On Success (and Fear)

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Why is success so terrifying? –Desiree Landerman, Canada

Hi Desiree,

I guess the pat answer would be is that change is terrifying. I’m going to qualify that and say that it’s FAST change that is the most terrifying. Luckily for me, I am not what you’d call a success in the writing world, overnight or otherwise. All of the success I’ve experienced has happened at such a slow pace that I’ve had a chance to process it.

When I was just starting out in the early 90s, I was scared of making a fool of myself. I masked this with bravado and bluster and finally in my 30s, I found true confidence. Still very few publication credits then, though.

I think that decades of writing in obscurity has hardened me a little bit, and taught me a few things. Now, in my late 40s, I’m achieving the success I hoped for, but hadn’t yet earned in my 20s.

There is one big reason why I am personally terrified of success with writing. I hate performing in front of people. I also hate parties, meeting new people, subways, and going for walks on days that end in “y”. Yet I am a public school teacher. Go figure. I think I know why, though.

Every element of my classroom environment is pre-planned and set-up in advance. I know who I’m supposed to be when I’m in that space. When I’m on a stage, I can’t be Josh Medsker, Writer. I’m just Josh Medsker, Awkward Man.

And I know that the more books I write and the more recognition I get, the more I will have to put myself out there. This scares me so much. I am trying to find a good way to integrate these performances into my artistic self-vision, but so far I haven’t.

Thank you for this question. I hope this was a useful answer.


By joshmedsker

Josh Medsker is a writer living in northern New Jersey. His writing has appeared in many magazines and websites. For a full listing of Mr. Medsker's publications, please visit

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