What Failure Can Teach Us About Writing

Failure is something that can happen to any of us at any time. Failure is something that we all try to actively avoid, failing, being a failure, is something that we don’t ever really want to admit. Failure sucks, but it’s a part of life.

Lately, I’ve felt like a failure in several aspects. I’ve been pursuing my bachelors in nursing for several years now, and ultimately through several factors some I could and some I couldn’t control, I’ve dropped out. I’ve been writing a novel since November and have had the same goal for that novel since January of this year. I have a decent job, but I feel like I’m failing at having a personal life or working on any hobbies outside of work and sleep.

By several accounts, I could be considered a failure, school isn’t going well, writing isn’t going well, personal life isn’t going well, but there can be several different views of failure.

School– Yes, I have essentially dropped out with a “six month suspension”. At the same time, I have been telling the school for months that there is no way I can complete the projects that have been assigned in the small amount of time that was given, along with working a full-time job. I have wanted a break for months. Now I have it. Now I can try and relax more.

The Novel- This novel is something I have been working on since November and had the same goal since January. It’s been months, but I haven’t stopped writing, I’ve just been going at a slower pace. I’ve had the same goal, and haven’t reached it yet, but I haven’t stopped. I’m still writing, no matter how slow the process goes.

The Job- It will be six months that I’ve had this new job as of April 1st. In that six months, it seems as though my plans and hours and duties have changed almost hourly. I was trained under one company on all different shifts, scheduled on all different shifts, both days and nights and anywhere in between. Now we’re with a new company and new management and new hours and even MORE training. Yes, my social life and my hobbies are suffering, but at least I have a job. I just haven’t had a chance to settle and create a solid schedule yet.

Failure is everywhere, and anything can become a failure, if you let it.

Sure, I can look at school as a failure, but it’s been stressing me out since I first started and working through and gaining more experience I’m wondering if even being a nurse is what I want to do.

Sure, I can look at writing the same novel for months and months as a failure, but I’m still writing and doing my best to get through the novel. Everyone goes through slumps, and this might just be mine currently.

Sure, I can look at my social life as a failure with this new job and the extra hours and training, but I have a job and I’m learning valuable skills, and making connections. Sure, it sucks right now to spend half my week sleeping and working and the rest of it catching up on sleep, but it won’t be forever. Eventually things will calm down.

So what does all of this have to do with writing? Failure is everywhere in writing.

It’s when the project isn’t going well, so you give up.

It’s when you send out a piece and it gets rejected.

It’s when your work doesn’t get much views or reads, or acclaim.

Or it can be.

Giving up on that project that doesn’t work can make way for a better project.

Getting rejected can allow you to send your piece somewhere else, somewhere better.

Not getting many views, or reads, or acclaims can allow you to learn how to improve and get more acclaim on the next piece.

Failure is okay, as long as you use it to your advantage.

Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from it and keep moving forward to improve.

I’ve had a lot of failures in the past few months, of so it would seem, but I’m not going to let them stop me.

I’m going to keep moving forward.

How about you?

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Writer Life Lesson #25: To Write or Not To Write?

Even as the best of writers, we all have busy lives. The kids need to be taken care of, bills need to be paid, and most of us have other hobbies other than writing. And let’s not forget the unexpected things that come up and take precedent over writing.

Lately, I have been very guilty of not having time to write, and it’s been making me feel a little disappointed in myself. I don’t have kids, I have a few bills, and a few hobbies here and there, but there is still time to write here and there and I haven’t really been taking advantage of it. As I sit here, thinking about NaNoWriMo coming up and how I haven’t really been writing lately, it makes sense that other writers must go through this too.

This leads me to Writer Life Lesson #25: Sometimes it’s okay not to write. 

For the past few months, my life has been crazy and has only gotten crazier since then. I was working a full-time 9-5 job, doing full-time school online, doing judo four days a week, and interviewing for a new job. Thankfully now some of that has calmed down. I’m still in school (though getting that much closer to the end), judo is still four days a week (when I can make it), but my job has completely changed.

Currently, I am going through orientation for my new job which has completely different duties from my 9-5 job, and is no longer 9-5, but whenever shift they need. This shift has really begun to eat my writing time, and some days I come home and the last thing I want to do is write.

Sitting here, finally having time to write, and thinking about it, I’ve realized it’s okay for me not to write for a few weeks here and there while things settle, or while I’m focusing on orienting in the new job.

If I can get a few sentences here and there, then that’s great! Even if it’s a single sentence, or even a single word, progress is still being made. It’s alright to take previous drafts and frankenstein a book out of previous drafts and go from there.

I’ve been writing for over a decade and some aspects of writing are still new to me, and that’s great!

Writing is still an adventure, and it’s okay to write or not write. But you can bet I’m going to give it my best shot come November 1st!

If you want to write a novel, join me here!

 

Writer Life Lesson #24: Sometimes It’s Better Not to Outline

I have been working on a novel and its series for nearly eight years now. Several of them have had outlines and several of them haven’t. All of them have been started during National Novel Writing Month and a few of them have been finished. Why am I telling you about my projects in a post about outlining?

Because Sometimes it’s better not to outline.

The first few drafts of book one of my series, I outlined, which set the pace for the rest of the series. There are three point of views and each of them have twelve chapters. So thirty-six chapters per book. That’s easy enough, right? It helps with pacing and makes sure that the book doesn’t get too long and winded. “Ok, it’s section 10/12, time to start wrapping it up,”I think to myself as I write and begin to get bored with the plot after months and months.

The problem however, is that a lot of times when I get to section ten or eleven, I still have so much story and I shoehorn the plot in and plan to fix it later. It’s an ugly process, but for post-nano and finishing novels it works for me.

Until recently, that is.

I’ve lost count of the number of drafts that I’ve written for the first book of my series. I have tried to stick to the “Twelve chapters of each point of view, nice and tidy at thirty-six chapters” plan, but for this rewrite, because there is so much information in the first book that needs to be added in, I have decided to chuck my outline and chapter structures. I have decided to just write what needs to be written and fill in the blanks later.

I have the basic plot and know where the characters need to end up at the end of the novel, but I’m letting them surprise me with what happens in between and leaving myself notes as I go. It’s a freeing process, because the characters can breathe and have organic interactions and have time to expand before they all reach the end.

I’m finding so many more interesting things than I would have if I had stuck to my outline.  Some of my best novels so far have been ones where I have a loose outline or none at all.

If you’re stuck, try not outlining and see what happens.

Writer Life Lesson #23: Write Three Sentences

Yes, you are reading that correctly. Just three sentences.

Life is busy for most writers. We have day jobs, kids, pets, outside life to deal with once we leave the page. Several things interrupt us from our stories and as more days pass it becomes more difficult to get back into the story.

We also have distractions, such as Netflix, TV, flash games. I have been guilty lately of giving into the distractions instead of writing and falling deeper into despair that I haven’t been writing.

How do I fix that? Write Three Sentences.

It almost seems too easy, right? For some of you, it might be. Some of you writers are probably thinking “That’s it?!”. But hear me out.

If you’re distracted, binging Netflix, stuck playing Facebook games, or catatonic after your day job, three sentences can feel like a mountain.

My new binge has been listening to podcasts. They can vary in length from fifteen minutes to an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. I’ve told myself that age old excuse of “I’ll write after this podcast ends” and then it automatically starts to play the next one and I think that same thought. Repeat Ad Nauseum until it’s time to go to bed.

What I have decided to do, and that works for me, is pausing the podcast, writing three sentences and then returning to the podcast, or the Netflix episode, or whatever else has been captivating my attention.

Over the past couple days, I have written about three thousand words just three sentences at a time. I’m in love with my story and characters again and am finally advancing the plot. An added bonus is I no longer have days where I don’t write anything. Even if it’s 100 words, that’s still something.

If you’re like me, and distracted by social media, Netflix, podcasts, TED talks, or anything else, and still wanting to write, pause that Netflix episode, that podcast, that TED talk, take a break from whatever is pulling you away from your writing and write three sentences .

Hopefully, when you do, one of these things will happen. You will either want to continue writing more than those three sentences or want to get back to whatever was distracting you. If you do go back to what was distracting you, try the three sentence rule again at the next break.

Even if you do just write three sentences at a time, eventually your project will be finished.

You Want to Be a Writer? Act Like One

These past few weeks, the entire month of February, has been strange for me. I had a tonsillectomy on the 31st of January and practically all of February was spent in bed recovering, or scrambling to get homework done as my semester for my bachelors program was winding down.

Yes, I know, I’m excellent at scheduling things and procrastination.

This strange time warp (thank you liquid Lortab for keeping the pain at bay and helping me catch up on much needed sleep, even if the nightmares were terrifying) left little time for me to write, and write coherently.

I was back at work for three days before this first cold whammied me into another week of bed rest. But it gave me a little more time to think and process, and yes, write!

I’ve been listening to a few new podcasts lately, all about writing and being a writer. There were a few that talked about whether or not a writer can call themselves a writer and what the criteria was or should be. Should you have a book published? A famous column in a newspaper? Can you be called a writer if only one other person, or no one has read any works?

I have always called myself a writer. I’ve started and finished several novels, short stories, plays and poems, not to mention blog posts and forum posts here and there. As far as I am concerned, I am a writer.

But over these past few months, I haven’t really been acting like a writer. I haven’t had that drive to finish something, or post something, or even think about writing in the least.

I am very pleased to say that today for the first time in a long while, I pulled out a short story that I wrote years ago and edited it. I’m not going to lie, I struggled to get motivated, to actually edit and not get distracted by the internet, or flash games, or more podcasts and posts about writing, but once I got into it and started, it was much easier.

I am a writer, and I am going to act like it.

#29: Dead Plants

She keeps the dead plants in their pots to remind her that she’s still living.

They’re dead and dried and curled up on themselves, but they remind her that even in the best conditions, things just die anyway.

She looks at the dead plants on her window sill and remembers to live her life to the fullest, never letting fear or inadequacy scare her.

She breaks barriers, and creates without question.

She lives, but the plants, just like parts of the old her, are still dead.