Why I am So Afraid of the Finish Line

Photo by infomatique (Creative Commons)

Photo by infomatique (Creative Commons)

I am just going to come out and say it – finishing scare me. To the core of my being. Whether it’s a project for work, writing a book, or hiking to the top of a mountain – it’s the end I am afraid of more than anything else.

This fear has risen to the top of my mind lately, because I have been in a season with a lot of finish lines. I just sent a short book on hope to my editor (details will be forthcoming). I have a presentation for a major client in two days, and a key milestone for another client two days after. My wife and I have decided to stop sitting on the sidelines at our new church and start serving.

Everywhere I look, there are finish lines. And I tremble a bit inside. I don’t think I am alone in this fear.

Why are we afraid to finish?

Our work becomes public. When we are in process, nobody sees what we do. How we operate. What our process looks like. Everything changes once we finish. We can no longer hide what we have toiled over. Our finished product is now available for all (or some) to see. This is the root of the fear.

Other will judge our efforts. Others will place value on what we have done. Good or bad, we will hear the commentary about our efforts and the end results of those efforts. We don’t want to be judged, so we stop before we cross the finish line. Or we crawl forward slowly. Inch by inch. When we have the stamina to sprint.

We assume the worst. Once we give audience to the voice of fear, we can become paralyzed. The worst case scenario suddenly becomes the most likely scenario. We actually start to believe publishing our book will result in the fall of the modern economic system worldwide.

My advice to you, and to myself:

Cross the finish line with bravado. Rejoice in the process. Be proud of your art. (You can tweet that)

Learn from your detractors, but don’t take them so seriously. The economic system will still be running tomorrow. You will still put your pants on one leg at a time tomorrow.

Then get back to creating. As my friend Tim Gallen once told me: Shut up and create!

20 thoughts on “Why I am So Afraid of the Finish Line

      1. pamela hodges

        I have made short deadlines that I have to stick to. It would NEVER be finished if I don’t do that. I wrote it months ago. I keep avoiding the manuscript, rearranging the furniture or cleaning out my closets. I made the deadlines list yesterday. Will see how many closets I try to clean today.

      2. Chris Morris Post author

        I haven’t gotten down to the level of cleaning my house. But that’s because I hate those chores. I do read, or write other stuff, or watch television, or plan out my evenings and mornings with so much stuff I don’t have time to write. We all have our procrastinational devices, right?

  1. www.briannarwasson.com

    Chris, I have been stewing in these fears for the past few weeks. Everytime I hit “Publish”, my heart does this little scared leapy thing, because, like you said, now it’s out there for all the world to see. And your advice — so needed. “With Bravado” is such a good way to do this whole thing called art.

    1. Chris Morris Post author

      It is hard to keep throwing your heart out there for all the world to judge, isn’t it?

      Your Unafraid Manifesto is what made me realize the huge role fear had in my own life. We just need to keep pushing through it right?

  2. Stacy Claflin

    Hi Chris,
    I know the feeling! I published my second novel last week and I had just as much anxiety about publishing that one as I did with the first. Then after I did it, and the world didn’t come to a crashing halt, I discovered that it was actually kind of anticlimactic! In a good way. 🙂

    1. Chris Morris Post author

      First of all, congrats on your second novel. That is HUGE! I look forward to the day I can say I have two books under my belt. I think it is so easy to almost overinflate my importance to the world at large. It helps me to remember I am not the core of the world…even when I feel that way.

  3. Joy Lenton

    With you on this, Chris, and Bria. I also get a heart-in-mouth scared stiff moment each time I press “Publish” on my posts! Though, whenever I have taken a leap of faith and written something way beyond my comfort zone, God has amazingly graced me with encouragement and positive reinforcement I neither sought nor anticipated. I’m learning to feel the fear and do it anyway. Owning our art and accepting potential brickbats as well as praise is something we probably all need to work through. Somehow the angst is part and parcel of the art!

    1. Chris Morris Post author

      You are so right Joy. It almost invariably happens that the thoughts which scare me the most are the ones resonating with others the most. I am learning that comfortable means I am not pushing myself. I think others can tell when I put my whole heart into something, and this risk resonates with them.

  4. Luke

    I had a cross country coach who would yell at me every time I’d slow down toward the end of a run. So I started sprinting way earlier than I was comfortable with, and I still do it today.

    It really helps with you have people cheering you on and/or screaming at you.

    1. Chris Morris Post author

      Let me first say you have the most fascinating summary I have ever read. Rollercoasters, books & hugs — I wish I was that interesting! No sarcasm there. It sounds awesome.

      The power of people believing in you cannot be understated. In my journey as a writer, this has been the most important component allowing me to push forward through fear. My wife and my kids love that I write. Folks like Tim Gallen, Tammy Helfrich, Jim Woods, and Jeff Goins have all given me courage when I start to slump. We all need that cross-country coach in our lives — I need 7 apparently 🙂

  5. Kathleen Caron

    This is very true for me too, I am scared of coming to the end of a project because I have such great momentum while I’m working towards a goal, and then I’ll be finished and maybe never get out of bed again. I’m afraid of the inevitable letdown.

    1. Chris Morris Post author

      I understand that feeling as well. When I finished the first draft of a larger project I have in my head, I wanted to just stop writing for a while. I had to force myself to keep going, to find the new motivation

  6. amypboyd

    Chris – You have exactly spoke the thoughts that have been running through my head the last few days. There are so many things that I have let go of simply because the fear of finishing stopped me from even beginning.

    1. Chris Morris Post author

      Maybe we can figure out a way to encourage each other to keep going? Please know I am writing to myself as much as everyone else. This is a HUGE struggle for me.

      I have a long-time friend who is a screenwriter. This month, we have been keeping each other accountable to write every day. FB messages, texts, and the occasional conversation on the phone — just to keep the momentum going.

      I wonder if you and I might be able to do something similar, including others along the way of course?

  7. laurenhuss

    You are definitely not alone in this fear!! I am just as afraid of succeeding as I am of failing…in fact, succeeding might be more fearful. Thank you for the great encouraging tips about how to overcome. Ok I’m going to shut up now…& create something 🙂

    1. Chris Morris Post author

      I don’t think I have ever told someone to shut up in a blog post before. I think I may have enjoyed it too much — probably because the first person to shut up needs to be me.

      I do understand the fear of success too. What if I find my tribe? What if my platform grows? What if people actually listen to everything I say? Whew…seems like a lot of responsibility, doesn’t it?

      I am learning to look at fear in all its forms, acknowledge it, and create anyway. Some days I am more successful than others, but I am definitely progressing rather than shrinking back. Lauren, I hope the same is true for you


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