Failure is not fun. It can keep you up at night. It can sneak up a surprise visit on you when you’re least expecting it. It’s the life experience that is most likely to render you without motivation or persistence.
And it can really take a toll to your writing and your own self.
I don’t know about you, but my failure’s often come back to me through the strangest ways. Unbidden, unrequested, they’ll pop up when I’m thinking about something entirely different but claim to be right on track. I’ll lose my train of thought as the track takes a sudden detour down a path of memory lane I really wish I wasn’t going towards.
It’s not fun to remember failure. If only for the fact that you remember more how you felt or how you made someone else feel than what actually happened or what mistake you actually made.
Those little pieces of memories, the most poignant, the most emotional, the most fraught, are the ones that somehow stick. I have little memories of when I embarrassed myself in front of friends, or small groups of classmates as an elementary school kid. I have the story I always tell when asked for my most embarrassing moment: the day I pulled a Charlie Brown on the football field during Junior High P.E.
But the ones that can really ruin my day are the ones that even if I don’t remember the entire context, I remember the feeling I had. And more often than not, that feeling is inadequacy, lack of skill or intelligence, or just a general not-knowing-what’s-going-on sort of feeling.
And those are totally the worst.
I’ve found that the days I dwell on those little memories, that sneak unbidden onto my thought train are the days I’m least productive, most likely to find a new show on Netflix that I don’t need to watch, and the days where I’ll be most apt to give this whole writing thing up and say “fine, I’ll toss in the towel and go work a normal 9-5 job with stable pay, good benefits, and the occasional lunchtime yoga class”.
But of course, that doesn’t get me anywhere nearer to my dream of becoming a writer.
And remembering your failures won’t get you anywhere near your dreams either.
It’s important to note something about all these failure memories: yes, they exist. Yes you failed, or someone failed you. But…you carried on. Life continued moving forward. The world didn’t end right? You didn’t start the zombie apocalypse, you didn’t pause time (although that would be nice sometimes wouldn’t it!). You have moved on, whether you realize it or not.
Those failures that still haunt your memories are memories of you in a different place and time. A different you lived those memories. You don’t need to let the you that you are now live them all over again.
We are nearing the end of CampNaNoWriMo, so of course, tensions will be high, you’ll be wishing you’d done things differently, you’ll be wondering how you’ll even finish, you might be worrying about what to tell your friends if you don’t finish. These feelings are applicable for any sort of challenge, especially self-imposed ones.
Stop worrying about the things you can’t control. Sit down and write.
It doesn’t matter what your friends will think…they already think you’re amazing for even attempting such a feat in the first place. Sit down and write.
Don’t panic about how you didn’t have a plan at the beginning. Make a plan now. Sit down and write.
Stop agonizing over whether or not you’ll finish. Make it impossible for you to not finish. So you won’t finish by your original deadline. Create a new one, a week later. Devise a plan. Use that new plan, say no to seeing friends for a few days, write on your lunch break. Sit down and write.
If you can’t write because your shoulders are tense from all the work and worry you’ve already done this month, book a massage, or ask a spouse, family member, or friend to give you a back rub. One you’re loose and a little clearer minded, sit down and write.
Failure is a strong adversary, but it can always be countered by doing something. In our case as writers, we just have to…say it with me now…sit down and write!
Write about your failure. Write about how it makes you feel, what you wish would be different, what you wish could happen to that memory, to those words said to you or actions done to you that are preventing you from writing.
It never does any good to keep things bottled up. Instead of wallowing in your failure by pigging out on chips while you watch Netflix in your sweats, get up OFF YOUR ASS and sit down at your laptop and write.
Write about Netflix. Write about how comfy your sweats are. Write about your favorite type of chips and your diabolical plot to get your spouse to like them too.
I’ve found the best way to combat failure is to get writing. Normally I start writing about the dumb memory and how I felt and how I failed and by the end of my essay, I’m happier and more fulfilled and generally off to the races to work on my blog or my books.
Happens every time. And I’m sure it will too.
Best of luck as we finish Camp NaNoWriMo!