As a collective population, we are terrified of failing.
So much so that we often avoid doing things we might not succeed at because there’s a chance we’ll fall flat on our faces and embarrass ourselves to death, or something.
But some of us do manage to try things we hope we won’t fail at … and keep trying … and keep trying … even though what we’re trying isn’t working and we just keep doing the same exact things over and over praying that this time they will finally work.
This is, in case you hadn’t already guessed, a major waste of time.
You’d be much better off admitting that what you’re doing tanked and you need to stop doing that thing before you hurt yourself.
Let’s say you’re trying to write a book. You keep setting a goal of 1,000 words a day knowing you could make it happen. But every day, you wait until 9 pm to start writing, and every day, you decide you’ll just go to bed/watch Netflix and do it tomorrow instead.
Until you realize you’ve barely written any of your story, you’ve lost interest, and you’ve been saying “I’ll do it tomorrow” for at least 100 days in a row.
Just admit you failed already.
Admit that you didn’t do all you could have done.
Admit you were responsible for Making Things Happen, and didn’t take that responsibility seriously enough.
Admit you messed up, and those mistakes could have been avoided.
But it’s not ever just because you were honest and accepted defeat.
The next step, once you’ve admitted you failed, is to pick yourself back up and try again.
This does not mean you jump right back in and keep doing the exact same things you were doing before. If it didn’t work the first time, it’s probably not going to work the second time. If you couldn’t write a book because you spent too much time watching Netflix, you can’t start your second book while also planning out how many shows you’re going to watch on Netflix.
If you tried to write a book and couldn’t do it, maybe you’d be better off starting with essays, blog posts, or short stories instead.
If you tried to start a blog and couldn’t make it work, maybe you need to first train yourself to write regularly in a journal, even if you don’t share those thoughts with the world (yet).
It doesn’t really matter how you change things up, as long as you decide how you’re going to do things differently and actively attempt to do so.
What this does is prevent you from spiraling into a doubt-saturated puddle of “I can’t do anything, I’ll never be a successful writer, poor me, I quit.” Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Do better. The only way to fail is to not do anything, and the best way to prevent repeat failures is to just keep doing stuff until something works.
I mean, the process and strategy going into it might be a little more complex than that. But you get the idea.
There is nothing — and I mean NOTHING — wrong with failing as a writer or creator. I can pretty much guarantee it has happened to every single person who makes things for a living AT LEAST once in their lives (but probably more than once, if we’re being honest — which we are).
But there IS something wrong with taking failure to mean you can’t achieve your goals and shouldn’t bother trying. Or avoiding the fact that you failed at all.
First, be honest. Then, keep going. You gain nothing from curling up into a ball and crying about how you want to be a writer but can’t. Just keep writing. It doesn’t matter what. It doesn’t matter if it’s poorly written or the plot is overdone or your dialogue is terrible. IT DOESN’T MATTER, as long as you wrote it and you’re proud of yourself for making that attempt.
The more you write, the more you’ll likely feel motivated to write. And the cycle just continues.
We fail. We get back up. We do better, at least a little bit, every single time.
This is the way of the writer’s journey. Whatever stage of it you’re in, just be glad you’re still in it. And don’t give up, no matter what.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.