Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fail Big

At various points in my life I have decided to write a book.  There was that middle school story I was sure would be a hit.  Several high school mysteries that never got solved.  When I met Rob I was secretly writing the beginnings of a novel I knew no one had ever written before.  Life, love, distraction always led me away from these attempts at writing and those old works are now lost somewhere on old floppy discs and DOS hard drives. 

Inaccessible as they are, I still remember pretty clearly the stories that were going to be BIG.  I also remember my eventual understanding of the truth that these stories were actually NOT going to be big.  They were not even going to get finished. And even though they never made it past Chapter One, they had a big effect on me.  They were what showed me that I can and will fail.  They showed me that this thing that was hiding deep within, this passion for writing that I barely had access conscious to, was a huge risk. 

Any sort of creativity is a huge risk.  Playing music takes years to learn and get a feel for, with how many missed notes along the way?  A basketball star always starts off with a larger number of missed shots than points scored. A trip to the moon, something no one had ever dreamed of a hundred years ago, cost countless lives and endless hours of failure. And writing?  Who writes well at first?  Apparently, even Shakespeare was a copyright thief. 

I see now even more clearly that writing is a huge risk.  It feels pretty precarious for me at the moment.  I have been walking this path consciously since September, when Kindergarten gave me the time to delve into my newly awaken passion.   In this time, I have earned not a single cent for my work.  I have shelled out plenty of money in SCBWI fees, workshops, classes, magazine subscriptions, and notebooks.  I have read numerous books to understand the publishing world, the writing life, book styles and tones, and even Haiku.  I have sacrificed having a clean house, evenings with the family, and some portion of my sanity.  I have battled my own demons, as well as Rob's, and wondered if there was any way to make it down this road alive and intact. In the time I could have gestated a new human, I have had numerous failures and very little success in achieving my goal. 

Yet, I am encouraged.  If I learned anything from Jonah Lehrer's book Imagine, it is this...  Studies show that the scientists, the inventors, the athletes that take the biggest risks in their field, Fail. Many, many times, they fail. And often they FAIL BIG. 

And then, they get up and keep on going. 

As I come up on the end of Kindergarten, the end of my free mornings to pursue my dreams of art and peace and writing.  I can't help but look back over the months of failure and feel thrilled.  Because here's the thing, those people who fail, and particularly those who Fail Big, keep at it.  They keep going step after step because of their passion. Because of their grit. Maybe you call them fools, but I see that the more they are willing to risk failure, the more likely they are to gain Success.  The two go hand in hand.  I feel thrilled because  I love failing at writing more than I could ever love succeeding at any other work.  And I fully intend to keep at it.

Even though I have little to show in the way of traditional success-  I have something worth writing about.  Failure.  And something to write with.  Passion.

I have learned incredible amounts about the industry, the people, the markets of writing.  I know faces and names of local Ithaca writers, I have connections with un-published and published writers all over the world, and I have friends.  Friends who write, who understand creativity, who battle their own writing demons daily.  I have been rejected by publishers, I have send endless emails, I have wiggled my way into the scene, just a little bit.  And most importantly I have written. Stories, facts, ideas, notebook after notebook of practice and file after file of drafts.  I have written, spent my days writing, thinking of stories, researching facts and ideas, and then writing some more.  Nine months later I have something to show for my time.  Maybe not Pulitzer or Newbery or apparently even worth publishing, but it's something. 

When I hiked the Appalachian trail 13 years ago there was a common sentiment amongst thru-hikers.  A rainy, wet, soggy, miserable day on the trail was a hundred times better than a sunny, perfect day anywhere else.  The same applies here.  I have been failing pretty small, stumbling on tree roots and gashing my toe on rocks, thus far.   

Now, I am ready to move forward, step into summer, into the future with new ideas and new worlds forming in my mind.  I am open, passionate, and wildly excited to see just how Big I can Fail. 

1 comment:

Sue Heavenrich said...

Great post. You're not alone... I've got lots of keyboard blisters and naught to show for 'em but a buncha rejections. But, hey, we could be slinging hash instead...