Failure. Anyone who has ever put pen to paper knows that failure comes to the creative as naturally as inspiration, and sometimes just as quickly. In the strictest sense, to fail is to find yourself unable to complete a given task but for a writer failure can mean so much more. A failure to a writer can almost feel like a slap to the face regardless of the manner in which we find ourselves failing.
Personally, my failures arise when I find that I have not achieved a particular word count, have not blogged enough or if I find that my writing is sub par. My biggest failure to date has been the novel I started and abandoned half way through. While this was in favour of a much more preferable narrative and was definitely the right thing to do, it still counts as a failure in my eyes.
Being a writer is difficult at times because no matter the content we come up with in our heads, sometimes it just isn’t the same one we get it on paper, it just ends up as a mulchy failure that makes us question our abilities. This has happened to me on so many occasions I lose count, but I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
But failure is widespread and we aren’t alone. Pick any of your idols and you’ll find that none of them achieved their successes without some serious setbacks. As a huge fan of Julia Child, I keep her book open on page 133 in which she documents the issues she faced in her first cooking lesson. She tries to teach a class but her milk curdles and she finds herself making leek and potato soup with curdled milk, a disaster for any foodie.
But Julia laughed it off and had a motto of “homey but passionate”, she encouraged students to discuss their weaknesses as well as their strengths. It couldn’t be more clear that we have to learn from our mistakes in any medium. I think it’s vital that we document our failures as well as our successes. I mean this quite literally, grab a post-it note and stick them on the wall or in your notebook. Make a note of what went wrong in order to learn from the mistake and hopefully avoid making a similar if not worse one in the future.
It would seem that failure is more public than success but as writers we are fortunate enough to hide our failures for the most part. We get to keep the failed attempts or the bad ideas to ourselves or on the paper. But we shouldn’t forget our failures. Writing is an art form and it is most definitely a skill. No skill takes seconds to hone and surgeons certainly don’t cut right first time, every time.
What are your thoughts on failure? How do you handle it?