The One Question You Should Ask Yourself Today if You Have Writer’s Block
I have not written a single creative word in over a month.
My fear of failure holds me back. It has held me back from so many experiences, the biggest being relinquishing the chance to emigrate a few years ago. I still wonder what would have happened if I had just packed my bags and left. I don’t regret that decision, I just wonder at the lost experience.
The fear of failure is not something to be scoffed at. We’ve all experienced it and it has held us back in some way, no matter how small. You turn down a job offer because “I can’t do that!”. You turn down an invitation to go to the new roller-skating pub because “I’ll make a fool out of myself!”. You look at your colleague’s gorgeous nails but you won’t even attempt to do your own because “I’d be rubbish at it.”
Every time we have a date with my future in-laws, I plan to bake something to bring over but I never do! Because what if I burn my muffins or put salt in the cookies instead of sugar? They still have yet to try a single one of my baked goods even though my oven is on almost every week.
I have not written a single creative word for over a month because I’ve been so worried about failure. I sit in front of the computer and my brain immediately tells me to give up, I’m better off watching yet another episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine or baking or cooking or even cleaning the house! Anything is better than trying to write.
Today marks the first time I started typing out an article again and the only reason why I managed to get past the “You’re no good” hurdle is because I asked myself one simple question, “So what if no one reads this?”
Sometimes I feel like we’re all performers in a decrepit, abandoned opera house, swaying between diligently working on honing our craft for the one stray observer and saying “Fuck it I’m done, no one will see this anyway.”
My fear of failure stems from obsessing about what others will think of me if I fail. My fear of writing stems from the knowledge and almost absolute certainty that no one will read this and even if someone does, they will not like it. Like a performer, I want to please. I want to hear praise and be showered with compliments so I shy away from anything that will not put me in a good light. But so what if you fall at the roller-skating pub with a pint in your hand? Your mates will laugh, strangers will laugh, you will laugh and celebrate that ludicrous memory 10 years down the road.
So what if you baked cookies for your in laws and put in salt instead of sugar? They’re horrible and inedible, but you made an effort and come on, that’s a hilarious memory. So what if I write this article and no one reads it? I overcame my own writer’s block, even if it’s only temporary, even if I go back to not being able to face my workspace tomorrow, I overcame my writer’s block for today and that’s worth celebrating.
We’re all performers in a space craving for attention and assurance that what we’re doing is good and worthwhile, but ask any middle child in a family and she’ll tell you that’s not how life works. Ask any minimum wage worker or any middle-class white-collar desk monkey and they’ll tell you that you can work for years and years in the same company and the general manager might still not know your name.
But does that mean we stop trying? Does that mean we allow our fear of failure to hold us back and stop us from living? I really hope your answer is “NO”. Maybe nobody notices you, maybe nobody but your mother loves you, maybe not even your mother loves you. Life sucks and you’re invisible, but that does not mean you should relinquish the right to give yourself a chance.
Even if no one is reading what you’re writing, even if your blog has zero visitors and your articles have zero views, keep writing. Dance like nobody’s watching, write like nobody’s reading and live like nobody gives a damn about you.
Perhaps being invisible is not failing in life, maybe it’s the ultimate gift of freedom. When nobody is watching and judging you, you are free to be you. There are no expectations of how amazing your muffins have to be, no reckoning if you wear mismatched socks, no consequences if there are zero views for your writing.
“So what if no one reads this?”
If you are reading this, I want to thank you. If you’re not, I want to thank myself for carving time out of my self-sabotaging routine to write and feel alive. We’re free in the words that flow. We’re free in believing that we’re free. We’re free when we shut the fear of failure behind a door for a moment and get on with our lives.
The fear of failure will always be there. After all, it has been there with me all my life like a nagging, consistent, yet reassuring rash that never goes away. Even if all else fails, failure will always be there. In a way, isn’t that just like the ultimate love story?