The Brink of Failure

My mom told me that when it comes to writing, it’s about the process, not about the product. My aunt approaches crafts with preschoolers the same way; when the parents arrive for their child she feels perfectly fine handing them a green fingerprint mess while her co-workers would attempt to make it look more like a Christmas tree.

A few months ago I was working on a novel that sputtered out at about 120 thousand words. It is the most I have ever written. I was extremely proud of it, and myself, until I was about three months in and realized everything I had written was crap. My characters were flat, my plot was dragging, and I didn’t have passion for the story anymore. I felt utterly defeated. Was all that work for nothing? I was nowhere near finishing it and didn’t have the stomach to edit something of that magnitude.

So I threw myself into planning for next year’s Nanowrimo. I promised myself that this story would be the greatest thing I’d ever written, that this story wouldn’t be a flop, ect, ect. All the same promises I had made to myself last time around.

I’m obsessed with productivity. I’ve convinced myself that every thing I do each day has to have some sort of value, this makes it hard for me to relax or to feel satisfied or accomplished. So to basically throw 120 thousand words down the drain was very disconcerting. I felt myself becoming more careful, holding myself back from being truly passionate about my next project just in case it too was a failure.

A few days ago I realized I was at this place again: the brink of failure. I stared at the blank pages of my Camp Nanowrimo project and realized I was on the edge of giving up on it. I wasn’t passionate about it. I wasn’t even interested in it. And while I’ve grown so much as a writer since I started attempting huge projects, I haven’t learned how to make myself work despite my inhibitions.

Let’s say my mom is right and what should be valued is the process instead of the product. The problem is, at least for me, is that processes can’t be measured the same way products are. So while somewhere in my 120 thousand words I may have learned that quality is better than quantity, that doesn’t feel as satisfactory as having a 120+ thousand word novel. That’s where I’m struggling today, redefining what’s satisfactory and what’s successful. My brink of failure is too far away from actual failure; it’s not accurate. Somehow I need to learn to be okay with a green blob instead of a Christmas tree, but that’s difficult, it’s a skill I don’t yet have. Hopefully, as I continue to write and struggle I will grow not only in my ability as a writer but in my perspective on writing.

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