Coping with success

It isn’t always easy. Good things (and the demands and attention they bring) can be as anxiety-producing as failures.

Especially for those of us with insecurities and control issues and a damaged sense of self-worth. I’ve seen fellow writers experiencing success sabotage their careers—and themselves—in a desperate attempt to exert control over something that was happening that they felt like they had no power over. It’s surprisingly common—writers self-sabotage with substance abuse, or with failure to do the work, or by making absolute asses of themselves to colleagues, editors, fans. We over-internalize criticism and we fly our careers into mountainsides unintentionally, because we are so busy fussing over the controls that we don’t notice the honking great rock in the way.

We succumb to self-excoriation and the paralysis of perfectionism. We crouch behind the stairs and stage-whisper “EVERYONE IS WATCHING.” We fret when we’re nominated for awards, and we fret when we’re not.

I’m here to tell you that it’s okay, and literally nobody else is paying half as much attention to you, your writing career, or your occasional screwups and successes as you are. Nobody else spends as much time worrying about your social media presence as you do, or trying to micromanage every aspect of a book launch that Has To Be Perfect, or flipping out because the color of your book cover is wrong.

Here’s the secret: The thing that causes us to make these mistakes is anxiety.

It’s social anxiety, about being judged by our peers and fans and the Dread Internet. It’s performance anxiety, about whether our work is good enough. It’s the anxiety of perfectionism, and it’s the anxiety of knowing that so much about our careers is outside our control. Good stuff, bad stuff: it just kind of happens sometimes, and while we can take steps to maximize the good stuff (and the chances of continued good stuff) nobody can actually make it rain.

Probably for the best, or the only books you’d ever see published would be about five bestsellers a year.

So how do you cope with the anxiety that comes with success? The same way you cope with *any* anxiety: meditation, exercise, medication, talk therapy modalities, mindfulness training.

Probably not heavy drinking or bottling it up until you explode from stress and worry. Those strategies are counterproductive.

What are some strategies you use to cope with anxiety and stress caused by positive change in your life?