How do you deal with fear of failure? (video)

Viewing time: 4 mins 17 secs

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How do you deal with fear of failure? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question. 


How do you deal with fear of failure? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach.

I have a question from Joy West, a writer based in Southfield, Michigan. Here’s what she’s asked by email…

“I want to begin blogging again, but I get cold feet because I’m afraid of failing. It’s so strange and I don’t know why I feel like that, but it keeps me from being creative. Could you offer some advice on getting over this ridiculous fear?”

Thanks for the question, Joy. It’s certainly not ridiculous and it’s something I’ve heard many writers express. I have two useful suggestions for you and the first is based on the system of writing I teach.

Be sure to separate the various jobs relating to writing. These include:

  • Researching
  • Thinking and planning
  • Writing
  • Editing

So, for example, when you’re researching, don’t do anything else. Just research. And the same rule applies when you’re writing. Pay no attention to the quality of your words, because that’s something you should do only when you’re editing.

The difficulty of trying to edit WHILE you write is that you’re forcing yourself to do two different things at once, which is only going to increase your sense of failure. Writing uses the creative part of your brain and editing uses the evaluative part. Do only one thing at a time, and you’ll have a better chance of succeeding at it.

As someone who’s producing your own blog, keep reminding yourself that no one else is going to see your words until YOU hit the publish button.

Now, if you’re concerned about your ability to edit yourself, you might think about hiring a professional editor. Or, if you can’t afford that, consider exchanging editing duties with a friend. Let them edit your writing while you edit theirs.

My next piece of advice is to become more comfortable with the idea of making mistakes. I addressed this issue in detail in a blog post I wrote in 2013. You can see the link to it in the show-notes, below.

That post contains a terrific four-minute video that you should watch. It’s by scientist Jennifer Gresham from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

Gresham argues that fear of failure, “starts with our parents and then it’s our teachers and then it’s our bosses and pretty soon it’s ourselves…”

This fear keeps many of us from writing. We’ll never be good enough, it tells us. We need more talent. We need to work harder. We don’t have the time. What will people think if we write something that’s silly? Or boring?

I like the ritual that Gresham suggests. Every day she and her daughter remind each other: “it’s a great day to make a mistake.”

“That’s where the learning is,” Gresham says. “Until you prioritize learning over performance, you’ll prevent yourself from having eureka moments.”

Joy, if you want to write, don’t think about your performance – the finished piece of writing. Instead, focus on what you’re learning. Tell yourself it’s a great day to make mistakes.

Finally, let me wrap up with the words of the late American journalist and young adult writer Robert Cormier: “The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, brain surgery.”

Joy, the very best thing about writing is that you will have plenty of time to fix your writing mistakes. Later. When you’re editing.

Oh, and it’s a great day to make mistakes.


If you have any writing-related questions, I’d be happy to do a video on them. Just send me a quick email, Or, put a note in the comments section of this YouTube channel.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.


It’s a great day to make mistakes

Your Happy First Draft 

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