Monday, February 29, 2016

On Failure (and Writing Anyway)

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via Pinterest
     They’re days and then they are days--days when I feel like I’ll never write again, never get another good idea, never turn said good idea into a decent story. Days when I look back at the piles of crappy first drafts and false starts and wonder if I’ve really gotten any better. Days when I see that I’ve whined about it all so many times before and nothing changed and, yep, my blog’s going completely to pot…

And after those days I almost always remember that the problem isn’t with my ideas, or even with my writing ability (or lack thereof). The problem is that I’m scared--terrified--of failure. Ten seconds after getting a good idea I’m counting all the possible ways I could screw it up.


    I’ve never been much of a perfectionist with anything but my writing. And I’m not scared of criticism as much as I’m scared of my own abilities to fix the problems in my writing. I want my stories to be the best they can be--what happens when I can’t make them any better?


    The thing is, there will be projects I can’t fix. I’ve written duds before and I’ll write them again.
Some part of my brain keeps convincing me that if I hold off for just a little bit longer, all my stories will come out perfect. But they’ll never be perfect. Anyway, it’s the terrible and frustrating false starts that make the good stories worth writing. You can usually tell if a story’s any good if you’ve written mountains of crap before it.

   
   So what I have to keep telling myself, because I never remember it for very long, is that it’s okay to fail and goof up and make mistakes. It’s okay to share imperfect work. And it’s much, much better to risk writing junk than to write nothing at all. I used to look at other people (writers and artists) and wonder how they produced so much good work so consistently. Now I don’t think it’s necessarily because they’re better than me (they are, but that’s not the point…) but because they’re willing to take their new ideas and try them out, even though odds are some of them will end up at the bottom of a wastepaper basket.

     But not all of them.  
  
    I’m going to write again. I’m tired of stressing because I’ll never be as good as I want to be, and I’m tired of wasting good ideas because I’m afraid they won’t work. I want to write what I love whether it ends up being any good or not. At least I’ll be getting something down on paper, and at least I’ll have fun doing it.

18 comments:

  1. AMEN. I have these doubts and struggles every single day -- it sucks, but like you've said here, it's all a matter of pushing through it.

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    1. Pushing through is hard, but SO worth it!

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  2. I think that fear of failure holds so many people back from pursuing what they love - especially when it comes to creative feels - but it is really counter-productive, because if you avoid something you will never improve and that is almost just as bad as failing in the end. If you try, you can only get better :) So glad to hear that you are not going to give up writing!

    Rae | Love from Berlin

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    1. Failure is the only way to really learn, no matter how much I wish otherwise. And the process of working on something is never wasted, whether the project itself ends up salvageable or not. Thank you so much for commenting. You have a beautiful blog!

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  3. GAH. I'm right there with you, Alex. The fear is real and I've been struggling with it a lot lately... It's debilitating. And in this mindset I know that whatever I try to write I'll judge to be awful- but I know I need to JUST WRITE. Because if I don't, I don't. And there's no getting past this if I take that approach.
    Yep. I'm still scared. But I'm trying to nudge and challenge myself into action. Like you said- at least there will be word written and we just have to try to have fun. Let us seek to just DELIGHT in the work.

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    1. This is so, so important. I keep having to remind myself that writing should be fun, and you should write the stories you're longing to write, the ones you really love...because what's the point if you can't take joy in the process?
      I know you can push through and write wonderful stories--we'll get through this together :)

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  4. Ugh, the fear bug gets us all! It can be so hard just to accept that doing the work itself is worth it and that improvement can come in its own sweet time, and that is enough. Keep writing, Alex! You'll do awesome. :)

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    1. Thank you! Improving on a work definitely takes time, and I'm one of the most impatient people ever when it comes to that. I'm trying to slow down more and just enjoy the process, though.

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  5. THANK YOU. This is totally me, too. Especially now... I'm almost done my book and the doubts are hitting me so hard!! So this is totally relevant.

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    1. I'm at the beginning of a project I DESPERATELY want to get right, and the doubts are coming down thick and fast. Your story sounds awesome, and I know you can pull through!

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  6. YES GO YOU. These couple days I've also been fretting about potential problems in the WIP but sometimes we just gotta power through it and look back later :)

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    1. Exactly! Getting something down is the most important part, especially with the first couple of drafts.

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  7. THIS POST! I have totally thought all these things in the last two months so I am RIGHT THERE with you. I was literally sobbing on my husband that I'd used up all my words (I haven't).

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    1. Isn't weird that we always feel so alone--like we're the only ones who could possibly have this problem--when EVERYONE else has days when they feel exactly the same way? Thanks so much for commenting!

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  8. AMENAMENAMENAMENAMEN. Gosh I needed this right now. x) Literally I get the same way and have the same doubts and fears about my writing. Especially when I haven't been writing for a few weeks (or even a few days, not kidding) I'll start thinking, "MAN WHAT IF I CAN NEVER WRITE AGAIN. LIKE HOW DO I WRITE ANYWAY?? SEE I CAN'T REMEMBER HOW." And it's just this vicious cycle of self-doubt and blaaaah.

    Anyway these words were encouraging to me so thank you for them. :) I also just spent like twenty minutes drooling over your Pinterest #noshame

    peace out,
    abbiee

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    1. Getting back into the swing of writing is one of the hardest things ever. Part of me always thinks my drafts will come out perfect the next time around, but they never do.
      Thanks a lot!! Pinterest is an addiction. :)

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  9. I'm super super late commenting on this, but I wanted to comment anyway because a) it's a great post, and b) I can relate to some of what you've said. I'm not writing fiction right now, but in the past I've totally struggled with the "I-want-to-write-this-but-I-don't-know-if-I-can-pull-it-off" thing, and STRESS. Writing stress was kind of a constant in my life for a long time. It sounds like you struggle with it a lot, too--when you talk about writing I can sometimes recognize that same frustration I've felt before, like how it's possible to want to write but also feel like there's just this block and you can't figure out how to get around it. And seeing other people who seem to be writing consistently (and creating great stuff, too!) only increases the anxiety.

    I think taking the pressure of perfectionism off the table is a marvelous way to approach your writing, and I sincerely hope it makes your creative process much more enjoyable. Also, in case you needed encouragement: I BELIEVE IN YOU, ALEX, YOU CAN DO THIS THING! I'm wishing you the bestest of best luck with your writing! <3

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    1. I love comments whenever I get them, so no worries! Writing stress has been a constant in my life as well, and even though I'm trying to stop being such a perfectionist, it's a pretty tough thingn to completely gte rid of. It's encouraging to know that I'm not alone, though--thank you so much for your kind wishes; they help loads!

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