Day 58

Elizabeth Gilbert also talked of something that, I think, most authors have thought of at one time or another: Is the best of our career behind us?

Fear is human nature, and I think with every fear of failure there comes the fear of success. We all, especially we the creative type, have to deal with the possibility of failure all the time. Like Ms. Gilbert said: "No one would ask my engineer father what he would do if he failed being an engineer." But if you mention you're a writer or artist or musician, you're almost always assumed to fail. At least 99.9% of the time.

So, we're all used to the fear of failure. What if I suck? What if no one will want my novel? What if I'm just fooling myself that I can write?

There comes a time, though, in every professional's journey that they would cross a point where the possibility of failure is disproved and their worth as a creative person is validated: an acceptance, a published novel, a gallery show, a musical album...

Now what?

The thought of "I suck; I'm a fraud" never really goes away no matter how many times I've been published, or how many people have told me they liked my novel. The fear of failure has been replaced by a fear of success. What if this is it? What if what I've accomplished is the best I could do? What if the best of my career is already behind me?

It helps that my "success" is relative minute and irrelevant. A niche novel with a small publisher. Ptttpt, who cares? Ms. Gilbert's own concerns seem more realistic-- she's had a huge success with her last book; it was an overnight success (although there's really no such thing as an "overnight success," you know?) Her fear was that she would now be forever compared to the success of this book, and she might never top that.

My own fear is similar but different: I fear that the tiny accomplishment I had with The Pacific Between would be all I could achieve. It's like a heavy mash of fears, of both failure and success. That is the weight I carry as I write The Terrapin's Trail. It's probably better to have never been published, because at least I wouldn't have to pretend I'm a writer.

Irrational? Hell yes. Incapacitating? Not necessarily.

If anything, I think the fear pushes me to do even better, to prove that my fear is wrong. This is not the end of me. My best hasn't come yet. Not even close.

I like how Ms. Gilbert put it (and I paraphrase): It's not in our control whether our best is already behind us. It's not in our control whether our muses or geniuses or whatever you wanna call it will show up. What we can control is to show up and do our part of the job. And have fun doing it.

That's my intention as well.

1000 words, 24600 words total
307 days and 160900 words to go


Anonymous said…
You know, considering I haven't done anything yet, the idea that the best is behind me is really depressing. :D
Carpe Diem said…
LOL to that, shadowferret.

And yes indeed.
Melanie Avila said…
I not only feel like I'm a fraud with writing, I feel that way with design too. Perhaps my self-esteem needs a tune up...
Ray Wong said…
Mel, you just need a coupon.... ;)
WhidbeyTomas said…
Ray, If I were you, I'd write for the sheer love of writing. I love to write myself, so I write to my peers on Linkedin and in blogs like this. Just putting thoughts on the page feels good.

I'm an instructional designer. I wish I had time to write fiction, what I write is much more difficult because it has to be just right, it can't be me talking, it has to be That Voice of Learning.

When we write for fiction, we develop out voice and our own style. We have tremendous latitude. This is not to say that I think I can write fiction. The truth is, what I write is totally unacceptable to me.

Now if I were to try to write good dialogue, like dostoyevsky, or pathos, like Alan Paton, or adventure like Crichton, or remarkable characters like Richard Llewellyn, -- or better yet, like Tolstoy -- I'd be happy if I could do it once. Of course, just throwing those names out is enough to drive any sane person away from the effort.
Ray Wong said…
I do love what I do. But being a goal-oriented person I also have a tendency to need to set goals and meet them. :)

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