For about four years now, I’ve kept a list of things I’m anxious about. The things are specific stuff, like “My book won’t get any offers when it goes on submission” or “The rattle in my car’s engine will turn out to be some terribly expensive problem that will make my car unusable.”
And whenever I go back to the list to add new things, I’ll also look at all the anxieties that either have or haven’t come to pass, and then I’ll note the eventual outcome, as well as whether it was good or bad, and put them into the RESOLVED list.
The purpose of this exercise is to show myself that most of my fears don’t come to pass, and, hence, most of my worrying is completely meritless.
However, after a few years I noted something odd. Of those (very few) fears that did come to pass (like my first book’s failure to sell) , almost all of them were publishing-related.
Which ultimately made the list a little bit counterproductive, since now whenever I put down a publishing-related fear I’m like, “Oh my god, this might actually happen!”
So when I was updating my list today, I decided to actually disaggregate publishing and non-publishing fears and see how each had turned out.
And the results were pretty stark!
Out of 61 anxieties I’d listed over the last four years, 41 were non-writing-related and 20 were writing related. Out of the 41 non-writing fears, only three situations actually had a bad outcome. However, out of the 20 writing-related fears, there were SEVEN bad outcomes!
Furthermore, the bad outcomes for my non-writing fears were often rather minor. One was that I’d be unable to find someone to sublet my apartment for the remainder of my lease term. I did have trouble, and I did end up losing several hundred bucks. But you know what? It was ultimately not a huge deal.
Whereas the writing-related bad outcomes were terrible. Some of them haunt me to this day.
On the other hand, I was pleased to note that even there, good outcomes prevailed. So my doom and gloom was not completely merited. Now when I mark down a writing-related fear, I think, “There’s only a 35% chance this will turn out poorly.”
For non-writing-related fears, I hardly worry. Everything almost always turns out well. My takeaway lesson here is that writing has much worse odds than the rest of life.