Day Ninety-Nine: Failure

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Dublin succumbed to it’s nature and dawned a cold and rainy day. Much more like it, Dublin! It would have been sad to have spent my entire visit in perfect sunshine. Due to the rain, however, my daily park nap was cancelled and I dragged my little brother around museums until our ankles swelled and we both fell asleep in a Costa Coffee Shop (irony).

Trinity College’s Science Gallery had an awesome little exhibit on failure called Fail Better. Some of the stories were quite inspiring in a way… Samuel Beckett’s own failed works, Dyson’s 5,000 failed prototypes, Christopher Reeve’s determination to see spinal injuries walk again, Alfred Nobel’s failure that led to his own brother’s death… I read that next year (although I haven’t investigated this further), according to a re-interpretation of Nobel’s will, that there will be a Nobel Prize awarded for failure.

I think that’s beautiful.

Failure in a way is the best thing that can happen. Without failure, how do we learn what we are capable of? How do we create something new?

Failures are innovators. Try something, and if it doesn’t work, try it again. Try it until your heart is broken. Try it until your fingers bleed. Try it until you die. Because really the only way to fail is to quit.

Find that one thing you love and work at it every day. If you can even get that far, you’re no longer a failure.

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Day Seventy: Quitter’s Junction

There comes a time in everything where you don’t see much reason to go on. Does that mean you quit? It’s gotten hard, it’s not working. Wouldn’t it just be so much easier to give up?

Honestly? The book is crap. It’s horrible. Practically unreadable. I want so badly to burn it and send its ashes rocketing into space. I want to lay in bed and forget it. It’s impossible, right now. No one is waiting on this book. If I give it up, it simply disappears.

But I’m not a quitter. So today I’m going to write twice as hard.

Every time you quit, you’ve failed. No one is going to hold you to it. No one is going to make you finish. You fail no one but yourself.

So force yourself out of bed.

Just. Keep. Writing.

Day Sixty-Four: Days I Don’t Write

Yesterday ended up being a Non-Writing Day. Don’t get me wrong, Non-Writing Days (NWD) are necessary outside of my isolation cave, but yesterday was a Planned Writing Day (PWD) so it hurts to lose it.

The worst part is, I had no excuse. Sure I had a lot of things reach a “Cannot Put Off/Take Care Of Now” culmination that left me sorting through my sub-par to-do list, but just when I should have finally checked-in on the writing front Le Novio put on Workaholics (I told him to… I thought I was stronger than that!) and BAM! NWD.

Days I don’t write or don’t reach projected goals hurt me. They physically cause me pain and it lingers with me until I make up what was lost. I am just a lump, wandering around feebly until I have a Great Writing Day under my belt again. Nothing breaks my stride like a NWD.

I have a lot to do (non-writing) today, which does not lead to good projections for a Great Writing Day, but I’ve decided to sneak writing along with me anyway. I’ve promised this section finished by the end of the week, but I’m still a chapter shy and the ones before are a mess. I have a lot to do.

Le Novio was frustrated (I think… he’s hard to read sometimes) that I wanted to bail on the bar tonight. Of course I want to go to the bar tonight! It’s martini night and I like to watch him drink girly pink drinks. He didn’t buy my whole “I don’t want to be one of those couples that comes as a packaged deal” thing. (Even though it’s true.) I can’t empty my bank accounts for distractions… it just makes me more dependent on jobs and other things that I’ve intentionally put on a back-burner to steal the time for this project.

I just want to write… Everything else needs to be secondary. Is that so bad? Is that selfish of me?

I haven’t done much to prepare for my future. I mean, I’m going to grad school and overwhelmingly excited about it, but I realize here, while Le Novio is off at work, that after this I’m going to have to get it together. I don’t want to spend my life waiting for someone to get home and doing the grocery shopping. I want to make something. I like to contribute (especially financially, as much as I hate money). I don’t want to be tossed under the rug or denigrated. I want to work hard at something.

So NWDs hurt me. They make every choice I have made seem like a paltry excuse to waste my time (especially to me). To me, this is not a waste of time. This is not “flexible hours.” This is not just a fun excuse that leads to me slowly slipping out of competition. I’m not down. I’m not out. I’m working my damnedest to get in!

Day Fifty-Four: Good News For People Who Love Good News

Almost six months ago I applied to do my MFA in Creative Writing and on Friday, after leaving the Lego Movie with Le Novio (which was actually incredible and self-deprecating and great), I got an e-mail with my first acceptance!

I had prepared myself for months now for blatant rejections, so I’m a bit at a loss for what to say when it comes to positive news. I had developed some really great insight into the importance of rejection and why it wouldn’t stop me in developing my career but FORGET THAT!

Just over a year ago I made a very important decision. I was working a job with no long-term goals other than a weekly paycheck. I was living in what I consider to be a fairly unambitious city. The only people who “make it” in New Orleans are in the culinary industry… and possibly healthcare or environmental policy. My mother had me really and truly convinced that I should become a Librarian.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d be a great librarian and I think that it would be a fantastic career… surrounded by books all day… lot’s of new technology. Really great, consistent job. But I don’t want to be a Librarian. I want to be a Writer.

I mostly keep my writing to myself. Ask anyone in my life and, outside of this blog which is my first committed attempt to public writing, and they won’t have read more than a piece or two of my work. Complete strangers I shared classes with have read more of my stuff than most of my friends.

When I was still an undergrad I’d let my mother sucker me into sending her a play I’d written for class. I was wildly proud of this play. It was read on stage by a group of professional actors. By Christmas, however, my mother had circulated this play to my entire family and it had become a running joke. I didn’t know this until my sisters started quoting it over dinner, much to everyone’s amusement at my expense. After that, I swore I wouldn’t share my writing with people I was close to… My latest project has been one of three times I’ve let a personal relationship read my work.

If I wasn’t going to let anyone read it, my work would never be more than a hobby.

Last year while at the park with the children I cared for, I ran into my Freshman Writing professor with his kids. I hadn’t been writing much at all. I’d been too tired from the kids and too distracted by my personal relationships. He seemed surprised that I wasn’t writing, that I wasn’t applying to school.

“I’d bet if you submitted works just from Freshman year, you’d get in. Doesn’t hurt to apply.”

Seemingly innocuous enough statement, but his words changed my life.

I had failed at writing. I had failed at writing because I’d stopped trying. The worst kind of failure is when you give up on yourself. If I wasn’t willing to put myself out there, I was the worst kind of failure imaginable. I was a coward.

So here I am a year later. Grad schools take a national percentage of 6% of applicants in America… and as of Friday I’m in the 6% and more than halfway through my first novel.

Forget the numbers though… They make this career look impossible. Work hard. Write well and often. Take rejection on the chin. And just keep putting yourself out there, no matter what it is you hope to accomplish. Only I will decide when my writing career is over.

I’m not all the way there, we’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m closer than I was last year.

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Nothing anyone could say would make me feel like a failure right now.

Day Thirty-Five: Striking Out

The last few days have been a lot of staring into space for me. My writing time thus far today has consisted of a lot of picking at my fingernails in the library and questioning everything I’ve written so far. That and two crummy paragraphs that couldn’t even hold my attention.

I’m in a bad way. Lately, I can’t get my mind out of politics and plot points. They’re important topics to me, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not what is going to put words on a page.

I need to write. I need to cut my fingernails because they’re jagged stumps that I can’t stop playing with and I need to write.

So I’m heading to an internet-free zone to make myself a cup of coffee, cut my nails, flesh out a few characters and get 1,000 words done by the end of the day or else.

I said “Or else” when I got to the library today. “You’re not leaving this spot until you get a few good scenes written or else!” Now I’m leaving with questionable ramblings.

Oh, where is that creative energy that consumed me at the start of this project!? I wish I could just go back to that. When the words wouldn’t stop flowing through me. Now they won’t start!

I hate that version of me that sat there typing me into this corner. What have I done to my story?

Day Twenty-One: A New Attitude

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Coming off of my impromptu holiday, I was feeling a bit stuck last night(and before that, honestly). There is nothing worse in writing than feeling stuck. Like you maybe have a great outline but for some reason the words are not there and it seems like a great deal of effort to try and write. Why bother, too? It’s not going to be any good even if you force yourself to sit down and do it.

So I wasted some time on the internet instead. I started this Zite thing which draws on articles from just about everywhere based on your interests and makes them into a magazine for you. I came across this article about why most writers fail to produce any work. All of it was very mental and offered pretty life-examining advice which was a bit, although true, wobbly for me.

I have a cousin who is a life coach. A wonderful life coach. She’s started her own business and is killing it. Every now and then she offers us some time or advice as if we are her clients. As a writer, it had always been relevant, but it wasn’t until I was reading that article that I realized how invaluable her guidance sometimes was.

I am so discouraged at writing. Already. Even though I’ve devoted my life to it, I’m already convinced I will fail. I look at works around me and think,

I am not new or original. I will never be as good as that. There are so many people to compete with…

I also don’t hear a lot of positivity in return… especially from myself. My mother called me the other day repeatedly, worrying about my health, yet the first sentence out of her mouth was, “Have you found a real job yet?”

I have failed at this if I allow myself to believe all of that. There is a lot of great work out there. Odds are my work will never be recognized or possibly even turned into an actual book. But the only real way I will fail at this is by giving up.

So I am not stuck anymore. Who cares if what I say isn’t very good? I am never going to be the best. Today I get to spend the entire day doing what makes me happy. The victory is not in the final result, but in the act of doing it. That’s the satisfying part for me. So… not to get overly positive and obnoxious, but…

Today I get to write and that’s a pretty great day.