I've been mulling over the idea of failure a lot lately. It's a concept I'm okay with in theory, but when it actually happens, I find I'm not all that okay with it after all. And for a while, the sting paralyzes me a little. Have you ever had that happen?
In November I had to write a short story. I had just a week to come up with an idea, put it on paper, revise it, and turn it in. It wasn't enough time to think clearly or worry. I decided to just have fun with it, try something I never otherwise would, take a big risk. I loved writing that story.
The thing was, I knew it was a risk. When I turned it in, I said, "Everyone in the workshop is going to point out this flaw and this, and they are going to hate this," and there was a whole list of things I purposefully did that I knew everyone would think I'd done by mistake.
And I was right.
As I sat listening to everyone discuss the flaws in the story, I smiled because it was like they were falling into my trap. I wanted to shout, "Mwahahaha!!! I did on that on purpose, for a reason!"
And then, about two hours later, I realized that even though I knew what the reaction would be, at least in part, and I'd done most of those things fully knowing that I'd done them, it still hurt to hear it flailed. And then I realized it hurt, because in part, they were right. No matter whether I'd done it knowingly or not, it didn't work.
It stung a little less when my workshop leader (and soon to be advisor) pulled me aside and told me it was good to fall on our faces every now and then, that we need to take risks and try new things and, yes, even fail. He insisted he's failed much bigger, fallen much flatter than I, although I doubt that because I still think he pretty much walks on water. But it was good to know he didn't think less of me.
And yet, when I got home, I found it hard to write. I've been frozen under that fear of failure. Part of that is a need to prove to my advisor that I really can write. It's one thing to fail once; it's another entirely to fail every time you turn something in. Every idea now needs to be perfect; every sentence needs to be beautiful and concise and necessary and full of tension.
I agonize for an hour over one word.
It's getting painful.
And I can't say I think my writing is better for it.
Today a fellow student passed on this video made by a friend of hers. It's funny, but also incredibly wise. Her advice, especially the example she gives at the end about filming a scene in a movie, resonated with me, and so I'm passing it on to you. It's well worth the six minutes!
Let's take the teeth out of the shark today, shall we?