Thoughts on Failure

I’ve been thinking about failure a lot lately. Failure to get more done during the week. Failure at having not gotten more done BEFORE the baby. Failure to not submit half as much fiction as I should have over the past ten years, despite having a hell of a lot more time, even *when* working full-time. Failure in the shape of persistent fiction rejections when I *do* submit. Failure to keep up with old friends. Failure to step out of my comfort zone to make new ones. Failure at not being as far along in my career as I’d like to be. The list goes on and on inside my head.

And recently, even the NY Times Magazine had a whole issue on failures, and my mother shared another newsletter from her spiritual community which also talked about failure. Those last two, though, took a different look at what failure is and what it means. One thing in particular stuck out to me with particular force in the newsletter: While Babe Ruth held the world record for home runs, he also held the world record for strike-outs. When he swung at the ball, he swung hard–and didn’t always make it. Look at Hershey, even: who repeatedly failed and went bankrupt at least once in trying to set up his own candy company. Or the employee who brought him the idea for Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, to which Hershey said no, he didn’t want to make them, but at least graciously allowed the guy to use his suppliers to make them on his own. They’re now the #1 best-selling Hershey’s product, all thanks to Reece who didn’t give up when his boss said it was a stupid idea.

Failure is inevitable, especially if you want to be good at anything. Rejections are a part of writing, and that’s something I’ve come to recognize and accept–even embrace–over the years. But in my everyday life, failure haunts me. The guilt of not doing X or not being as good of a mother/human as Y–because s/he can do so much more than me and STILL raise her/his young child, so who am I to complain that I don’t have time?–overwhelms me and robs me of some enjoyment of an otherwise very happy time in my life.

In some ways, I can even feel guilty about being happy, because of all the other stressors piled up on my back. How dare I be happy? Don’t I realize it could get WORSE, and that I better start worrying now so I’m prepared for it?

How messed up is that?

One of the things I’m only beginning to understand now is how to let go and forgive myself when I’m not as accomplished/talented/productive/fiscally viable as I’d like to be. The idea that “failure is only a failure if you don’t pick yourself back up” is very comforting during times like this. And the guilt is just a bunch of wasted thought depriving me of otherwise good days. I don’t have time for that.

Every day, I’m finding new ways to get a little more done. Every day, I’m getting a little better at learning how to juggle keeping the Little Guy happy and entertained, while *also* accomplishing things I need to get done. Every day, it’s getting a little easier.

So why guilt myself when I’m actually taking the baby-steps I need to get where I want to go? There’s something to be said about bite-sized progress and meeting smaller, more accomplishable goals. In fact, I’ve even started setting 2-3 medium-sized goals a week to try to achieve, and so far, have managed to hit them almost every week. I can’t write a novella in a week, but with dedication and patience, maybe I can write a solid 3k. I can’t clean up the entire apartment, but I can get the bathroom looking decent.

And I’m starting a small business, which I’m super excited about, even in as much as it stresses me out trying to get everything organized and think through every detail of its finances. One baby step at a time!


Day 3 – A Forgiving Day

Sometimes, I have what I’m starting to call “forgiving days.” Today was one of them. It started off rough, from cat vomit on the floor, to the fierce onset of a clogged yet runny nose, food seeming unappetizing, to clocking my head on one of the apartment’s angled beams, to spontaneous bursts of tears. Ah, pregnancy is a delight.

On days like this, I try to remember that life doesn’t follow any patterns or rules, and that no matter how many lists and goals I set for myself, sometimes I just need to lean back and let go a little. Forgive myself for not doing everything I want in the time-frame I want. Forgive myself for being overly emotional, because let’s face it, the hormones of pregnancy are one heck of a wild ride at times and can come and go without warning.

The surprising fact is, on these Forgiving Days I sometimes do accomplish more than I might think. I try not to worry about goals or personal deadlines or doing just about anything other than relaxing and letting go. Today, that letting go led to charging through the first fifty pages of MINDFUL BIRTHING by Nancy Bardacke, CNM, a book on mindfulness as related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. It’s a book my mother recommended. She’s in the last leg of her Masters of Mental Health Counceling, and has found a lot of the mindfulness-based stress management techniques very useful as a therapy. I have another book on general mindfulness to reduce stress that I’ve been meaning to go through, but as I haven’t gotten to that one yet, I figured I’d pick up the one that’s pregnancy specific, since that’s one of the main sources of stress for me at this particular point in time.

It was wonderful. Even just reading a little bit, trying a few of the breathing-consciousness exercises, and generally allowing myself to let go of my “list of grievances” of the morning (yes, I actually wrote them down in a comprehensive list, believe it or not). I felt so much better after that. Even the lingering headache I’d started the morning with (and that was *prior* to hitting my head, joy joy) seemed more manageable. I haven’t gotten all that far, and it’s certainly no miracle cure–I’m not really looking for something like that–but it rings very true with something inside me, so perhaps that alone made me feel better.

I read a lot today. I actually got some writing done, too. I squeezed in a bit of editing, and actually tackled the few things on my to-do list that were stressing me out to no end this morning. When I started feeling too overwhelmed, I took a few moments to get back into the present, center myself a bit, and remind myself that today was a Forgiving Day, and that I didn’t have to blame myself for anything. In all, what had started out as a train wreck of a day became one of the more peaceful days I can remember in the past few months. Perhaps all my days need to be Forgiving Days. :)


WRITING PROJECT: In a world where wars are waged in shadow and the separation between man and machine is shrinking by the day, a war-droid wielding cyborg-girl begins a secret battle against those who would control her and destroy the only chance of a future she’s ever had.

Working Title: Shadow Games: Book 1 of the Shadow Engines duology
Added Words: 1,165
Total Words (to date): 89,970

Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: Virtual espionage! Split multi-consciousness! The construction of mental labyrinths! And a serious case of scrambled-brain syndrome that might prove fatal…but not yet…

Notes: Did what I always do when I just don’t have much energy for writing: I set a timer for ten minutes. These short little sessions usually run over (this one did, branching out for another twenty), but it gives me the freedom to walk away after only ten minutes if it’s just not working. I rarely walk away, but I have when needed. Today, a thousand words felt pretty fine, so I left it there and didn’t worry about more. I finished a complete scene. That’s good enough. :)

EDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!

Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters
Accomplished in Edits: Wrote another rewrite scene, and it actually accomplished one of my plot points. I will say I’m looking forward to chopping out a lot of words from this later, but for now, it’s flowing pretty well, and that alone is worth being happy about.