How to Keep Writing When You’re Scared of Failure

by Julie Varughese
published in Writing

Everyone’s experienced it. You have that novel bouncing around in your head, but you’re scared to start writing it. Thoughts pop up about not being good enough, about agents and editors laughing at your crazy idea, about all the time and energy spent on something that may get rejected. Your chest collapses. Your face cringes.

Here’s the deal: Keeping yourself open to an acceptance letter requires being open to a rejection, too. There’s no way around it. Winning and losing requires being and staying vulnerable, which can feel painful.

There’s a voice in all of us that says, “I don’t want to do it!”

Your game as a writer is to hear that voice and keep playing. To keep momentum going, you’ll have to shift who you’re being, not what you’re doing.

Commitment and Its Discontents

You can keep changing what you’re doing (drinking more coffee, spending less time with friends), but you may still be stuck. If you shift who are you being, you can do the same things, yet see dramatically different results.

So how do you change who you are being? First, ask yourself: What am I committed to?

When your commitment to writing that novel is firm, you may feel scared, yet excited. That’s a good thing. If you’re not doing something every day that scares you, you won’t grow. As Tony Robbins says, human beings need to feel that they are growing in order to feel fulfilled. With this commitment to your novel, you’ll be able to stick to writing, for example, 500 words per day, at 6 in the morning, before you go to your morning yoga class, shower and head to work.

Sound like a lot to do before 9 a.m.?

When you’re committed, all of the circumstances that may prevent you from writing look like, well… circumstances. They can be overcome. Once you commit, and see results (1,498 words, then 3896 words, then 7699 words…), it will turn into a game. Getting to the goal of 500 words each day will feel like being a contestant on the Nickelodeon game show, “Double Dare”. (Am I aging myself here?)

You’ll have obstacles: Yoga, showering, the commute, the 8-hour job. You’ll get slimed: The train slows to a halt in a dark tunnel, your boss asks you to stay late to finish a project, your baby gets sick. Then the buzzer will go off because you ran out of time. But unlike being a contestant on the 1980s TV show, you’ll be able to play again the next day.

How To Stay In Action

Once you’re committed, the next step is creating an action plan and being in action. Always.

Consider that getting 8 hours of sleep counts as being in action. All of the things you do to write, to fund your writing (working your 9-to-5), and being mentally and physically capable of writing (getting good food in you) are what keep you in action. Self-care is the first and most important aspect of playing the game. That’s because in order to be a consistent player, you’ll need sustainable energy and enthusiasm for the game.

How To Keep Playing

The past doesn’t exist anymore and the future hasn’t been created. So don’t beat up on yourself if you didn’t write yesterday. You have today.

When you’re being playful and consistently in action, your writing game will be fun. When it keeps being fun, you’ll keep writing. Then even if you’re rejected by agents and editors, you’ll consider it part of the game of making your novel happen. It may seem difficult to juggle these dichotomous concepts in your head. You’ll have to have a vision in mind, plan out your milestones, be in action, have fun in the moment, yet be unattached to the outcome.

But don’t worry: It’s a practice. If you’re out to get it right the first time you do it, you’ll set yourself up for misery. What matters is that you be in action and have fun. This moment is all that counts. It’s really all that exists.

CroppedPhotoforWebsite11.29.2012This article is the first in a two-part series on dealing with rejection as a writer.

Julie Varughese is a life coach and former journalist. She is at work on her first fictional series and on a documentary film on her grandmother. She takes it as a practice. Julie blogs about *being* and *doing* at

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