Guest Post by: A.J. Brown
Pop Question: What is the greatest common denominator between most people?
The Answer: Fear.
I know, I know. Some of you out there are probably saying to yourselves: ‘Self, I ain’t afraid of nothing.’
Go right ahead and lie to yourselves then. Everyone is afraid of something, admitted or not.
Fear is one of the driving factors in most lives. Fear of being homeless makes most people work. Fear of being alone makes people seek out a mate. Fear of dying makes some people exercise religiously and eat right. Speaking of religion, fear of going to Hell drives some folks to a faith in a higher being. Fear of failure pushes many people to work hard to become successful.
Hmmm… fear of failure.
Once upon a time in a small town in South Carolina lived a little boy who grew into a young man who wanted to become a writer. However, the man feared that he would never succeed. So he almost didn’t pursue his dream.
Fear of failure almost kept him from trying.
Did you know Henry Ford failed a few times before finally getting it right with Ford Motor Company? Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “I failed my way to success.” President Lincoln failed in his first foray into politics.
Failure happens. It’s part of life. What’s the difference between Ford, Edison, Lincoln and the average person? They kept trying. They didn’t let the fear of failure slow them down. They didn’t even let the reality of failure slow them down.
I used to think failure is not an option. But, that’s not true. Not trying is not an option. Failure may happen, but I have to try in order for that failure (or success) to come.
If every child gave up after their first attempt at walking we would have a bunch of people with calloused hands and knees crawling around the world. If every athlete gave up when they didn’t succeed there would be no sports.
The fear of failure is great for many. So great, that I’m sure it paralyzes some people and keeps them from even thinking about trying.
We can’t be that way. Not in life.
What does all of this have to do with writing? If Stephen King gave up after throwing Carrie in the trash would the horror genre be what it is today? If his wife hadn’t fished it out of the trash would King have been what he became? His wife didn’t give up on him and didn’t let him become a failure at what he loved to do.
Why should we give up on ourselves?
When I first started out I was told I sucked as a writer and that I should stop writing–it wasn’t my thing. Ouch. That could have been a mental wound that stayed open for years and later became a scar. Instead, that was my motivation to prove that editor wrong. That’s right. Tell me I can’t do something. Go ahead. I’m going to prove you wrong. And I don’t prove you wrong I’m going to try my best regardless.
Fear is the greatest common denominator. Add failure to the equation and you have a paralyzing grip that often will not let go of people. Conquering that fear isn’t easy, but all it takes is one step to get you going. Then another step.
Start small. Gain confidence then reach higher. Climbing the ladder of success is all about taking one rung at a time–if you skip a few on the way up, you might just hit them on the way back down.
Learn the craft–not just the technical stuff, but your voice and how to develop it. Learn about making stories flow and, if at all possible, try to be original. I don’t listen to people who tell me my work won’t sell. It does and it will.
Learn from your mistakes. Samuel Smiles said, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than success. We often discover what we will do, by finding out what we will not do.”
Use failure as a learning device. If you do then making the same mistakes over and over will not be something you have to worry about.
And don’t be afraid. If you want to run with the big dogs you can’t stay on the porch. You have to leap off and chase after them, chase after that dream.
Nothing good ever happens if you don’t try and not trying is the worse thing you can do–or not do.
As I’ve said, fear is the greatest common denominator. The fear of failure is paralyzing. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.
Now, get out there and write.
Until we meet again…
AJ Brown is a story teller who pens emotionally charged/character driven stories that often include a touch of dark paranormal. His work has received such honors as a Pushcart nomination, and editor’s choice for Issue #12 of Necrotic Tissue. Bards and Sages Quarterly, Liquid Imagination, and SNM Horror are a few of the literary zines where his stories can be found.
Above all else, AJ is a husband and father of two beautiful children who not only support his creative endeavors, but also provide inspiration (sometimes in rather unexpected ways).
If you’d like to learn more about AJ Brown’s life and work, visit his blog: Type AJ Negative. However, beware, AJ is a unique mixture of strawberry Kool-aid drinking redneck and traditional values Southern gentleman. The only things he takes seriously are serious things and he isn’t one of them.
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