≡ Menu

Fear Of Failure Is Perfectly Reasonable

Tapping a Pencil

Creative Commons LicenseRennett Stowe via Compfight

Dear Sam:

I have a question. The book that I want to write…I am wondering if it will be useful or if anyone would want to read it.

What do I do with this feeling of ‘who cares about your work, all the effort you put in is useless….’

If you could help I would be grateful.

Best,
A.

 

Dear A.,

Every single person throughout human history suffers from self-doubt, secretly believes they are a fraud and wonders if anyone will care about their work.

 

You are not alone.

In fact, your doubts may be part of what makes you an artist.  I’ve heard it said that only dilettantes and amateurs never doubt their talent.

And I’ve noticed that the more daring the creative idea, the more vicious and violent those critical inner voices can become.

So over time, I’ve learned this:

the louder & meaner the voices in my head are, the greater the probability that I’ve just had a really juicy idea.

Think of it this way: the voices in your head are trying to keep you safe. They don’t want you to put yourself in a vulnerable position. They try to scare you into inaction by telling you that no one will care about your work. Or worse, that people will judge you harshly.

But art is about making yourself vulnerable.

That’s kind of the point.

Or at least part of the point.

And let’s face facts – it’s possible that you will create something that other people don’t care for.

Fear of failure is entirely reasonable. But it’s no reason not to do your work.

As long as your work remains unwritten in your head, it has no effect on anyone. Except you. And then not in a good way.

Once you let your idea out of the hermetically sealed vault of your brain and out into the fresh air, the idea will immediately start to evolve. The minute you get it down on a piece of paper, it will change.

And then, once you let it out of the house – once someone else gets to experience it – then you are all changed.

You are changed.
The project is changed.
The audience is changed.

That’s the alchemy of art.

And here’s a real-life example:

Nedi, a 365 Club Member, worked with her son to compose a song about Autism. She finally got the courage to get it mastered, and she posted it online. She started getting emails and responses – including one from Kate Winslet’s Golden Hat foundation (http://www.goldenhatfoundation.org/) and now she’s created a Kickstarter Project to move the project into its next phase: http://kck.st/NBCsLo

Here’s what Nedi herself said:

Before three weeks ago, I thought to myself “Who cares if I do my 15 minutes?” But THEN a little voice said to me, “Samantha would care.”

So, on the off chance that the voice was right, and to keep myself on track: I will tell you that I completed 30 min. the first week, 60 the next, and since yesterday’s call – 90 min!

Much Gratitude and Affection,
NEDI

Inspiring, right?

 

Those critical voices will always be with you. I’ve never met an artist who didn’t struggle against them. Me included.

It’s up to you to decide if they get to run the show.

I can’t guarantee you that getting your work out there will always lead to success.

I can guarantee you that not getting your work out there will always lead to feelings of failure.

 

If you would like a very inexpensive way to get some additional encouragement and support, you might enjoy participating in the extremely groovy membership club I’ve started — we’re having a blast!

 

Please let me know how it goes for you.

 

Remember: The World Needs Your Art.

44 comments… add one

  • Irene August 7, 2012, 7:55 pm

    This was such a timely post for me. Am submitting some paintings for a couple of juried shows and the self doubt monster has been working overtime, and driving me nuts.

    Thank you so much Sam; your words always settle me down and make me realize I am not alone in this journey; so comforting to know others are experiencing the same thing.

    • admin August 7, 2012, 8:28 pm

      Oh, honey – you are SO not alone. In fact, if you close your eyes for a moment, you can almost hear the beating hearts of all the creatives on the planet that are thinking, “Who do I even think I AM to do this thing…???”

      And a moment later you can hear the whispered answer, “You are You. Singular and beautiful. The only You there is (or will ever be) in the whole wide world. Your only job is this: Go Be You.”

      Thank you for taking the time to write, Irene. xxoxoxo Sam.

  • Julie August 7, 2012, 9:04 pm

    Love your response! All sorts of great sayings come to mind: Well-behaved women rarely make history. A boat in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what boats are built for. Etc. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • admin August 8, 2012, 2:43 pm

      Thanks, Julie! I also like this one from E.L. Doctorow: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” xoox S.

  • Carole C August 7, 2012, 9:18 pm

    Hi Sam,
    Thanks to the gentle prodding of your daily vitamins of “365 reasons to write”, plus some major down time, (recovering from a knee injury! :O( )PLUS a very long text message conversation from a wonderful young friend, finally inspired me to really begin a portion of my story…. No idea when it will be finished, but I think I have the basis and its a START….. and judging by the response from my friend to the advise I was able to give him and conversation we had My BOOK DOES need to be written…..the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Today I DARED and took the first step. Thanks for being part of my journey!! HUGS!

    • admin August 8, 2012, 2:39 pm

      I’m completely puddling up over here! HOORAY for your excellent start!

      Now just spend 15 minutes on it every day and see where this new journey takes you :) xoox Sam.

  • gunnar bennett August 8, 2012, 2:49 am

    Clearly, fear of failure is a bogeyman. But, be realistic – nobody and nothing receives universal approbation. You and your ideas will appeal to a discerning and interested
    audience. To some in your audience, your information/ideas will be life-changing.
    If you do not act on your ideas, you will never change anyone’s life – including your own.

    • admin August 8, 2012, 2:35 pm

      Exactly. I couldn’t have said it better myself : ) xoxox S.

  • Ellen Debenport August 8, 2012, 9:19 am

    I woke up thinking about this very thing. What if the critical voice is right? The world is increasingly full of spiritual teachers. The world is awash in books offering help with some aspect of life. I’m too late! It’s all been said and written by others ahead of me!

    Then this blog showed up. It also helped to read the related post on dealing with fear, because sometimes the voice IS right.

    Apparently offering my art to the world means living permanently outside my comfort zone.

    • admin August 8, 2012, 2:35 pm

      Yep. If it’s any comfort, I do find myself feeling more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

      It’s like stage fright — the first time it happens you think you’re going to keel over, but eventually you almost start to welcome the butterflies. After all – it means the show’s about to begin!

      HOORAY for you, Ellen! xoxo Sam.

  • Jan August 9, 2012, 12:56 pm

    Very helpful and I can really relate…How many times have I begun an art project and thought: so what? who cares? where will I put this project when it’s done? The self-defeating comments are so painful and nothing come of them . . .not even the creation I was thinking of making.
    Getting my work – photography or ceramic – out there is like climbing an unscalable mountain.

    • admin August 9, 2012, 2:27 pm

      Well, EXACTLY. If you start believing those self-defeating thoughts you deprive the world of your art, yes, but worse, you deprive yourself of the JOY in making the art to begin with!

      Treat your inner creative genius as you would a very bright nine-year old…with love and respect and gentle encouragement and frequent treats. xoox Sam.

  • Michelle August 13, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Thanks for posting this. It would take fifty paragraphs to tell you the specifics of the obstacles jumping up for me right now as I prepare to finally start production on a film I’ve been trying to create for many years. There are so many voices of fear, frustration and doubt filling up my head, and it really helps to read your words.

    • admin August 13, 2012, 1:10 pm

      Good for you, Michelle! As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, the process of getting a project – particularly a film – up and out into the world is SO complicated. It’s just a non-stop process of problem-solving, really. And if you add in anxiety, fear and doubt, well, honey, it’s amazing anything gets done ever by anyone. So keep your thinking CLEAR and your eye on the prize. The World Needs Your Art. xoxo Sam.

  • Flourish & Thrive Academy August 27, 2012, 8:56 am

    You are absolutely right Sam. We all have self-doubts because we know we can all make mistakes. But it is true that it’ll be up to us, whether our fears run the show instead of us. I hope a lot of people can read this. The world needs more creativity and I believe everyone is more than capable of giving more! Thank you for posting this.

    • admin August 27, 2012, 9:54 am

      Thank you! And yes – everyone! – please link, repost and forward this info to all of the discouraged creatives you know. I want to see a creative REVOLUTION sweep the world. Wouldn’t it be great if every artist spent just 15 minutes a day on their craft? Mmmmm…. : ) – Sam.

  • Brenda February 8, 2013, 12:27 pm

    Hi Sam. Just got some advice in a coaching session today that relates to this.
    Instead of trying to create something to be enjoyed/embraced, etc by the whole world. Just think of creating something that will be enjoyed by / embraced by one person. There are lots of other people in the world who are inspired by the same things that you are. So guaranteed, at least one person will be inspired by your work.
    And as you said in response to one of the other posts, you also get to enjoy the creativity process yourself – once you get into action.

    • Samantha Bennett February 10, 2013, 7:00 am

      Brilliant, Brenda! And I find that actually PICTURING that one person in my mind – seeing how excited & relieved she/he is to find my work as just the perfect thing – is a terrific motivator. It also makes it easy to write marketing copy, as I just write as though only to that one person. xoox S.

  • Kristine Carlson May 16, 2013, 6:25 am

    Hi A !

    I’m a NY Times bestselling author and I have gone through the same process beginning with your question every time I’ve written a book! Work through your fears and get to the heart of your truth and the writer’s voice will be authentic to your individual expression! Enjoy the birthing process of creativity…it starts by working through your fears.

    Best wishes,

    Treasure the gifts of life and love,
    Kristine Carlson

    • Samantha Bennett May 16, 2013, 7:15 am

      Thank you so much, Kristine — it’s so reassuring to know that ALL artists face the same challenges.

      And everyone — make sure you get a copy of ALL of Kristine Carlson’s books on your shelf — “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms: Simple Ways to Stress Less and Enjoy Your Family More” is her most recent one and all the rest of the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” series (that she and her late husband Richard wrote) are wonderful, too! xoxo Sam.

  • Susan S May 30, 2013, 12:55 pm

    This reminder through your weekly emails sums me up to a T. I was raised not to do things unless you could do them perfectly, and it still lingers. I am proud when I work through my fears but I have to get there first.

    • Samantha Bennett May 30, 2013, 1:05 pm

      Good for you, Susan! Keep raising your tolerance for imperfection and watch your life begin some joyful new loop-de-loops!

  • Jean March 6, 2014, 11:05 pm

    ‘Excellent answer, Sam, and so well said. I agree completely.

  • Kathryn May 21, 2014, 7:42 am

    I frequently have this conversation with myself. The things I create, especially the art dolls, are considered a little strange in my neck of the woods. A number of people like them but they don’t know what to do with them. Others find them scary or just too weird. I don’t think they’re scary At all (except for a couple maybe) but the thing I tell myself is that it’s
    My job to listen to the clay and
    Allow my fingers to be it’s
    Voice. How others respond isn’t a
    Part of my responsibility. Don’t get
    Me wrong – I LOVE a positive response as much as anybody and
    Even a modicum of encouragement can fuel a whole new frenzy of
    Activity but we just can’t let the absence of it deter us from what we’re meant to do. Sometimes
    Our intended audience isn’t local. Maybe it’s the stranger from afar who happens to wander through or maybe it’s up to us to fling our
    Art further into the world so it
    Can be found by those who are don’t even know they are looking for It. (I’m about the last person to actually DO the flinging, but I can feel the urgings to do it more and
    Finally did create a FB page for it a
    Couple of weeks ago because of
    It).

    Still — it can be discouraging -
    Even in the small things. I recently made, what I thought were
    Really cute, fun, arty checkbook covers. I made one for myself, loved it and then made 10 more. I took them to sell at a downtown celebration booth and Sold a grand total of zero. Discouraging. I began to tell myself that clearly I was
    Wrong. They were not cute. Not
    Fun. Not worthy. Two days
    Later, at The request of a
    Friend, I took them to a small group of jewelry artists and in 5
    Minutes, I sold 7 Of The 10. So
    Now I feel encouraged. The only difference was who was
    In the “audience.” The Covers were just the Same On both days. I need
    To remember that the next time the critic takes up residence And hogs the stage in my brain.

    Thank you Sam, for featuring the question that haunts So many of us!

    • Samantha Bennett May 21, 2014, 6:08 pm

      Exactly! So often the secret to success is just getting your work in front of the people who love it. Congratulations on keeping your head on straight, following your inner wisdom and being willing to try, try again. HOORAY! – S.

  • Chris May 21, 2014, 9:15 am

    Fear and doubt and feelings of rejection have been eating into me A LOT since I made the decisions to take the next BIG step in my new BIZ. And knowing this is normal and part of the process and experienced by all artisits makes it easier to enter into conversation with. Which I do, and then it is about taking baby-steps and not raging against the universe when things dont just fall into place –and I need to go back to the drawing board. Having faith and believing that shining my light matters. Having a community to keep mirroring back the value of authentic expression and daring to come out of the closet is vital. Thanks for your words, Sam.

    • Samantha Bennett May 21, 2014, 6:06 pm

      Exactly! So often the secret to success is just getting your work in front of the people who love it. Congratulations on keeping your head on straight, following your inner wisdom and being willing to try, try again. HOORAY! – S.

    • Samantha Bennett May 21, 2014, 6:08 pm

      HOORAY for YOU and your glorious new biz. Withstanding the fear and anxiety is 90% of the trick, I think. It’s amazing how much of being a successful entrepreneur is an “inside job.” Stay committed and let me know how it goes, OK? – S.

  • Erika June 8, 2014, 3:56 pm

    Yes, it’s a haunting self-conversation. I’m writing a book with an angry, darkly funny protagonist on a spiritual journey. Young men and spiritually rigid people tend to dislike the character and find no value in her/the story. The people who matter in my critique groups really enjoy her–are not terrified by her. In my most recent submitted chapter, almost no one enjoyed her. I realized I hadn’t really liked her as I had been writing about her for that chapter. She was having a break down and had gone sort of soft. I also realized that I was PUSHING her spiritual growth in that chapter.
    There was a parallel for me. I had been pushing, judging myself for not forgiving. Feeling like I should understand that before I really do, leaving myself behind in the attempt and the judgement of myself over the the attempt. I realize that it’s not time and I need to come back to self love, no matter what I may be. I needed that compassion for my character to. Let her be the kick-ass lunatic she is and bring that into her growth processes too. People don’t like to see her lose that–at least not on the written page . . .

  • LisaK September 3, 2014, 9:06 am

    I have found that in order to start something that I am not sure about, I look at as doing it for myself first and I think it might help Dear A if they write the book for themself first and then let others read. I used this when I decided to take a Life Coaching course, right now I am doing it for me and if it turns out to be a business great and if not at least it will help give me insight into my life.

    • Samantha Bennett September 5, 2014, 10:28 am

      That’s a great insight, Lisa : ) — thank you for taking the time to write — Sam

  • Rich Johnson October 23, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Amazing. Samantha I see how many people go through this. Myself included. Not a day goes by when working on my video projects that I don’t question something. And there’s truly no reason for it. It’s staying inside my head and not stepping out to look at the bigger picture and the reality that I am good at what I do. It comes down to acknowledging one’s gifts. And for me treating it like it is really a gift from God. And then not only does it help get me out of my head. It also helps when presenting it to the world. Because then the world I hope will see it in the same manor as I. As a gift.

    • Samantha Bennett October 24, 2014, 5:30 pm

      EXACTLY, Rich — well put. Keep sharing those gifts! – S.

  • Sheila Cooper Collins October 27, 2014, 6:13 am

    I liked your good response. I had a crazy idea to add Rhino dung fiber to my paper in the 1980s. The idea burned into my brain and would not go away. When I finally made the paper it was the most beautiful of all in colour and texture and of course originality. In 1992 , with my sons we started Scarab Paper printing my paintings of elephants and rhinos onto this unique paper. We employed 17 single mothers from the local community.Visitors would come to our little garage workshop to see the whole production and I showed many folk who wanted to do similar work in places where there was poor communities, how we made our paper using local resources . We sold the business 8 years ago but I will never know how many people all over the world are able to put bread on their tables because of an idea I doubted had value or “would anyone care” until I just ‘did it’ and it lead to undreamed of doors opening for us.

    • Samantha Bennett November 16, 2014, 12:30 pm

      I LOVE this story, Sheila — never underestimate the power of a “crazy” idea :) – Sam

  • m November 15, 2014, 3:39 pm

    Using your 365 to help me do NanoWriMo. So far I am averaging 1000/words per day! WooHoo! Yes, I get those shitty voices daily saying “Who cares? Nobody’s gonna buy your book and all your efforts will be for naught. All of your 275 journals have just been a huge waste of time.” etc…Then I get scared and think “Why am I doing this?” But still, I do my 1000 words a day (sometimes more) trusting that it will all magically come together in a book that I will love, so others will too! So thank you. I’m glad I found you. Now I best get back to writing!

    • Samantha Bennett November 16, 2014, 12:29 pm

      WHOO-HOOOO indeed! Keep up the excellent work — I can’t wait to see how this unfolds for you — Sam.

  • Linda January 14, 2015, 9:14 pm

    Sam, I loved your answer. . . and everyone’s comments. I’m trying to fathom all these pesky gremlins who only exist to second-guess and sabotage our better geniuses – it’s amazing to me how widespread this syndrome is . . . I’m also a little amazed that any art, anywhere, ever gets out to the world. I especially liked your comment that “only dilettantes and amateurs never doubt their talent” and the segment about how everything changes, at every step of development and sharing – reinforces to me that all art is alive and vibrant with its own energy. Thanks so much for your insights and clarity on this!

    • Samantha Bennett January 19, 2015, 3:57 pm

      Thank you so much, Linda. And it’s true — it often amazes me, too, that any art ever happens. Luckily for us, it does : ) Keep working! – S.

  • Sher Dunshee-Menton January 15, 2015, 6:02 pm

    Great article and response.

    Having been a professional artist all my life, I am well aware that Fear of Failure is a big part of my inner dialog. It’s my inner self attempting to protect me from the big, bad world. You have to love yourself enough to step out of your comfort zone and take some risks to grow and become more of your authentic self.

    • Samantha Bennett January 19, 2015, 3:58 pm

      Absolutely, Sher — and I love the idea that developing the bravery to step out of one’s comfort zone is actually an act of deep self-love. Very insightful. Thank you for that. – S.

  • Jo E February 23, 2015, 5:57 am

    I picked up this lovely meaning of FEAR – false evidence appearing real – think it was from a book by Michael Heppell Helps me to be more rational…

    • Samantha Bennett February 26, 2015, 2:59 pm

      Yes, Jo — LOVE that definition. I also once had an acting teacher tell me that, “Fear is energy without breath.” I find that one useful, too. Thanks for commenting! – Sam.

  • Samantha Bennett November 29, 2013, 11:47 am

    Thank you so much, Pip!

Leave a Comment