Monday, November 19, 2012

On Failure

I have spent the past few months writing a book. It's the sequel to LIFE MUSIC: Lessons Learned at the University of Catastrophe. You can read an excerpt here. The new book is another collection of essays reflecting on living with (and around) diabetes and MG.

I've gotten 34,396 words done of a 60,000 word draft. I am just past the halfway mark. Or at least I thought I was. For the past three weeks I have had a nagging suspicion that I am writing the wrong book.

At first I denied it. I wrote endless journal entries about self-doubt and read about writer's block. Am I letting anxiety and doubt cloud my thinking? Determined to finish the book I kept working on it.

Only, the more I wrote, the worse my doubt became. Am I lost? Am I running a marathon race in the wrong direction? Am I doing this wrong? Have I... failed? Last week I looked over my draft and vacillated between finishing it and starting over.

 On Saturday my doubts overflowed into a meltdown. In tears I told my husband that I think I am writing the wrong book. That's when Steve reminded me the same thing happened when I was writing Life Music. I wrote the wrong book first and then I wrote the right one. I'd forgotten. As soon as he reminded me, the nagging feeling went away. My current book draft is a failure. A 34,396 word, 109 page, failure. I have spent several months on a journey using a broken GPS and an upside down map.

Marching with great confidence in the wrong direction is part of writing, or any bold endeavor. Fear of failure has hindered me in the past. Now I realize that failure is part of creating. Failure throws bricks at me. It doesn't feel good to be hit by bricks, but it happens sometimes. I can choose to stay buried under my failures, or I can stack them up and stand on top of them.

I tried writing a book and 34,396 words later I failed. How liberating! Now I have freedom to let go of what doesn't work so I can search for what does. This failed draft isn't my first draft, or my rough draft. It is the compost draft. Grind up the words that don't fit and turn them into compost. The next 34,396 words will be better, closer to my vision, and worth all the panic attacks and tears. Tonight I am stacking failure bricks and standing on them.

I am taking a break from my book project until January. After I toast the new year, and recover from my hangover, I'll be back at it. You can count on it.

"Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. 
But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."   Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds to me like you (and your hubby) have found a pattern that comes out when you're creating! How interesting!



I am not a doctor. I do not have a medical degree. Nothing on this site qualifies as medical advice. These are lessons I'm learning at the University of Catastrophe. What I find to be correct answers in my classes may not be the right answers for you.

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