Daring To Fail

In my inbox this morning:

It’s not the dazzling voice that makes a singer. Or clever stories that make a writer. And it’s not piles of money that make a tycoon. 

It’s having a dream and wanting to live it so greatly that one would rather move with it and “fail” than succeed in another realm. 

Yeah.  That.

It seems well-timed, given I’ve been having some flail and worrying about failing and screwing stuff up.  But that’s the thing.  Failing or no, I’d rather do this than ANYTHING ELSE.  Because when I’m NOT in the middle of Post-Critique Flail (which is most of the rest of the year), I friggin’ love what I do.  I love hanging out with these characters and exploring new worlds and having both surprise me.

Writing is one of the only areas of my life where I was ever willing to take a big risk.  Growing up, I was awful at sports, so I quit (possibly if I’d stuck with it, some coach somewhere would’ve realized I was left handed and adapted, and I might not have sucked so bad).  I was terrible at dance, so I quit (except for that stint in high school show choir where they stuck me on the back row where nobody would pay much attention to my two left feet because they needed a loud mouth for the alto section).  I sort of played guitar for a while, until I met my husband who was amazing and better than I’d ever be, and then I quit that too.  I am CRAZY competitive, and I hate losing, so I habitually got into this routine of just NOT doing things I wasn’t good at.  Because if I didn’t DO it, I didn’t fail.  I stuck to writing and academics, neither of which was much of a challenge at that level, and I soaked up my accolades.

This did not do me any favors.

There’s a great big difference between how far an inborn talent and understanding of language will get you in high school and college and how far it will get you in the professional writing world.  Once I started taking writing seriously, treating it as a job, putting in the work and the time to level up, the game changed and I actually had to WORK–REALLY WORK, in order to see results. And that means I have to try new stuff and I have to be willing to fall flat on my face.  Oh look at that.  Been there, done that.  See last year.

By sticking just to the things I was naturally good at, I didn’t get a lot of practice at failing.  And that made actually failing…well, really hard.  Not that failure is supposed to be easy, but it’s bound to be easier (I theorize) if you have practice.

So in the vein of that whole positivity thing, I’m trying to adjust my thought process about failure.  That it’s not only okay, it’s a GOOD thing.  Because, as J.K. Rowling once said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.”  So I’ll keep pushing, keep learning, and I’ll take that risk with the knowledge that I may fail SPECTACULARLY…but at least I’ll have lived.  And that’ll make for way better stories to tell my grandkids someday.

Today’s lifetrack: Mount Olympus from Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief

6 thoughts on “Daring To Fail

  1. I understand about wanting to play it safe. I did so well in school, it was a breeze, almost straight A’s. I wasn’t used to failing, either, when I was younger. Now, I feel like I’m failing in writing because, 1) Book sales are way down, and 2) My WIP is kicking my butt. The easy way out is to find something else to do. The brave thing is to keep on trying, with the risk of failing further. Which is the more exciting path? Isn’t the risk of failing part of the thrill? I don’t know, maybe. Playing it safe can really be kind of boring. So let’s not.

  2. For my friends and family, on the outside, looking in, they see what I do as a huge risk; as a gamble (an admirable one, but a gamble nonetheless). Yet when I try to explain that I couldn’t do anything else they don’t understand. I don’t write for money; I don’t write for fame; I write because it’s what I do. I can’t ever fail because it gives me a joy unmatched anywhere else in my life.

  3. This is so me. Even when I was a kid, I quit things that were too hard. I did well in school, but only because it was easy for me; I never learned how to put in the work to get better at anything. I struggle with this now, but I find that with writing, the struggle is worth it. Even if I fail.

    I’m posting that line from JK Rowling on my desk where I can see it every day. 🙂

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s so hard to cope with failure but it’s something that as human beings we have to learn to deal with. Hope you get to the point where you can deal with it philosophically soon. 🙂

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