The Write Life: Redefining a Failure

Sometimes there is no sugar-coating life, and our best-laid plans crumble into failure. That’s what happened to me this past April after signing up for a writing boot camp at SavvyAuthors called One Scene a Day. I started the month with the best intentions of shoving my way through a huge chunk of my novel, or at least participating in the daily check-ins, and weekly lessons and activities.

On April 1st, I replied to the welcome post, stated my intentions, and did my best to keep up with the daily writing.

Uh, by April 3rd I was struggling to get into my novel and rethinking where I could start and how I could do this—but I was still definitely going to do it!!

And by April 7th I had totally abandoned the check-ins, though I made plans with a friend to send her what I’d written each day. I also finally found a way into my novel (by skipping Chapter 1 entirely).

And then I was distracted by Flights of Foundry and stopped pretending I was going to do that boot camp because I had already fallen far enough behind to understand not that I was a failure, but that this wasn’t a good way for me to work.

Many times when we attempt a routine or schedule as a creative and it fails, we assume there’s something wrong with us and we turn that frustration inward, blaming ourselves. We can walk away with the wrong message, thinking that our failure means we’ll never be able to write a novel or live a creative life or be successful. But a failure at a specific creative process doesn’t mean a failure in creativity, it means that process doesn’t work for you. Speed drafting DOES NOT work for me. I knew that from participating in NaNoWriMo, but thought the structure of this workshop would allow enough breathing space that I could do it. Instead, I learned something else about myself:

It takes me a lot of time to get into a project.

So, starting with Chapter 1 wasn’t working for me. And then expecting myself to sprint through Chapter 2 was also not working for me. You know what is working for me? Writing 100 words or so every day. I’m still in Chapter 2, but I have a start now, and I’ve reconfigured the arrangement with my friend to send her my writing for the week (rather than day by day). When I get into the draft and can go faster, we’ll increase the number of check-ins per week, but for now I’m accepting where I am, redefining this “failure,” and making adjustments to my process so that I can make progress without feeling frustrated.

The key to having a writing life is figuring out what works for you and not comparing yourself to anyone else.

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Speaking of workshops and writing, I’m teaching a free virtual workshop later this month called Write Time Travel Fiction. If you’re interested in writing about time travel, I’ll be exploring both the hand-wavey and theoretical science that sends your characters into the timestream and how you can use time travel to tell a story. You can register (again for FREE) at OCLS. (No library card is needed, just leave that bit blank.)

 

 

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