Tuesday, May 12, 2015


For most of my life, I've been paralyzed by a fear of failure.

I'm not really sure where it got started, but being labeled as gifted in grade school probably didn't help matters much. When you hear over and over again at a formative age that you're smart, especially in conjunction with the phrase "so why can't you apply yourself?", you tend to develop a sharp, haunted fear of failure. (After all, if intelligence is a major part of your personal identity and yet you can't seem to make intelligent choices or live up to other people's expectations of your abilities, then who are you?) I'm also a perfectionist who can't bear to create flawed or slipshod work. And I don't like people to see when I've made mistakes.

So, naturally, I put up a write-as-you-go rough draft of Unseen on my blog. Because I'm stupid that way.

This story both thrills and terrifies me. I can see the desired shape of it in my head; I know what I want it to be like. And yet I also feel like it's devolving into a train wreck in real time. It lacks the depth and texture I want for it, and there are plot holes I don't know how to close up. I've been sitting on the next section of the story for almost two years, writing and tweaking and rewriting, and finally deleted the whole section because it's been stuck like a front-wheel drive car in waist-deep mud. nnnghrlhblhr.

I was sitting in my car at a stoplight yesterday, waiting for the light to change and mulling over these and other concerns, when I noticed the license plate of the SUV in front of me. It said "IFINISH." And I thought, If ever there were a phrase that didn't describe me, it would be "I finish." I can't seem to get anything of consequence done. I'm a regular champ at starting things, but finishing them? Yeah, not so much. But the more I sat there looking at that license plate, the more I thought to myself: Sooz, you are seriously being stupid.

Looking at this situation honestly, what's the worst thing that could happen? Well, I could write a crappy story and bore you all to death. Or I could never finish the story, in which case certain parties would come after me with torches and pitchforks because they'd invested precious hours of their life reading the draft, and now they have to know how it ends. Or I could write a mediocre-to-good story and have to self-publish it because no editors would give me the time of day.

Or I could finish the draft, polish it, publish it and make millions, and have to go into hiding or something. (Nah. You are not reading the random rantings of the next J.K. Rowling here.)

But really, even if I do fail, so what? Would anyone other than me care or even notice?

So right now the wall beside my desk is plastered with little yellow Post-It notes all having to do with plot bits and pieces from Unseen. I'm shuffling them around to try to figure out what happens when and why. It's making my brain and stomach hurt. But I'm starting to reach a point in my life where not finishing things is more painful than the fear of doing them wrong. I don't know when the next installment of Unseen will be posted or even whether it'll be any good, but it will happen, even if no one is around to see or care. Because I'm crossing this finish line for myself, if for no other reason than to prove to me that I can do it.


MarieC said...

YAAAAAAY! Can't wait to read the finished product!!

Soozcat said...

It'll probably be a while. My stomach is eating me alive with worry right now as I try to sort everything out.