Stepping Stones Blog

Fear of Writing (Part 1)

I made the decision in October that I would retire from teaching in May in order to devote more time to writing.  I now find myself retired and some days wondering what have I done?!

While I love to write, I struggle with the concept of calling myself a writer:  seems like awfully big shoes to fill.  So my writing coach suggested I journal about this fear… and see where it leads.

My first response is that I have a fear of failure (this is my go-to phobia in any given situation).  But as I pondered that response, I felt it deserved exploration.

How will I know I have failed – unless I establish expectations for success? I began to brainstorm what I considered a “successful writer”

A Successful Writer:

  • is published (in the traditional sense)
  • has a good size fan base
  • is invited to autograph signings where people actually show up
  • is listed on the NYT bestseller list
  • draws an annual royalty check to rival a full-time job
  • is invited as keynote speaker to writing conferences

And then I stopped.

I realized that none of these components of success would fulfill me. In fact, many would mentally exhaust me. And while I have no problem spending it – money has never motivated me.

No… that definition of success is the world’s definition, not my own. And I wonder in what other circumstances of life I have willingly adopted the word’s view without giving any thought to the fact that is contrary to my core values?

However, “they” say, you should write for yourself and no one else.

But I can’t do that either. That sounds so narcissistic and egotistical and my father would roll over in his grave if he knew I was being so impractical and selfish.


Found on my morning walk…

I acknowledge that there is a need to write for me … because for the first time in my life I am learning to express myself. But I also need someone to hear me – to relate to what I am saying – to understand me – and possibly, to be positively affected by my story.

I need an audience. It doesn’t need to be a big audience or one that provides lots of praise or monetary compensation. It simply needs to be an audience who is willing to share with me in an honest and authentic way.

If my writing can touch someone in that way, I will have succeeded and my efforts would not be in vain nor egotistical – they would serve a purpose.

And then I wondered…. am I already achieving that definition of success by blogging?

While I want to push myself to improve, to grow and mature as I writer, perhaps I do not have to look at it through the lens of success or failure.  Perhaps… I can just find the work and personal challenge reward enough.



  1. Melissa

    I really needed this today… thank you!

  2. joyweesemoll

    This is such a big question for me. I really want that list, even if it’s the world’s definition of success. And, yet, that’s not helpful to keep in mind while I’m writing because failure is so likely and so terrifying that I’m paralyzed.

    I’ve also had the question “is the blog enough?” for myself. It certainly comes more naturally to me!

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