Thursday, 7 April 2011

F is for Feeling Failure

You can go to medical school, train, study, be an exemplary student, but your first day on the job you will be the worst doctor in the world. There is no substitute for doing, whatever your vocation. It's painful and difficult (and people may die) but it's the only way.

Obviously you want to be as prepared as possible but to be honest knowing how to prepare only comes after you've done it (whatever it might be) and done it badly. People who have been through it before you may offer advice, but what's right for them isn't necessarily right for you. Because part of doing it is failing. You're going to fail, you’re going to fuck up, and it's not going to go well. Which is a good thing. It is also a very unpleasant thing. But it's also definitely for the good.


Like a child who's been protected from germs his whole life, a simple infection can end up killing him. You have to expose yourself to what's out there and the sooner the better. Although it's not going to be enjoyable, you have to jump in the water and feel like you're drowning before you can learn to swim. It doesn't matter how much people tell you that it's important or useful or fun, it won't make that feeling of dread and anxiety go away, but you have to believe you will survive (which you will) and do it.

With regards to writing, ignore that voice telling you that you aren't ready. The voice is right, you aren't ready, but readiness isn't a requisite for the job, and you will never be ready if you don't start and fail and learn. We all need to be encouraged and helped and guided, but mostly we need to practice over and over. And every time you’re told what you've just written isn't good enough, every time you get a form rejection or no rejection at all, you have to keep going and going and going. You will improve, you will figure out what you're doing and you'll get good. It will take time. A long time. And if you feel exhausted and lost and convinced you have nothing of any importance to say that any reasonable person would want to hear, congratulations, you're on the right path.

Nobody ever got good at what they wanted to do by waiting. Well, apart from waiters.

24 comments:

Catherine Denton said...

Hahaha, love that last line. Honestly, this post is so perfectly said I have nothing to add except applause. *clapping loudly*
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L.G.Smith said...

Yeah, perseverance is a writer's best friend. Well said.

Brent Wescott said...

As a teacher, I see that the fear of failure is a powerful thing. Students don't even try because if they don't try, they can't fail. And of course, that's all they end up doing: failing. I probably felt this way for a long time about writing. But not any more! (Cue music swell.)

Also, connected with the line about protecting a child from germs. I'm doing my darndest to keep my infant healthy by not taking him anywhere. Maybe when he's seventeen, he can go out... :)
It Just Got Interesting

KarenG said...

I like this post! Very inspirational. Too many writers give up after the first or third or whatever draft. It takes WORK!

T. S. Bazelli said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you for posting it.

Mysti said...

Thank you for the encouragement! It's a struggle for all of us, and some days it feels good, some days it doesn't, but every day, if we keep at it, we get a little better.

Alleged Author said...

This was a great post. I needed to hear something like this said so eloquently. I'll never be *ready,* but like you said, that's not the point. Awesome!

Arlee Bird said...

Failure is part of a learning experience. If a person has never failed at anything then they've never done anything and that is failure to even try--everyone fails sometimes.


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Charmaine Clancy said...

Woohoo I'm on way to becoming an expert, because I fail, I fail often, and, I fail well! :)

Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Loved your post. Yes, if there is one thing we writers need to be expert at, it is licking our wounds and dusting ourselves off!

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

Love it. My late uncle, who was an artist, Alfred Janes, said to me once, 'It's the doing of it that counts, Fiona.' That conversation stayed with me.

L'Aussie said...

Go girl go is all I can say.

Denise<3

L'Aussie Travel A - Z Challenge Posts F is for Finland

Stina Lindenblatt said...

At least as writers we don't kill anyone. Okay, we kill characters, but not accidentally.

Wow, can't wait for R. It'll be interesting to see how many people give in to the obvious 'rejection.' (though the take on it will be unique for everyone) :D

the writing pad said...

Wonderful post ... loved it - I especially identified with the 'nothing to say that anyone wants to hear' feeling ... Am delighted to note this maybe a good thing!
Thanks for the inspiration and kick in the pants.
All best
Karla

N. R. Williams said...

This is true. I am glad that I struggled with my writing, that I spent 16 years in critique being told that this scene or that just wasn't quite right. Now, my writing is so much better. I will not say that it is perfect. I don't believe in perfect. I think each story is a trip in self discovery and improvement. But I can say, after reading several ebooks, that mine is much better because of the years I spent writing, writing and rewriting. Plus an editor really helps too. LOL
Nancy
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

Michael Offutt said...

Your post reminds me of this motivational video at my gym. It says the biggest killer of weight-loss goals is your own self-doubt.

Melissa Sarno said...

It's very true. We learn so much by doing and making mistakes! Thanks for the inspiration-- you're right that, as writers, we'll never be ready unless we take the initative to start.

Wanton Redhead Writing said...

Thank you for the follow, failure was my word today too!
Well actually it was:
Frenzied, Fabulous...Failure.

Murees Dupé said...

Great post! Every word is very true. I found your words very inspiring and it makes me feel better after experiencing a few failures recently.

Langley said...

This is exactly what I needed to read today. Excellent!

Julie said...

Wonderful post! I've always held myself back due to fear of failure, finally realizing that hasn't gotten me anywhere but stuck in a rut. Laughed at your last line as well, great post.

Paul Joseph said...

Having read my post this morning, you already know my thoughts. Actually, I think this is a big part of the reason I haven't finished my manuscript yet. I know what happens, but I drag my feet. Why? Simple; the longer I wait, the longer I can prolong the possibility of failing.

Of course, I want to finish it. And, somewhere deep inside, I believe I could have something (after rounds and rounds of revising, and perhaps a little plastic surgery.) As I mentioned, I try and tell myself it's a done deal. If I sit down with the mindset it's going to happen, I work more diligently.

Am I getting my hopes up? I don't think so. I'm still aware of the reality of the business. But, when I write, I try to forget that. I can panic when I'm finished.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Nicely expressed.

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

I really love this post. Lately my mantra is: show up for work every day.

Persistance is key!

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