Escapist Writing and the Fear of Failure

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Photo Credit: Lusi at rgbfreestockphotos.

You can have the tools, the talent, and the time—but if you have the fear of failure, you might also have a nasty habit called Escapist Writing. And this very habit may be causing you to fail.

In my home office I have a desk, a laptop, and a comfy office chair. More importantly, I have writing skills honed by two English degrees and thousands of pages of practice. I have a rough draft of a book manuscript I’ve been typing up for the last two weeks—which is to say I also have time.

But this week during my prayer times, I’ve also discovered I have a crippling fear of failure—which manifests itself in the type of non-productive, self-obsessed writing I did yesterday. Here’s a summary, to spare you from the entire writing session:

  • Since I’ve begun writing to my roots, I’ve so committed myself to honesty that, when I feel bummed, I write about it. Thus, I vomit out my blues in my journal, and sometimes on this blog.
  • In doing this good thing—being honest, which I think really is a good thing after you’ve been hiding for a long time—I realize I’ve sometimes trusted to emotionalism rather than gospel truth.
  • Worse yet, sometimes a flow of unbridled honesty curbs my thoughts in wrong ways. I’m talking about when I begin to believe negative thoughts like this:
  1. Wow, is this what’s really inside me? I must suck.
  2. Look how pathetic I am.
  3. How can I be an inspirational writer if I mostly write about my barriers?
  4. With such barriers, how can I even get on with my day?
  5. I can’t do this (meaning write for a living). I’m gonna fail.
  • My negative pattern of escapist writing is confirmed by the fact that I get a sort of pleasure in writing about these twisted thoughts.
  • By convincing myself that my mind is too complicated (maybe neurotic), or that I’m too sensitive, or too pathetic, I release myself from any obligation to be a fully functioning adult.
  • By giving free reign to my feelings in my writing, I avoid having to face reality, and I resist taking risks.
  • By writing about why I can’t write, I justify my failure. And I also cause it.

No doubt about it: Lately, I’ve been so honest with myself that I’m starting to not like what I see. And I’m starting to see that letting out all your insecurities is a great way to become more insecure. But maybe this is like re-breaking a broken bone so it can finally heal correctly.

Now that I’ve identified this insidious pattern of escapist writing that masquerades as my friend, I can

  • Stop taking my feelings so seriously.
  • Start rebuking them with God’s word.
  • Tell myself I am not defined by my feelings (and neither is my writing process).
  • Remember that God has appointed for me a work to do (Eph. 2:10), and He wants me to succeed.
  • Pray a prayer like this:

Lord, help me to stop wasting time by escaping from reality in self-condemning writing. Let me write about YOU and YOUR power—your “glorious, unlimited resources” to help me (Eph. 3:16, NLT). Let me not be defined by my fear of failure. And let me get on with the work you have for me each day as the writer, and the woman, you want me to be. Amen.

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8 thoughts on “Escapist Writing and the Fear of Failure

  1. Joel May 9, 2013 / 10:14 am

    I’m guessing a lot of us can relate to the pattern you’ve described going through. Excellent prayer. Thank you!

    • lindseygendke May 9, 2013 / 10:37 am

      Thanks Joel. I haven’t read about a lot of others going through this, so either I’m just not a prolific enough reader, or people are in denial!

      • Joel May 9, 2013 / 10:47 am

        Yes, we are!
        I mean, NO, we’re not!

  2. Samantha Anderson May 9, 2013 / 10:32 am

    “But maybe this is like re-breaking a broken bone so it can finally heal correctly”–exactly! It sucks, but the end product is so worth it! We’ve got to dig through our crap and heal from it and let it go in order to move on without it.

    • lindseygendke May 9, 2013 / 10:36 am

      Wish we didn’t have to “dig through the crap,” but unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to leave on its own! It’s definitely a process, and I’m glad we can go through it if it means healing.

  3. them0rpheus May 12, 2013 / 6:42 am

    I have found that in the process of self-discovery, accepting yourself for what you are is the only way to move forward. Self-deprecating the writing might be, but, once it’s out there you can see it and decide not to hold yourself to those feelings / thoughts. I like how you can use your faith to help you guide yourself out of negativity.

    • lindseygendke May 13, 2013 / 9:30 am

      Honesty is truly so important, as you say. At first, it might not be pretty to look at, but I do believe that recognizing the truth is the only way to move on. And then, once we recognize the patterns, we can take steps to change them! Thanks for reading.

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