The (semi-) Great Fear & Failure Experiment of 2012

I’ve said before that I’m terrified about reading in public… especially this upcoming weekend in San Francisco where I’m reading with Cheryl Strayed to celebrate the release of her enormously beautiful new book TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS. I’ve also admitted to being scared of how people will review my book once it comes out on August 14. Even more than these two fears is my fear that I can’t tackle my next novel. Or that I won’t be able to figure out where to take my failed writer video series. I’m scared of failing on all these fronts. I’m not talking about one of those fakey failures where everything comes out just fine a week later and I’m better for it. I mean one of those big messy failures where I’m crushed by the disappointment of book #1 and I grow too disheartened to write book #2 or make any more videos. Or where I start drinking heavily instead of writing or my marriage gets really rocky due to my paralyzing self-loathing. Or something like that.

I’m not asking for sympathy. I know I’m damn lucky to have this opportunity to publish this book that I’m truly proud of. Sympathy can’t save my jewy ass anyhow. And I know from experience that I typically work through most of my melodramatic silliness. I’m just telling you where I frightenedly stand today, just telling you that I’m still in the muck of it, looking for a way through.

So here’s the deal. I’m not a big-time promoter sort of person but I still want to do a little something online to celebrate the release of my debut novel. Something not too cheesy and not too gross. So here’s what I’m thinking: you all can help me by blogging (or posting a video or image or audio) about your own fears and failures while I’ll be simultaneously obsessing about it during the week of my book release (August 13–17).

I know in traditional storytelling — at least the self-help sort of storytelling — you’re supposed to learn that you shouldn’t give up, that you should try really hard, and then overcome [insert-big-thing-here], and then you are so much better for it. And I know this template has some value. (I’m constantly working with both my kids about trying harder, failing harder, and trying again.) But these kinds of stories need some nuance and twists and turns and dead ends to be really interesting.

I have this image of a whole wave of stories getting posted about fear and failure that are full of humility and the messiness of real life. Want to participate?

Here are the instructions for those interested:

  1. During the week of August 13th, blog somewhere about a fear or failure that you have personally experienced. For extra points, you can try to use video or audio to convey your story, but straight text sounds good to me too.
  2. It can’t be one of those “I failed once and now everything is great and I’m so wise” sort of stories. Don’t get me wrong: it can have a happy ending, but you have to at least discuss the messiness of it in an honest sort of way.
  3. It also can’t be one of those “Oh poor me” sort of stories, full of victimization and without any insight or reflection.
  4. Have I scared you off yet? I hope not.
  5. It would be nice if you mentioned that this is part of Yuvi’s fear & failure experiment for his book launch (
  6. Add a comment to this post with the URL where you posted about your fear or failure so I know where to find it.

I’ll link to every story at the end of that week (or shortly thereafter). And I’ll later post something of my own about the whole fear & failure experiment once I’m back from my book tour thingy.

What dya think? Am I drunk off gin & vinegar or not?

Time to start getting messy…

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  1. MSchechter says

    I love that you left in the bit about the gin and vinegar :) Game on man! I’ll have to sit on my hands for that little project I sent you the other day, but how could I not save it for the (semi-) Great Fear &  Failure Experiment.

    • says

       @MSchechter Yeah. The gin & vinegar note was originally just that email to you, but then I realized that I might as well ask anyone that question… Thanks again… Oh yes, your secret little project would be great for this subject. Though I’m sure you could whip up a million others that would work for this experiment as well…

      • MSchechter says

         @yuvizalkow It’s a good and valuable question to ask the kids at home. They need to know about the Gin and Vinegar! And yes, my ability to share my failures and fears can fill many a 300-500 word thought. Speaking of which, off to put the finishing touches on another one for tomorrow.

    • says

       @jrwilliams Thanks for the feedback… Yeah… seems like a pretty normal response (even if i have a slightly more neurotic response)… particularly for the first time this kind of stuff happens…

    • says

       @jasonrunnels Woohoo! I look forward to reading your post… (Also, I liked your dirty novel post…

  2. laurastanfill says

     @yuvizalkow I love this fear/failure campaign, Yuvi, and thanks for the nod. I’ll be thinking of you and wishing you excellent reading vibes (and confidence!) on Friday, and then I’ll be cheering you on from the audience during your Powell’s debut. 

  3. laurastanfill says

    Yuvi, I’m not exactly playing by the rules, and I’m a week early, but I asked my readers to share their rejection stories all week long to lead up to your book launch. I reserved my blog next week for two launches–yours and another author’s–so this is how I decided to participate! I haven’t decided on which story to tell about myself, but that’ll come… 

    • says

       @laurastanfill Wow, Laura. You get quadruple credit!… Thanks so much, again, for supporting me with all this booky stuff. I sure enjoy keeping up with your blog!…

    • says

      Kristen! Wow. Your piece is totally incredible. And your whole one-week tribute is incredible. And your blog is incredible aside from all this yuvi stuff too. Thank you!

    • says

       @jgreenawalt Jeremy. Great post. And I’m so glad on your take about doing this even while avoiding typical “writing challenges”. I’m the same way and so my hope was to make a challenge with enough challenge to avoid the cliché of “challenges”… if you know what I’m saying.

  4. MSchechter says

    You’ve got us all shaming ourselves… I hope you’re happy with yourself :) Congrats on the launch and sorry I’m late to the party:

  5. says

    Yuvi, I wrote about fear and failure, or Cousin Lars did, but I’ll warn you he’s not very good at following the rules.  
    Here’s to your novel KILLING it.

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