Success is challenging to some writers, and can actually lead to writing blocks of various sorts. You’d think that experiencing public acclaim, publication, best seller sales numbers or winning awards would feed a writer’s confidence and spur him or her on to even greater writing productivity. Sometimes, however, success with writing leads to self-sabotaging behaviors connected with feelings of unworthiness or fears about being the center of attention.
I know writers who had early or unanticipated success and could not write after that. A junior professor in one of my groups stalled completely after her first published article landed her a job at a prestigious university. Several elements seemed to have contributed to her paralysis, including fear of being discovered as an imposter and the daunting challenge of matching her initial success.
It is also important to consider whether anyone important in your life would be threatened, resentful, jealous, or hurt if you were to be successful as a writer. I worked with a young writer who had been blocked for years after her father became enraged and physically threatened her upon learning of her first publishing success. A young professor in a writer’s group was blocked on his writing productivity because his wife had been unable to complete her dissertation, and his progress in academia made him feel guilty.
If you are a writer, the people closest to you will have feelings about what, how or if you are writing. Even friends, colleagues and family members who think they are helping by constantly encouraging you or telling you you’re great might not realize that their attention could be experienced as pressure to perform or as shame that that you are letting them down.
Whether you experience success or not, writing is a psychologically complex, messy business and your beautiful, sensitive mind is constantly adjusting, questioning and reacting as you strive to produce the written word – even when you’re succeeding. Hopefully, with continued experience, the successes or failures you experience (and there will be many of both) will be less critical in determining whether or not you continue to write.
Perhaps it would help to define success as a writer in terms of the willingness to continue to address your writing goals, day after day, week after week. There are times when it is a monumental success to just get something written down at all.