How to Start Writing Something Knowing You Might Fail

Don’t overthink it.

I set a really big writing goal for 2019. You may or may not have heard about it.

I did it for the sake of a challenge — I won’t get into it here. But the scariest part about embarking on this year-long journey is that I made the decision to do it and announced it publicly — knowing full well that there was a good chance I would fall flat on my face.

It’s almost as if I looked failure right in the face and said, “Ha! Come at me bro! I DARE YOU.”

That’s a terrifying thing to do. Most of us catch a glimpse of just the potential shadow of disappointment and run as fast as we can in the opposite direction.

I’ve gotten comments from so many writers over the past few years telling me how scared they are of failing. Most of the time, they’ve barely even started writing anything. They want to. But that possibility of not being able to accomplish what they set out to achieve stops them cold.

And I get it. Failure is scary. It’s happened to all of us. The worst part is that at every stage of life there’s likely been someone or something creating every possible negative circumstance associated with failure. Fail a test in school? Bad. Fail a class in college? Shame. Fail at a job interview? So sad.

Failing is not as terrible as we’ve been taught. It’s not great — especially if it could have been prevented and you’re to blame. But without failure, we’d never learn what we needed to do to succeed. If you wrote a bestselling novel on your first try, you wouldn’t even know what you did right to achieve that! When you write a terrible first draft, you learn every step of the way how to do things better the second time. And the third time. And so on.

You can’t let something that hasn’t happened yet stop you from trying. Well, you can. But what good will that do anyone?

Failure is always a possibility in anything you try. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have or how skilled you are at something. There is no guarantee that you still won’t walk away having missed the mark.

However, that does not mean there isn’t also a chance you will succeed.

At this point, it is highly likely that I will fail my own writing challenge. Will I be disappointed? Yes. Will admitting to all my followers that I failed embarrass me a little? Probably. But I’m not dwelling on that. Instead, I am focusing on everything I am learning along the way. I’ve discovered more about myself as a writer in the past two months than I have in the past two years.

Failing miserably will absolutely be worth it, if it means I’ll walk away with a better understanding of what does and does not work for me as a creator. I am doing this to grow. Isn’t that the fundamental reason behind everything you write? To get better at writing?

The only way to start something when you’re terrified of starting it is to just start it.

If that seems too over-simplified, then you’re still thinking too hard about it.

Sure, you might fail. And you might feel bad about that.

But I can guarantee with 100 percent certainty that you’ll regret not having tried more than you’ll ever regret having failed.


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.


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