Tag Archives: fear of failure

Patrick J. Power on Writing, Writer’s Block, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure

Patrick J. Power

If you want to sail the Atlantic, single-handed, then you have nobody to blame if something goes wrong on your trip; if you are an enthusiastic amateur tennis player, or an ardent professional, then you have no fall back, no scape-goat, as it were, to point the finger at and release a torrent of invective whenever you might lose.

Much the same can be said for the writer. The writer of any written original word. You are on your own, full stop. You decide when to write; you decide what to write. You never have to clock in or out. You can take coffee breaks whenever you feel like it. You can go to the bathroom and browse your favourite magazine to put off going back to the PC. You make the rules.

This doesn’t suit everybody. Many would-be writers, are not cut out to be writers, regardless of whether or not they might have developed the greatest single most original storyline for a novel in their heads. But getting it from your brain to the computer screen is the tricky part. If only we could copy & paste! Maybe contact Microsoft or Apple and suggest that they might develop an app which burns your most brilliant ideas on to that blank screen in front of you. And of course, that app would also be grammatically and spellingly correct! Ups!

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But, (there’s always a but) writing can be good also. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as being fun. When your fingers seemed to have found that delicate touch on the keyboard, as if they were creating magic words just like Clapton, or BB King, or some other impresario creating magical sounds on their respective sets of taut strings; that’s when it becomes so worth it. And a little later when you emerge from your happy daze and take a well-earned break from your endeavours and bask in the knowledge that one day, because of what you have just engraved onto your page, either the Man Booker judges, or the Pulitzer people will be frantically searching out your life’s details from that agent of yours who it took many heart-breaking years to find.

Am I coming across to you sounding like some facetious pompous ass who thinks he knows all about the art/act of writing?  Well, let me state very clearly, that I do not! If I sound facetious it’s probably because when all those years ago, at age eighteen, just graduated secondary school in the South-East of Ireland, I was reliably informed by my English teacher that whatever else I was about to do with my life, that I should begin writing at once and continue to write for the remainder of my life; that I did not. I thought I knew better. Live my life first and then write about it. But I don’t think it works that way. So, I took that sage advice on board and stored it away for forty years. But to my credit, I think, I carried out the, “whatever else” segment of his advice to the letter.

The following day, I took a flight to Boston with another eighteen-year-old and soon after started out on an overland trip from Boston to Buenos Aires. Following on from that memorable (and dangerous) trip I have worked as; a wheat farmer; Jazz Club manager, on the Upper-West Side of NY; oil-rig worker; construction worker in both Twin Towers in New York; an English teacher in Prague; fronted two different Rock & Roll band’s in New York and Dublin;  event manager at a major Music Festival; landed a Soccer Scholarship to Uni of ILL in Chicago; landscape designer in Boston; lived in a Volkswagen camping-bus for six months in Europe, whilst Busking for a living; studied Film & Editing in Waterford, Ireland; produced a round dozen Documentaries; lived in six different countries whilst touching my toes into the waters of another forty, before deciding to move to Belgium four years ago and begin to take my writing seriously.

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I tried every manner and means to escape the decision because I think I was afraid of failure. The greatest curse and drawback to becoming a writer, (a published writer, whether it be down the traditional route of, finding an agent/ agent finding a publisher/ publisher deciding to take you on, or, as I did, and so many more writers are doing, going it alone!) is that ever-present latent fear of failure. Those doubt ridden moments of assuming that your efforts of that day’s scratchings are simply not up to scratch! When you pick up a novel of one of your favourite authors and get that tremendous shock to your system on the realization that this person is so far ahead of you that you possibly may be wasting your time.

And this is the pivotal moment that I’ve been striving to get to over the past 800 words. This is the moment to dig deep into yourself and decide that you are not going to throw in the towel. You can handle the periods of writer’s block; the fact that your close friends become slightly embarrassed anymore to ask: How’s the book coming along? When the 27th rejection slip comes into your otherwise empty mail-box from an agent who you are most certain in your head (heart actually) has not even read your submission.

And there we are, back to that place again. Alone again, naturally! (song lyric from the 1970’s) Decision time! Are you going to stand up and walk away, or, sit back down and beat the crap out of the keys? Beat them into submission! Own them! Devour them! Write the best you’ve ever written! You know it’s true-the hell with anyone who doesn’t!

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Don’t stop! Write, write, write! Till your fingers bleed! Till the sun goes down! Till the sun rises again! And then, write some more! And love it when you’re doing it!

As an old Irish proverb goes: Live life to the full, my son (or daughter) ‘cause you’ll be dead long enough!

I don’t offer advice but I’ll repeat a piece from someone else.

Start with short stories. Hone your craft with short, sharp stories. Easier to tackle a 6th draft of a short story than the onerous task of a 6th draft of a long first novel.

Then when you have finished honing your craft, you can begin your masterpiece!

© Patrick J. Power 2017

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