What’s scarier, failure or success?

harper lee

Dear Literary Ladies,
Sometimes I wonder what I’m more afraid of—failure, or success? In its own way, the prospect of success seems daunting. And I know I’m not alone. Did any of you find the idea of actually succeeding as scary and incomprehensible as I do?

I never expected any sort of success with [To Kill a] Mockingbird. I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers, but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement.

I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.

—Harper Lee, from a 1964 interview

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Harper Lee

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Harper Lee (April 28, 1926 –February 19, 2016) was an American author best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). Born in Monroeville, Alabama, she was originally named Nelle Harper Lee.

Few novels have had the cultural impact of To Kill a Mockingbird, which has sold tens of millions of copies and has been translated into more than forty languages. Lee drew from her upbringing in a small southern town to tell an indelible American story. Read more about Harper Lee.

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