Failure is as constant as change in life. Fear of failure is even more constant.
We’ve all failed countless times. The hoilday season is no expection. New Year’s comes and there is a push to evaluate our lives. Vague proclamations abound as many promise to lose weight, get their financial house in order and perhaps finally learn how not to burn water.
Writing and failure are good friends. The last three years I have sturggled to complete a second book among other things. In the course of those three years, I have made my own vague proclamations on how to solve the problem. And each and everyone of those proclamations has led to more failure.
Sure, my personal and professional life in those interving years has been topsy-turvy to say the least. In the end, as a writer, I need to write and finish those projects. Author, actor and Space Mom, Carrie Fisher, said that “Mistakes are a drag, because you get in an area of regret and self-pity.” She was right about that and so many other things.
There are many things I admire of Fisher. Her openness about her mental health issues, her blunt honesty and her creativity which serve as a more lasting legacy than the character that made her so famous. She also didn’t give up, at least not for long. She keep moving forward in her life.
In 2018, my Papa died, my longest romantic relationship imploded and I initated a move away from the life I had built for eighteen years in Florida. When from living in my own little rental house to a bedroom in my godfathers’ house. I went from having my best friend across the street to hundreds of miles away from him and the rest of the support network that had keep me going. Sounds like a bad year? In reflection, it hasn’t been a bad year at all. To be honest, while some truly awlful things happened, this year has helped me work out the need to make better plans instead of just saying I have a plan; making a plan.
Make the plan, make several plans and organze yourself so that you can put those plans into action. And when they fail which evenuatally they will fail, evaluate them from a safe distance. Step back and look what what you planned to do and what you actually did.
I made a plan a month ago to write two pages a day. Two pages a day and by the end of Feburary my next book would be finished. It worked for two weeks and then I started drift off course. The only way to get back on course and stay that way was to step back and look at what I did versus what I planned. The plan to begin with wasn’t really a plan. It was an objective or a goal. Plans involve steps. I hadn’t made any because in the eurphoria of the idea that I could do the thing, I was doing the thing and celebrating that I was doing the thing. I wasn’t working working on how to keep doing the thing.
Failing to plan, is often tossed around educational and business settings as planning to fail. In more than a decade as an educator, I have heard this phrase so much that my eyes automatically roll to the very back of my head when I hear it. This doesn’t mean it isn’t true and I had done exactly that; failed to plan and thereby planned to fail.
So, I am back at the drawing board for getting the thing done. This doesn’t mean that I am starting over again. My planning slate is not a clean slate, but one that has been cleansed on self-pity and deprecation. I didn’t fail to accomplish my goal due to being stupid or a horrible writer. I failed because let my fear of failure, desire not to miss out on things and a bad plan delay (not stop) me.
The new plan involves taking care of myself, allowing for off days and organizing. It means a return to my infamous to-do list, the use of the Pomodoro Technique ( a timer), listening to my body and treating my writing as the job it is, among other things. Last night, I stayed in to work on editing a short story. A good and noble idea, then the editor I work with suggest Sunday night, my little brother came home and suddenly I was tired.
It would have been easy to just go to bed. I didn’t. Editing was the last thing on my to-do list; the very last thing. I did it by making a mini plan. It was too late for me to do a complete read through, but it wasn’t too late to look through the comments that my editor and myself have made. Thirty minutes later, I was in bed with a book after having made a plan for today.
Mistakes, failure and the accompanying fear and reget of them weighs on writers and, indeed, all creative types. We get caught up in a loop of if I had only done this or that. Sometimes it is about not doing something soon enough. I hope to be able to say next year that I have as Fisher said “I outlasted my problems.”
What do you think? Is failure a constant or just the fear of failure? What do you do when you fail? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
2 thoughts on “The Writer and Failure”
First, let me say I wrote a beautiful or at least heartfelt reply but it FAILED to post.
We learn from failure. We grow from failure. Failure is a friend and a source of strength. Who’s to say your “failure” is not actually a triumph when viewed from other angles? Why not file the negativity associated “failure” under “we’re are own worst enemy and harshest critic”?
Endurance and consistency in service to creativity is more important than “success,” which is sometimes spelled “suckcess” (see the video of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”).
Happy New Year!
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Sorry about the post. But, I agree that we do learn from failure when we allow ourselves to do so. I am trying to look at my “failures” like Edison did with the light bulb. I haven’t failed, I found a lot of ways not to write a book.