I set myself a big goal for the weekend: Write 20,000 words by hook or by crook. I utterly failed. At 8,000 words my brain turned to jello and I crashed out on the sofa with a box set of DVD’s.
You heard me.
As a writer, you’re going to fail at your goals sometime. I’m not trying to be depressive about it, it’s just that sometimes life gets in the way. If you catch fire I would expect you to put it out before getting on with chapter three.
It could happen.
The point of all of this is not that I failed to write 20,000 words, or even that I cooked my brain like a Christmas turkey. It’s that I got out 8,000 words, which is significantly more than I normally write (I usually go for 3 to 4 thousand words over a weekend). If I hadn’t gone for the big score, I wouldn’t have gotten 8,000 words out as a kind of failure by-product.
So lesson one in failing right is: Dream Big.
If you don’t set a big goal, you have no chance of achieving it. Even if you don’t hit that big goal straight off, if it’s big enough, there’s always the chance you’ll get something worthwhile out of it anyway.
Like 8,000 words.
Of course, if I’d set myself a goal that was too big, like finish my first draft by the end of the weekend, I wouldn’t have done anything at all. You need to dream big, but it needs to be theoretically possible to hit your goal. As much as I joke about setting myself the impossible goal of finishing a first draft by the end of the month, it’s more than possible.
That makes lesson two: Think difficult, not impossible.
I blog about these thing sin, the hope that other people can learn from my mistakes, but I try not to give myself too much grief about the mistakes themselves. Of course I’m disappointed if I don’t get a goal, but being angry at yourself is a waste of energy you could be putting into your writing.
If being angry helps you write; by all means go nuts, but as soon as your writing is done with, put the anger away too. I’ve really made myself suffer in the past by being overly hard on myself for making mistakes. This is your writing, your novel. A mistake is not a tragedy because tomorrow, you can do some more writing.
Lesson Three is the big one: Learn from your mistakes, and then LET IT GO.
I’m on track to finish my first draft by the end of the month, and in part that’s because I haven’t let my innate ability to fail get in my way. If you check on all of your favorite authors, they’ve screwed up more than once on their way to becoming great writers.
Failure is temporary; it can’t stop you unless you let it. Now get writing.
Andrew Jack is the owner of AndrewJackWriting.com, a free fiction writing advice blog focusing on first time fiction authors and their quest to get published. If you, or anyone you know is starting out in fiction writing, click on AndrewJackWriting.com to get the best free advice, inspiration and free chapters of Andrew’s novel.