Tag Archives: fear

Failure, Fear, Rejection and Resilience

Creative people are afraid of failure, and too often we fear our creative process and creative ability. In the last two weeks I’ve explored this in: Why Are Creative People Afraid of Failure and Creative People: Fear Not.

In the words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain. There is too much; let me sum up.”

Every writer and creative person will define it differently, but at the core, failure is a sense of inability to reconcile the imagined world and the real world, seeing the shortfall between the expectation and reality.

Failure is not an absolute. It is teaching and learning process, and a creative tool.

When we are afraid, fearful of creating, we need to trust in our abilities and skills, our planning and the quality of work.

Turn the fear into a motivating factor. Let it become a driving force.

Turn your fear into excitement. It’s the same chemical in the brain; different interpretation.

Don’t let the fear defeat you.

Summary completed, let’s move on.

When we create we are afraid of failure.

When we create we are afraid of rejection.

If we let the fear of failure consume our creative lives, we become hollow, desolate shells.

Creating anything artistic has within in it a risk of rejection; it is inevitable. It is another aspect of feeling like a failure when a story does not find a publisher, an artwork is rejected for an exhibition or a film is poorly received.

As creative people we feel the emotional knock down of rejection particularly hard. It undermines our ability to create and produce, makes us question our vision and belief in our abilities. Rejection can compound the feeling of failure, a double dose of sucker-punch. Rejection can be demoralising and quench the creative spark that burns within you.

Rejection will happen. It’s how we cope with rejection that will define our creativity. In the face of fear, failure and rejection it is our ability to be resilient, the ability to “bounce back” from adversity and stress.

My writing partner, Jodi Cleghorn, pointed me to this article from The Huffington Post:

“Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives — at least the successful ones — learn not to take failure so personally.

“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler.”

We know we are going to fail and have our work rejected. When we are resilient in the face of failure and rejection we will produce creative works that are more in balance with our ideal world and the real world, closing the gap between expectation and reality.

How can a creative person build resilience in their creative life in the face of fear, failure and rejection?

1. Believe in the skills and talents you have

If you have invested the time into developing, refining and improving your creative skills, trust that you will continue to create good art. 

Always be a learner of your craft. Continually seek ways to improve your writing by writing in a different genre or painting in a different medium. Get feedback from trusted people. 

2. Know the vision you have for your creative work

I created a manifesto to give me vision for the type of stories I want to tell. I  revisit it from time to time as a reminder. One day I will perhaps amend it as my creative journey continues, to reflect the change and development of my work.

3. Set regular goals

The SMART Plan (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed) is a great way of tracking your progress regardless of rejection. It keeps you focused on producing, not being bogged down by rejection. Every piece of new work is a step closer to achieving and fulfilling your goals.

My goals are worked out month to month. It’s short and specific and allows me flexibility with the demands of my day job. I have a big picture of the next few years of where I want to go and what I want to do, but I allow enough flexibility for change. 

4. Develop a strong creative network

Everyone needs a cheer squad; someone to put on the rah-rah skirt and wave the pom poms when you’re feeling flat, dejected and uninspired. 

I have a small, closed group on Facebook, made up of writers of different shapes and forms and it is a positive environment to seek feedback, preview new work or have a whinge. We live in different parts of Australia but the online connection means we champion each others’ causes.

5. Look for the positives

Whack on a pair rosy coloured glasses, preferably with a Dame Edna vibe to it, and look at your work in a positive light. As a writer it is too easy to look at all the errors when editing rather than see the fantastic sentences or paragraphs surrounding the small errors.

Fear is natural when we are uncertain, in doubt or under stress.

Failure is not a negative experience but a teaching tool. 

Rejection comes with the creative territory if we are putting our work out there for our audience.

Resilience says, “You are a creative individual” and tells you, “You can do it.” It picks you up, often by the scruff of the neck, dusts you off, smacks you on the bum and tells you to, “Get out there and try again.”

How do you develop resilience as a creative person?

Post It Note Philosophy 9

Post It Note Philosophy on Creativity 9

PIN Philosophy 9

Too often creative people fear the darkness of their heart and mind and soul. Creativity gives you the ability to engage with and understand the darkness. When you have named your fear, creativity makes it your captive and it serves you.

Post It Note Philosophy 4

Post It Note Philosophy on Creativity – Day 4

PIN Philosophy 4

Creativity is an attempt to understand what it is we fear; what is external and internal to our world. We fear what we could become; we fear what we may not become. Out of the darkness, we create to conquer our fear, giving it a shape, a form, a name. By our act of creation we let others know they are not alone.

What If I Don’t “Make It?”

What if I don’t make it?

This is a question that confronts every new and emerging writer. 

I am a new and emerging writer and I have confronted it.

Armed with a new pen, a Moleskine notebook and a dream, you set out to become a writer. But at some point the blind ambition comes face to face with the reality of the publishing industry.

It’s like having an experience with a face hugger from the movie Alien; you know at some point a xenomorph will burst out of your chest, killing you and then feed on the remnants of your dream of being a writer.

Despite every scrap of determination, every skerrick of aptitude, every committed moment of diligence, every hour of writing spent honing your craft, every fortune cookie predicting an ambiguous uncertainty of guaranteed success, there is no guarantee of you “making it” as a writer.

Alan Baxter recently hosted a blog series, The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers, with six authors, all of whom still carry the fear of “What if I’m not good enough?”

Even though they have “made it,” based on their own standards, there is still a fear. Go and read the conclusions then work your way through the different authors. You will cheer and weep and know you’re not alone.

So what chances do I have as a new and emerging writer to “make it?”

The same chance they did.

How will I define if I have “made it?”

I see on social media reports of authors who carved out a successful blogging career and turned it into fiction or non-fiction book deal and have gone on to financially successful careers.

And they make it sound SO EASY! “I wrote a book, it was picked up by an agent and sold to the highest bidder. And I’ve sold 1,000,000 copies and now have a three book advance deal.”

I have had two short stories published in anthologies, had a vignette published, and have three stories offered for free on Ether Books app (see the Publications page). Nothing to rock the world, but it’s a start.

“Making it” implies financial success, selling stories, novellas and/or novels, whatever literary form you care to think of.

“Making it” implies critical acclaim and public praise.

And, yes, I want these things. I want to be financially successful and have critical acclaim and public praise.


  • I have never made a sale for a short story.
  • I have not won a respected or prestigious competition (or even a disreputable one).
  • I have not finished writing my first novel.

Not a great start. Yet there are more fears lurking.

  • What if I never finish a novel? And assuming I finish a novel, what if I never sell it?
  • Will I write a second novel? A third? A fourth? What if they don’t sell either?
  • What if I NEVER sell a short story, a novella or a novel?
  • What if I never *fill in the blank here*?

Trying to answer the question of “Have I ‘made it’?” is akin to trying to catch a fart in a cyclone.

I want to make it. I want to sell short stories, and just like known authors, experience rejection.

I am committed to improving my craft, developing my art and telling good stories. I will have tried my hardest. I will have written to the best of my aptitude and skill; learned what I can from whomever and wherever to ensure my work is the best it can be to have every chance to be considered.

I’m going to make damn sure I give it everything I am to have a crack at “making it.”

But if I don’t make it, I don’t mind.


Despite everything looking like a failure, I will continue to write.

This is how I know I will have ‘made it.’ I will have continued despite the “failure.”

When I’ve “made it” financially or critically, I’ll let you know.

If I don’t make it, I’m ok with that.

I won’t be ok if I have failed to continue writing.

The Corner Store

Red and blue lights flashed a macabre disco strobe across the front of Mr Lee’s convenience store and the open doors and windows of the neighbouring houses.  Police and ambulance radio chatter provided the soundtrack to the evening’s events.

The local newspaper reporter stepped out of her car, pen and paper in hand.  Her camera man checked his pouches and went to get the story from the police and take some snaps.  She scanned the scene.  The police and ambulance officers moved about their duties with precision. The neighbours were kept at a respectable distance behind the police tape and their own fears.  Huddled in small family groups they whispered gossip and theories to one another.  Parents kept a firm hand on their children, drawing them in close.

The footpath in front of the door was strewn with shards of glass, a set of keys and a large padlock.  Inside the corner store, police cameras illuminated the carnage; a secondary tempest and lightning storm making the onlookers shield their eyes.

Neighbours peered into the narrow doors of the store into the storm’s epicentre.  Wads of bloodied cotton mixed with stock strewn on the floor.  Numbered cones outlined the scene; a forensic dot-to-dot puzzle.

The reporter moved from group to group, looking for a story angle.

People huddled in small groups, furtively eyeing the shadows, hoping that nothing was hiding.

One old man in a faded cardigan and tattered slippers shuffled up to the reporter.  “I’ve lived in this area for thirty years and never has this place been robbed or broken into.”  A cigarette passed to his lips.  “Mr Lee’s been a part of the scenery for almost twenty years.  He knows all the kids by name and their families.  He is a fair and decent man.  Is he still alive?”

“I don’t know,” said the reporter.

“I buy my paper every morning on the way to the station,” said one man.  “Mr. Lee is always smiling and good for a chat.”

“And I get bread and milk from time to time when I forget to stock up,” said the woman next to him.

The child huddled in between them butted in, “I buy chips and lollies from Mr. Lee.  I especially like the bags of mixed lollies where you get one of everything.  Teeth are my favourite lollies and I could eat a whole bag of them in one go.”

“Bought my first girlie mag from here,” said a young lad, baseball cap perched precariously on the back of his head.

“And your first smokes.  Both of which you bought with a fake ID,” countered his mate.

“Shut up, man.  Don’t tell her that,” replied the young lad, punching his friend in the shoulder.

The clatter of a trolley diverted people’s attention to the doorway of the corner store.  Ambulance officers surrounded a body strapped to the trolley, one holding an IV bag above his shoulder.  Mrs Lee stuck close to her husband, one hand holding his, the other clutching a fistful of tissues.

“There’s no story here for us,” the camera man said to the reporter.  “Police reckon it was just a robbery that turned violent; probably local thugs shaking down the owner or kids needing cash for whatever.”

The reporter snapped shut her notebook relegating the story in her mind to spare column inches tucked away in the middle of the paper.  The camera man packed his bags, ready to chase the next vision to be broadcast on the front page.

As if on cue, the police cars and ambulance faded from view, the police tape waving like a broken hand.

The neighbours bade silent farewells, sticking closer to one another, fearful of the shadows that were suddenly darker and more menacing.