The Lessons of Failure


Failure is a word that doesn’t get much positive use these days, except in snappy articles with titles like “How to avoid failing at…” along with “10 ways to avoid Failure.” and so forth. Inevitably, my post is going to get lumped into those results, but I’m not going to talk about how to avoid failure.


Because I don’t believe that we should.
If it’s going to happen, then I feel that we should let it happen and learn from what caused it. I’ve had this particular lesson quite a few times in my life and while I haven’t enjoyed the experience at the time, I have appreciated what each one has taught me – usually well after the fact.

This year’s lesson in failure is possibly the easiest one I have ever done…

As I said a month ago or so, I did NaNoWriMo this year.  The aim, as always was to write 50,000 words in thirty days.

I had a couple of additional goals:
1 ) Actually finish the story by the end of the month.
2) Try out working to a detailed plotline.
3) Be disciplined about my writing.

So here we are on the 1st of December. The 30 days of NaNo have been and gone… and for the first in since I started this once a year writing rocket, I have failed to “win”.

There are many reasons why I failed.

There was a massive technological problem in the first week and it not only complicated my writing life totally, it messed up my mindset.

It was a bit like watching dominoes fall over. I’d managed to actually fulfill one of my goals before NaNo started – I had a detailed plotline worked out in my notebook, along with my usual character sketches and maps. I started the month well; the first two days I was strong and disciplined and hit the word count target perfectly…

Then my HDD refused to work.

Cue panic and upset and arguing. I tried everything and anything to get it back up and running. I consulted Mr Google; talked to those of my facebook friends who are IT experts; scrambled to make sure that I had the most important files (for my published books) safe and well somewhere…

But by the time I had calmed down enough to restart writing, my mindset was gone. I was lost in my own head and nothing I wrote seemed to fit, despite the fact I was following the plotline I had created… I had literally lost the plot.

I rallied and found my way back, but by that time I was 10,000 words behind. I’ve been there before and caught up, so I wasn’t too worried… but every time I tried to sit down and write more than a couple hundred words, life seemed to conspire against me and keep my mind out of the right place.

I finished the month with 26,633 words written. That’s 23,367 words short of the 50,000 needed to “win”.

That’s more than I started with, so it’s not a total failure and because I have the plot line done, I can carry on with it and get the story finished. Strangely, I’m not upset about it.

A lot of the articles on “failure” talk about it as if it’s something that is so awful that you must not let it happen to you. They’re wrong.

Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.

Morihei Ueshiba
In this case, I learned:
1) I need to backup all my important documents regularly in more than one place.
2) Mindset is the most important part of writing for me; if I can’t get my mind into the right place then nothing else goes right.
3) I’m not a pure Plotter. I can create an outline but I can’t stick to it. There’s just too many interesting things that pop up along the way to work in such a rigid manner.
4) Numbers are useful for keeping track of what I am doing, but when I obsess about them, the words they’re tracking run away.
5) I need to learn to relax.
So while all there are thousands of writers out there that are celebrating hitting that 50,000 word goal and writing a whole novel (maybe for the first time ever), I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and celebrate learning to fail.
If you want to take a look at what I did manage to write, head over to Wattpad via the graphic below and have a read. I’ll continue to update it as I write the rest of the story, so check back regularly. Enjoy!

Thoughts, words and people…

There’s a strange dichotomy to being a writer. I’m writing about people all the time, yet I can’t seem to interact with them. I observe them from the edge of things like a scientist doing some strange experiment.

I don’t know if that is the way that all writers work or if it’s just me.

I don’t want to sound self-pitying; but it does.

I’m an introvert, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like being with people. I enjoy being part of a group and it makes me feel like part of the human race, even if I don’t’ say much.
I have a partner on the ASD spectrum. My son and older daughter are on the ASD spectrum. I have a younger brother and at least one nephew on the spectrum. I don’t know if my youngest has it yet – time will tell, but genetic probability suggests that I have it in mild form and when I think about the way I was described as being as a child, it backs that probability up.

So I sit on the edge of groups, not quite part of them because I can’t seem to interact with people properly, no matter how hard I try.

Is it me?
Is it them?

I think I have friends. They’re all on the net though – I’ve met one or two of them in real life and I cringe to think what they thought of me; I’m not exactly the best at first meetings…
Ask me to write something and I’ll give you a thousand word on the subject. Ask me to talk and I dry up… until I force it out.

I babble. I’ll tell everyone my life story. I go from silent to a thousand words a second due to pure nerves. I probably scare the people I am trying to get to know, purely because I can’t stop that torrent of words from pouring out of me.

So I avoid face to face situations.
But that makes me feel worse…

So I push the feelings into my work. The hurt and the rage come out in the words I type. I create monsters to rip the characters to bits with them, both verbally and physically. It scares me. So I delete the stories it happens in because I don’t want people to see that side of me.
I stopped writing horror because I can’t write down the things that scare me – I won’t sleep if I bring those shadows out into the light. And if I can’t sleep then my family will suffer… I get rather grumpy and nasty when I haven’t had enough sleep!

There are people who try to include me in things… but having been stabbed in the back socially a few times when I was much younger, I shy away from it and they give up on me.

Where do I go from here?
Where I usually go… to the keyboard.

NATIONAL AUTHOR’S DAY – November 1 | National Day Calendar

Why not make your favourite author smile and thank them for their time and effort… Cheerful notes, reviews and books sales do wonders for an author’s productivity, frame of mind and general happiness.

NATIONAL AUTHOR’S DAY Every year on November 1, millions of people celebrate authors and the books that they write on National Author’s Day. After her grandmother’s death in 1968, Sue C…

Source: NATIONAL AUTHOR’S DAY – November 1 | National Day Calendar