I think at one time or another, I’ve been equally afraid of both. I was afraid to learn Hebrew, at least in part because I was afraid if I succeeded, I would lose my English. That was not such an unrealistic fear, either. I knew a lot of former English-speakers who spoke very poor English because they spoke almost exclusively Hebrew.
It turned out there was no danger of that because my Hebrew was abysmal and I don’t think it would have improved. The problem wasn’t the sounds. It was the grammar and oddly enough, the simplicity. There are only three tenses in Hebrew: present, past, future. So you can get to a complicated concept like: “If I had come here when I was 17, I would have been here for 27 years by now.”
You can’t say that in Hebrew. You can say something like it, but you can’t translate from English to Hebrew. In fact, you never really learn a language until you stop translating and start thinking in that language — and I never was able to do that. Fear of success or failure?
Sometimes, it’s not really clear what you fear. Maybe both?
I was not afraid of being a boss, but I really hated it and having done it briefly, never wanted to do anything like that again. It turns out, I need my hands ON the keyboard rather than telling other writers what to do. I had to restrain myself from making them get up and taking over the project. Not a boss. That’s not a fear. It was painfully learned self-knowledge.
If I knew I would be able to sell a book, really sell it, I’d make a stab at writing one. But since I seriously flunked marketing, I’ve never wanted to do it again. The publishing industry is pretty weird these days. I don’t feel like writing just to see my byline on the cover. If it isn’t going to make money, I don’t want to do it.
So really, I’m not sure exactly where I fit into this question. There are things I don’t want to do, things I know I can’t do or at least, can’t do well enough to bother. I never refused a job if it was something I could do and I’m not afraid of failure because I have failed often enough to recognize that success and failure are just bumps and dips in the same road. Everyone experiences both at one time or another.
Sometimes, when you look back, it’s hard to know which was which. Some of those failures turn out to be the reason you eventually succeeded.