We’ve all heard the adages on learning from your failures and moving on; on not letting fear of failure stop you from trying things. 

Words are all well and good, but when it comes to actually facing your fears, it’s only actions that count.

And I am sorry to say that in my life, I have, more often than I care to admit, turned tail and run when it came to my fears.

So now, I’m doing the writing thing – but no short stories for me, oh no!  I plunge right into the world of novels.  Which are hard

Last year, I joined a writing challenge – it actually started around now – and finished the first draft of a novel that had been languishing on my hard drive.  That was a proud moment, believe me. 

I was determined to go through and revise and edit, with the eventual goal of submitting to an agent.  And that’s where trouble started.  You see, I realized that about half of the novel had to be rewritten.  But I really liked the tone of what I’d originally written.  So I tried to rewrite the novel, removing a whole cast of characters and one setting, while still keeping everything else the same. 

I can see it so clearly now, reader, what I didn’t see then:  the task I had set myself was impossible.

But I didn’t want to quit.  I wanted to finish, dammit!  So I slogged and plodded and lost all passion for the thing, bashing my head against the proverbial wall and wondering why it was so difficult, and what kind of writer was I, when the last thing I wanted to do was sit in the chair and write.

I considered the excuses:  the plotline is really complex, it was my first novel, with three small kids at home I didn’t have lots of time…but I just felt like they were all cop-outs.  Excuses, and nothing more.

Still.  When I sat down to write, it was a struggle – uphill, both ways, barefoot, in the snow.

One day, recently, another story idea caught my attention.  So, as usual, I thought I’d just get down the bones of it before returning to my albatross original story.  But the bones just kept going, and growing.  I was writing more and more and absolutely loving the story, and rediscovering my joy in writing was – oh, I can’t tell you what a relief it was!

So I put the original story aside, to focus on the new one.  On the one hand, it felt good and right.  On the other hand, there was that voice inside my head that just kept insisting that I was a quitter; a failure. 

I felt ashamed.

For Christmas, my daughter was given a  subscription to a magazine called Discovery Girls, for tweens and teens.  Curious as to the content, I flipped through it one day, and came across an article titled “Getting over disappointments”, which included a paragraph on failure, talking about how learning from your failures can help you to do better the next time.

And finally, FINALLY I got it.  And while I am hesitant to label my maiden attempt a “failure” (preferring to believe that at some point, I will go back to it and fix it), I feel more comfortable now with my decision to put it aside.

I feel that the work I put into it has made me a better writer, so that perhaps, this time, I will finish a work that needs less overwhelming revisions, and might eventually see the light of day on the desktop of a literary agent.  (Fingers crossed)

But no matter what, I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of, and that’s a great feeling.