Fear of Failure (with an excerpt from Dare Me)

It’s commencement time. Students are graduating and moving on to higher education or into the workforce, and intelligent people have words of wisdom for them. The most prevalent I’ve heard is, “embrace failure.”

Michelle Obama most recently suggested this to high school students in Tennessee. And just last week I posted Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to last year’s graduating class at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, which has recently been turned into a book, Make Good Art. One I’m sure will find its way into many graduates’ hands.

I find the discussion interesting, this talk of failure and its ability to spur one on to better himself or herself. I agree with it, wholeheartedly. I have failed so many times, have made so many mistakes in so many ways that I now expect to struggle. I even advise my daughters with this wisdom: mistakes are normal.

Yet–and it’s a big yet–I am so very anxious of failing with Dare Me.

It’s not that Dare Me is going to rival Tap Out for morally offensive elements and I fear being labeled “amoral” or “immoral”. Rather, it’s that I know more about the industry this time around, just enough that I’m second-guessing every move.

Last week I blogged about my most recent conundrum: should I or shouldn’t I pay for a professional book trailer?

Really? This was even a question? Dare Me is focused on YouTube, daredevil culture. What other medium could possibly do better for promotion?


It’s the truth. Word-of-mouth, be it literally one person to the next, or virtually, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blogs, etc., is the number one way books get sold. And yes, it makes sense that marketing increases word-of-mouth, but no amount of marketing overshadows lack of engagement, lack of talk about a book.

So what do I do?

Behave like Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) in Risky Business when he meets with the college recruiter? You know the famous line. Or do I continue to worry relentlessly like Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller’s? (Can’t resist the 80s movie references–sorry.)

I don’t know.

Part of me wants to turn off my brain and just take the plunge. Like I did when I started writing. No thought, just action. Part of me wants to analyze and be exacting. Chances are I’ll do a little of both.

I am afraid of failure, but I am equally afraid of not trying. I fall neatly into Seth Godin’s idea of anxiety: “I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance.”

That is not the goal. Good writing, word-of-mouth spread, and true enjoyment of the process, is.

So in that spirit, as I’m figuring out what to do, let me give you a slice of Dare Me, not surprisingly, from a scene in which Ben, the protagonist, is afraid to jump, and equally afraid not to.


     I don’t have time to respond, because he’s at my elbow again and I’m standing and all is as it was before, except I’m more used to the blindfold. In fact, I’m glad I have it on, because I’m numb.

    “In five, four, three . . .”

    Ricky’s voice fades and I hop. For a moment, I feel nothing and wonder if I haven’t jumped far enough. But then I’m falling, the wind rushing by and my insides shaking. I remember to tighten up just before I hit.

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