Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

Fear Is The Mind-Killer


Do you ever wonder what would happen if your dreams came true? I don’t mean your dreams of winning the lottery. I mean the dreams that you’re pursuing at this very moment, or the dreams that you would be pursuing if you had the time. For me, the dream is to write and make movies for a living. I don’t necessarily desire to be filthy rich, but I wouldn’t mind owning a house with a few acres of land so my dog can run around. Mostly though, I want to be working at what I love to do, creating work that affects people in a meaningful way.

To achieve my dream I am currently writing a memoir, a screenplay and two television pilots, all in my spare time. I’m taking a gamble on myself, investing hours upon hours of time and energy on projects which might, or might not, see the light of day. Sometimes I think what’s the point, why keep going, what are the chances of making it now at 42, almost 43 years old? Then I think, what if I do make it? What if I become a successful writer/filmmaker, one who has to navigate the business, talk to the press, give interviews, promote my work, promote myself, manage people and so on?

My therapist once pointed out that I have this habit of not finishing projects, or rather not following through on them enough. I get them to a good place, but I don’t do what’s necessary to take them to GREAT place, or to get them produced. It’s like I run out of steam at some point. Another way of looking at it is I actually have a fear of success. I want to be successful, but I also don’t want to be successful because I don’t want to be judged, held accountable or  scrutinized. I don’t look forward to the added attention that comes with success.

Some people crave attention and are masters of composure in the spotlight. Not me. I can be very social and fun, but also very shy and guarded. People have often said that when they first met me, I came across as aloof and standoffish. I used to be shocked to hear this, but now I sort of understand. I am not the type to be your best friend, or spill my guts, upon meeting you.  I’m more of a sit back and observe type of person until I feel comfortable enough to share my goofy self. Sometimes I am painfully inarticulate. I find it difficult to think clearly when under pressure (except when I’m on set or in a crisis). I am 100% more articulate and open on this blog than I am in real life. Okay, maybe not 100% but at least 75%.

Maybe I’ll never have to face my fears because I won’t be successful. If the opposite is true, maybe it won’t be so bad. One can be trained for public speaking and coached for interviews and so on. As Kaz would say, “That would be one of them good problems.”

This is one of my favorite quotes about fear from the book DUNE by Frank Herbert:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Can you relate to the fear of success? Or is the fear of failure scarier?

Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

18 thoughts on “Fear Is The Mind-Killer

  1. I can definitely relate to the fear of success. It seems when I am on the verge of success at a particular venture, I sabotage it. I am much more comfortable as a “starving (well, maybe not exactly starving) artist” struggling with his craft than as one who has to manage his success.

  2. I know the feeling of running out of steam.. I think I subconsciously sabotage myself- stopping myself from taking that final step so I won’t have to deal with failure if that book I put my soul into doesn’t work out… I guess we have to just put ourselves out there though, don’t we! Good luck with everything!

    • We do have to put ourselves out there. Easier said than done for some of us. As for running out of steam, I’m still trying to figure that one out because the work is endless. I suppose we have to find ways to “replenish the well.” Thanks for your comment.

  3. You are right in saying that we are at least aware of the fact that we do what we do – or fail to do – better to have a clue than be oblivious. It is hard to just bite the bullet and dive head first off a cliff into the ocean – not easy. i admire those that can do it. I kinda sit on my butt and skootch my way down the mountain and walk into the ocean – one toe at a time:)

    • Diving head first off the cliff is definitely a scary prospect. I see just as much merit in skootching slowly towards your dreams. There is no right or wrong way. Moving towards them is what matters, right? And perhaps when you see you’re getting closer to achieving them, you’ll allow yourself to skootch a little faster, or even tumble safely.

      • the only problem with skootching is that the clothing one wears must be able to take the constant friction! aha – butt patches – this will work! butt skootching with some really cool artistic butt patches – i see a trend! and when we achieve our goal – we will have the most awesome looking butts!

  4. The irony is that fearing success just postpones any chance of finding out how well you might handle it! I was super-successful in my early to mid 20s and ran into horrible, nasty, backbiting gossip — the envy was nuts. It scared me and made me not want to be successsful again because I feared that sort of shit all over again. So I moved to the States and had to start all over again at the age of 30…I am now successful in some people’s eyes but not Famous and Rich enough to spur envy. Works for me.

    • True. Fearing success is really pointless because you’re fearing something that hasn’t even happened and might never happen. So why fear it? Or why allow the fear to have power over you? I think your current success sounds ideal, the ability to do what you love. Being recognized for it is an added bonus. Sometimes I think reaching that place a little later in life, when we’re more mature, is better too. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

  5. Ooh, baby…It’s the Fear of Success for me! I’m not afraid to mess up, put my tail between my legs, and go home and no one ever know me or hear of me. No! I’m afraid that it will all work, that they will love my work, want more AND expect more from me, and that it will all go well and then get so big that I don’t even know how to handle it, much less be able to figure it all out and keep track of everything.

    I have about 1 to 3 AMAZINGLY interesting and gripping ideas a day (usually in the shower or while driving my kids to private, Catholic school a half-hour away – one hour roundtrip twice a day or three times). I have quite a lot of time to THINK. So, I do. Think, that is, and plan and come up with great ideas for children’s books, screeplays, theatrical plays on stage, short stories, songs, etc. Really.

    I have to input them in my iPhone on the side of the road sometimes because I’m 50 now and my memory isn’t what it used to be, so I have to jot it down rather than hoping that I can remember it after I deal with traffic in town and traffic on the freeway and my groceries, my Starbuck’s order, the never-ending errands, fundraising for school and church, feeding the pets, cleaning house and all. I forget easily because my mind is preoccupied with all sorts of everyday (and mommy) and housewife crap. Not that I’m complaining…because I’m not.

    I love my life. I really do. Except for the fact that our first-born will be leaving in a few, short months to go to college for the first time and I truly HATE it…but, that’s another story. I want her to go, I do. She needs to go because she just took her last two years of high school at our local community college in Running Start and there is nothing left for her here, except us. She needs a full-blown university and I guess it will free up a huge chunk of my time to finish my script and face that fear of Success that we both are talking about, eh? The reason that you and I both don’t like to finish our projects might be because, when they are finished, we can actually package it and send it off for someone else to read and decide if it’s good enough to buy. What a concept!

    We should both make a silent promise that the NEXT thing that we start, we FINISH. Then, we send it off, no matter what, and then we post on our blog what happened to it. I’ll promise if you do… ha. ha.


    • You’re on. We will finish what we start. 🙂

      Btw, when I was in Vermont earlier this year for a writer’s residency a moderately successful (twice published and well-reviewed) guest author came to visit and told us that she had been a legal secretary with children for many years. It wasn’t until she turned 44 that she decided to try writing. She applied to graduate school, got accepted, moved to Iowa, graduated, wrote her first book, and the rest is history. She also spoke of the fear of success, and the fear of finishing… because she loves to write, not necessarily promote and sell. She admitted to not liking public speaking too, but she got over it. And so will we. Keep jotting down your ideas, commit to one or two and pursue them. If you enjoy writing, you have nothing to lose.

  6. Thanks for posting this NLD, it is very resonant for me right now also and obviously we are not alone! Is it the curse of believing you are a creative being? Is it the sense of no longer being 20 and invincible? Is it fear of fear itself?

    Seeing as people are mentioning age, I will be 40 next January and more significantly, will hopefully become a first-time father in November of this year. Anytime I have considered parenthood I have always thought that I want to be in a good place in my life when/if it happens. I’ve just come through three years of struggle and stress which have brought a real crisis of confidence and identity and starting my blog was a direct attempt to reclaim myself and provide a creative focus that was content-oriented. It has helped me remember that I too am someone who wants “to be working at what I love to do, creating work that affects people in a meaningful way.”

    I’m grateful for finding your blog because I recognise your journey and your dream and the language you use to discuss them. I sort of touched on this idea in my last post which was loosely about the things that shape us and ‘bouncebackability’. My musician wife, the same age as you, has faced her fears and gone back to university to train as a music therapist and now with a baby on the way has some other fears and dreams to address.

    Life has an uncanny knack of getting in the way of our destiny. Don’t lose sight of yourself and you won’t lose sight of your dream. Love, light and success to you and to us all.


    • Thanks Dara, How exciting to have a baby on the way (congratulations!). I don’t have children myself but I’ve seen how kids raise the stakes of every decision, and provide motivation and inspiration to their parents. It’s a beautiful thing. Blogging is definitely a way to rebuild confidence and regain identity. It’s helped me in this way too, for which I am very grateful. Keep on keepin’ on!

  7. Oh man, I feel like this is something I could have written about myself. I am absolutely the same with my inability to take my projects from good to great (inability or just not willing, who knows), sometimes I sabotage myself because part of me is so afraid to take a chance. I am really good at finding reasons NOT to do something. I am also very much the same as you in social situations.

    I think all one can really do is work to change small things one at a time. Start taking those chances and keep working at what you want to accomplish. My hopes are that if I keep working at things I’ll eventually break my bad and unhealthy habits and form some better ones that will allow me to make my own dreams come true.

    Good luck with the writing! I think you definitely have it in you to do something great. I read your blog almost every day and I am always very impressed with your writing and insight. I also think you should remember that you’re already creating work that affects people in a meaningful way with this blog.

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  9. Although I am a big fan of Mr. Herbert, I would not rely much on his Dune quote. If you have a fear, be it of failure or success, then face it at least once. You will then realize that your fear is illogical because the consequences of either outcome are meaningless in comparison to life. Whenever I find myself in a situation where I start getting anxious or afraid, I always think of the worst case scenario and find it rather petty. At the very least, consider that there are others living in poorer countries who don’t know when or if their next meal is coming, who dread saying farewell fearing that they will not see that person again, who have absolutely no hope in the future and cannot even begin to imagine a pleasant one. This is a grim reality, but, fortunately, it is not one where either of us lives in.

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