

Something took hold of me. It's fingers tightened around my throat and squeezed. Stories burst at the seams of my imagination, but for some reason the wooden door to my mind bolted shut. Regardless what words I penned, nothing worked.

The problem wasn't a lack of stories, or even ability or skill. It was good old-fashioned fear. When well-wishers continually asked, "So when is book two coming out?" I shrank into a pile of mush.

Every writer experiences fear.
Every writer experiences fear at one time or another. We work hard, attain a goal, then fear failure. The real question is how do we move past? It's not as easy as a few bullet points on a page. Moving past our fear is the same today as it was the day we decided to take our first step toward crafting a manuscript, a devotion, or an article.

Our ability hasn't changed. Our imagination hasn't halted. We've not forgotten how to spin a yarn. We simply fear failure. When we begin our career, failure didn't play into the game. The dream lay ahead, so we paddled upstream until we grasped hold of the prize. Once we accomplished the goal, it's easy to look back and see the obstacles nativity blinded us to. Now we see what can throw us off track and we grow afraid. So how do we move past?
  • Take action: Take the step of just doing what you need to do. Inactivity is a breeding ground for failure. Write a paragraph, then a page, then a chapter. With each word your confidence will grow. As my son said, "Just write it."
  • Ask the question, What if I don't do this? What if's are scary, but if you love writing, then asking this one "what if" question should help get you back on track. Writers write, because we have too. We can't NOT write. When I asked myself this question, my palms grew sweaty, I began to pace, and I realized, I would be miserable if I didn't write. It's a need in my life and my guess is. . .it's a need in yours as well.
  • Reach out to your peers: There's nothing like the community of writers. We all understand what no one else in the world "gets" about us. Writers understand writer's block, misspelled words, comma queens, and yes . . . fear. Contact your peers, spill your guts, and then let them spin you around and put their foot in your rear. It's nice to have the affirmation from your peers that you are a good writer, and it's nicer when you know they believe in you enough to shove you off the boat knowing when you hit the water . . . you'll swim.
  • List your writing strengths: List the things you do well in your writing. Perhaps it's your voice or amazing descriptions. Maybe it's plotting skills, building angst, or character development. Remind yourself what you do well, and then do it.

Every article, every book, or poem may not be successful. But that's okay. It's what grooms us to be better writers and what reels us in from being haughty. The one thing that will ruin a writing career quickly, is succumbing to fear.  Step out. Regain your "newbie" ambition, and don't let fear take hold. You can do this because . . . you are a writer.

Since I know we all struggle with this, to one degree or another, what do you do to overcome fear? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!


Cindy Sproles is an author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of www.christiandevotions.us and www.inspireafire.com. She teaches at writers conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp. 

She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live a Life of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy's debut novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.



  1. Cindy, I am praying for you as you write. You have great action steps for us to take. I pray and ask God to remind me why I am writing. It truly lifts my spirits and keeps me going. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks. I'm over my hump and well into book two.

  2. Cindy, this post will move mountains of fear with your encouragement and guidelines to push forward. You're on my prayer list as you work on book two. Mercy's Rain is a fast read with meaningful messages.

    Write on!

    1. Thank you Carolyn. Thanks to you. I know we can "break" through anything. :)

  3. You and I have traveled this road together for years, Cindy. I remember meeting you and Gina at the BRMCWC back in 2004, I think it was. And then we became CPs. I can't wait to read your next book! Allen Arnold reminds us to rely on God and write. :) Kick that fear in its hinny and get writing. Love you, my friend!

    1. Yep...we go waaaayyyy back. Look at then and NOW. We've had bloody knees, but here we are!
      HUGS Ane

  4. Thanks for the great post! I needed the positive push to keep writing when fear gets in the way.

  5. We all get bogged down occasionally. We just have to keep moving. Remember, inactivity is a breeding ground for fear. You can do this. So hop to it. I found two accountability partners. I send them what I write daily. It's a great way to get you motivated to write. After a few days of my AP's I was back in the swing and the fear was gone. You can do this Therese. Go gal.

  6. Editing helps me. If I'm struggling with fear in fiction, I'll write a non-fiction article or edit some fiction I've already written.

  7. That's a great idea Jennifer. Good way to just keep writing. Thanks. I'll put that to use next time I'm hit with fear.

  8. Cindy,

    Thank you. Fear has been one of my major hurdles for a long time.

    What if I can't do it?

    What if I can't do it again?

    What if, what if, what if....

    Writers are encouraged to ask "what if" when writing their stories, but this is one what if that's better left alone!

    Thank you so much for the encouragement.

  9. Thanks, Cindy, for the encouraging post! I just went through the same struggle tackling my latest WIP. I say "went" because I'm hoping I've gotten through it now, thanks to the Lord's help. Still have some of those niggling fears every day though that I have to put aside to write. Your tips are great & your encouragement very helpful! I need the reminders to keep going despite the fear.

  10. Success and failure, both the terms are interrelated with each others. Therefore, whenever, we are trying something we should get success or failure; but with positive attitude and proper dedication we can achieve good success in our work. So it is quite better to learn from failure and chase the success.
    Failure Tips