04 March 2013

Do You Fear Success or Failure?


by Carrie Bailey

When I was younger, my mother told me that my father - though a talented artist - never finished anything he started. And if he did, he finished it too quickly. Over the years her words grew into a phobia that has clung to every creative endeavor I've started. Because she considered him a failure, I quickly developed the fear that I too would be incapable of knowing how and when to finish a project.

Cover art of Bungle of Oz
Can't believe I forgot to put
my name on it...

Flash forward twenty years, one kid, two degrees and one thousand different hair styles. This week I'm doing the final edits for a book I will release this month called Bungle of Oz. I am paralyzed by doubts. I know. It's not normal, but it happens to me sometimes and not even a half a dozen cups of coffee will fix it.

First, let me tell you everything I've done to avoid finishing the novel. After a few months without contact, I finally wrote a letter to my ex-boyfriend telling him off for putting alcohol before our basic needs last year before I left him and New Zealand...for good. I had a good cry. I ate a few donuts. I chatted with Winonah, my sister, about our deep dark old musty smelly family issues. I tweeted. I posted on Facebook how awesome my sister is. I cried again. I thought about eating more donuts, but I used my last shred of will power to avoid it. Then, I ate a pineapple. I got hugs from my son and my roommate. I put on Harry Potter and had a cry at the part where Harry accepts that he, like Jesus, must sacrifice himself for the sake of humanity.

I can't blame hormones. I'm not imbalanced. I'm not stressed. I've been eating well and exercising. My life is pretty good. So why am I having a total meltdown?

For the same reason I feel bad when I end unhealthy relationships, eat the last donut in the box or move to a new city. It's hard to let go especially if the donuts have coconut on them. I'm even sad that Voldemort died. I got used to reading how he was defeated, passing the book to my kid, and holding my breath for two or three days until I could talk to the kid about the story without spoiling it for him. That will never happen again.

The end of a project, however exciting it may be, comes with new beginning - transition from being a writer to being a bookseller. Ah, now we come closer to the real source of my fear. Things change now. Though I realistically don't expect to sell many copies of Bungle of Oz, because Oz books in general aren't in high demand, I am now free to work on writing project that have more potential.

It's okay if you quit reading now - nobody has to dive into my neuroses with me - but, be warned - that's where I'm heading.  
Nothing wrong with being a hobo and a writer.
There's a lot of perks that come with the territory.
Like riding the open rail and camping.
Also, everyone already expects
you to drink and act inappropriate in public.

FAILURE

Why is it scary? Because I'd probably be comforted by all the gleeful people who never tried anything difficult themselves. I'd have to work in a library or bookstore for all time - actually, that's not so bad. I would never get to prove wrong certain people who made my life more difficult. I might lose confidence. My writer friends might reject me. My son and sister might stop admiring me.

SUCCESS

Honestly, I don't fear success. I fear yachts.
Because, that's where successful people hang out.
The day you've arrived is when the
success committee comes to issue you a yacht.
Then, if you're me, the yacht catches fire. 
How could that possibly be something to fear? Well, I'd lose the fantasy that everything is better when you achieve your dreams, because I'd still get pimples, I'd still have to fill out forms and I'd still loose friends to disease and accidents. I'd have to manage more responsibility. Even more people would envy me and not refrain from being pricks about it.

But, here's what is great about being a writer. I can't fail. Only not writing at all is failure. And there is no true point when a writer can say they have arrived. Until I sell as many copies as the authors of the Bible - a popular anthology with a few thousand years head start on me - I can always just set the bar higher. Success is a process. So, why have I been crying when deep down I know this?

My meltdown does not have its roots in a fear of change or success or even failure. It started with a belief that I was introduced to at a young age unwittingly by my mother. I believe that finishing a project is not as easy as starting one. I believe that screwing things up at the end is how creative types operate. It's amazing how a simple idea has taken hold in my mind and caused me so much anxiety. It's preventing me from enjoying the process. It's not my mother's fault either. It's not mine. It's not an issue of who is responsible. It's just a fact that raises an important question.

Why don't I open up my book, do the final edits and enjoy it as much as I did when I first started the project?

All I have to do is take a few deep breaths, open the files for my final chapters and edit. Focus on how much fun it is to write - I can't lie to myself about editing. Remind myself that I love sharing my books and getting reviews.

My sister gave me some good advice when we talked this weekend. She told me to take a break. Seriously, it was wise like only an older sister can be. All I need to do is wrestle my neuroses into submission and then resume the writing. This is a good time to watch Dr. Who and read Alex M. Bright's book TRIsocialization. And just because I have to start a new project soon, doesn't mean I cannot relish the end of this one and give it the attention the readers deserve. I can, because I believe I can.

My mom also read me The Little Engine that Could.
I loved that book. Of course, the train didn't have an artistic temperament.
Could the little engine finish a painting or is this just a story about physical labor?

***

Why wasn't it The Little Typewriter that Could?

***

I think I can.
I think I can.
I think I can.

***

Nah, it's not working.
Maybe I'll just reward myself with donuts when I finish.
That's motivation.

22 comments:

  1. "Only not writing at all is failure." Yes! Yes! Yes! Do you see that, Brain? Carrie's right! Why won't you listen to Carrie, Brain?

    Stupid Brain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rob, are you using the comment box to talk to your brain as though it were disembodied?

      Delete
    2. What do you mean "as though"?

      Delete
    3. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Forget I mentioned it. *walks away slowly*

      Delete
  2. I can relate to this. Finishing has been an issue in my family as well. I am getting better at doing it with less neurosis. Donuts always help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Book finished and I just went and ate that donut I promised myself. It was bliss.

      Delete
  3. THIS: "My meltdown does not have its roots in a fear of change or success or even failure. It started with a belief that I was introduced to at a young age unwittingly by my mother. I believe that finishing a project is not as easy as starting one. I believe that screwing things up at the end is how creative types operate. It's amazing how a simple idea has taken hold in my mind and caused me so much anxiety. It's preventing me from enjoying the process. It's not my mother's fault either. It's not mine. It's not an issue of who is responsible. It's just a fact that raises an important question."

    Means you are in my head. Again, Carrie.

    I wish there was a delete button for shitty comments made by parents about other parents or themselves.

    My own mother, brilliant illustrator and artist, funny as hell, genius actually, never sent in her cartoons to ... The New Yorker -- why not somewhere else? Because TNY is the Bible of cartoons; she feared the rejection so she never did it.

    This is where I am and I hate it. I really really really hate it.

    Thank you for stepping out and braving this for us. Your art is fan-fucking-tastic and your writing is amazing. I can't wait to buy your book.

    But I'm almost ready... I am on that edge, ready to do this. ... sigh.

    I am cheering for YOU. Can you hear me? Rah-Rah-Sis-Boom-Bah! Ca-rrie Bai-ley RAH! RAH! RAH!

    xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Molly! I did it. I did it today and I am done and it's my first narrative story and I'm happy and I ENJOYED IT.

      I added 20% more content during the last week, because it was enjoyable and good and I wanted to do the work right. It felt right.

      Ah, relaxation.

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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