This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal · Writing

The Fear of Failure.

Before I begin with this post, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping it will turn out to be a happy, healthy and prosperous one for all of us!

Recently I read a blog post by Kristen Lamb on the 5 Areas We Need Permission for Success. One of those was to allow ourselves the permission to fail. This is a big one as I believe that for me at least, this one area works like a domino affect as it creates all the others that she mentions.

Being the youngest of three daughters, I was labelled ‘different’ from an early age. I was imaginative, observant and a bit of a loner. The quiet one, or ‘shy’ as some would call it. My mother would call me ‘different’ as if it was a bad thing (yeah, still does). It’s as if there is something wrong with me. I always had the feeling that I didn’t quite fit in because I’d be compared to my sisters. When I started high school, teachers also started comparing me to my elder sisters, but it didn’t last long; I was ‘different’. There was always a level of high expectation. If I didn’t meet them, I was a ‘failure’, causing low self-esteem. I was afraid to try new things.

This fear of failure has resulted in being a perfectionist. I grew up with the belief that everything had to be perfect the first time around. It has become ingrained. During my University studies I would stall at starting any assignments which were all essays. The thought of writing something made me anxious, but I had a deadline to meet and once I began writing, I was fine. It’s the same these days when it comes to writing, only I don’t have any deadlines. Right now, I’m doing this for me. Perfectionism is the worst form of procrastination there is as I use different things to distract me; go on social media, play on the ipad, listen to podcasts, watch Netflix (yeah, I think you get the picture). I fail to try because I don’t want to fail.

The thing is though failure can be good for us. We learn what our strengths and weaknesses are. We learn through our mistakes and in order to make ourselves better, we work on them. We put in the hard yards until we are satisfied with the results. There can be times when mistakes can even take us down paths we never would have tried otherwise. Without making the effort to try, we’ll never know what we are capable of. We may live the rest of our lives with regrets.

I believe that I will be taking the path to self-publishing. That now is my biggest challenge. In all honesty just the very thought of it frightens the living daylights out of me. It is revealing myself to the world, revealing what has been private for so many years. Just writing this post is a frightening prospect, but this is why blogging has been such an enormous help. If I fail, then at least I know I’ve tried. And that’s all anyone can really ask for.

Are you afraid of failure? Has the thought of failure made you a perfectionist? Do you plan to step out of your comfort zone and do something different in 2018?

Side Note: Just a reminder that in 2018, I’ll be spending less time on social media and more time writing. I will continue to blog, although there may be times when my posts may become somewhat erratic, but it’s all in a good cause, so stick with me (pretty please). 😉

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Author Interviews/Guest Bloggers

When Failure is Not an Option.

To help celebrate the release of her Totally Twins series, Aleesah Darlison is embarking on a blog tour.  Today, I’m honoured to have her as a guest blogger to talk about rejection and perseverance.  Thank you Aleesah!

One of my all-time favourite quotes is by American actress, Mary Pickford (1893-1979). I keep her words of wisdom taped beside my computer where I work every day and I’ve often used them to motivate me through the tough writing times I’ve faced.

‘If you have made mistakes… there is always another chance for you… you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.’

I get a lump in my throat every time I read that quote. It’s so brilliant, so inspiring, so true. And every time I read it, it makes me want to pick myself up, dust myself off and keep going.

I’ve been writing for children for about four and a half years now. During that time, I’ve received over 400 rejections. It’s true, I kid you not. Following the advice of Di Bates, well-known Australian  children’s author and mentor to many aspiring writers over the years, I keep a record of all my submissions to publishers, competitions and magazines in a detailed spreadsheet.

To me, 400 rejections equals 400 failures.

How do I deal with that?

Well, I try not to focus on the failures. They’re all learning experiences. They’re all the attempts I’ve tried to improve my work. And the more failures you have, the more triumphs you are likely to achieve. It’s a numbers game. Right?

What I focus on instead, are the triumphs. The acceptances. Sure, they were non-existent at first and even now I’m a (newly!) published author they seem only to ever trickle in and I still get loads of rejections. But I don’t let them get me down. Not for too long, anyway. There’s always an element, no matter how brief, of grieving the loss of another publication-hope. There’s always that hint of ‘what’s wrong with my story?’ or ‘what’s wrong with me as an author?’.

But you can’t give in to those feelings. They will only hold you back.

Besides, writing is such a subjective field. What one publisher hates, another will love. If one publisher rejects your manuscript, well, it’s an opportunity to send it to someone else.

Believe this, it’s true.

Of course, there were times when I doubted I’d ever make it. There were times, as I watched friends and members of my writers’ group get published and I didn’t, that I thought I’d always be lost in the world of nearly-published, that I’d be forced to spend my life living on the periphery and waiting in vain hope. But I kept going. I had to. All I wanted to do was write. Whether someone published my work or not, my stories still flowed. What else could I do, but keep trying?

Are there sacrifices? Definitely. Like sunny days spent inside my tiny office tapping away at the computer instead of sunbaking by the pool. Like long, wintery nights spent inside my tiny office tapping away at the computer instead of being tucked up in bed. Like hours missed watching my children grow and laugh and frolic. That’s probably the one that hurts the most because I know how quickly their lives can rush by into adulthood. Still, I try to find a balance and still I know I crave this life of a writer so much that I must make it happen. The sacrifices, for me, if balanced well, are worth it.

My first book, Puggle’s Problem, was released in July 2010. It’s a picture book about a baby echidna, a puggle, who can’t get his spines. My second book, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, was released in September. It’s about identical twins, Persephone and Portia Pinchgut and is the first book in the Totally Twins series. Both books are selling well.

Now I’ve achieved my dream of becoming a published author, I probably spend less time writing and more time promoting my books. I’m ‘on the circuit’ as an author friend said to me, conducting school visits, author talks, appearing at festivals, running workshops, organising book launches and tours, and driving my own publicity. True, the marketing side of this ‘business’ steals writing time from me, but it’s become a crucial part in the modern author’s artillery to help establish your name and stand out from the crowd.

And I can’t say I don’t love it. Being able to talk to children and adults about my work, having them as enthusiastic and passionate about the stories I write and the themes I address in my books, is amazing and delightful and totally surprising. It’s kind of addictive in a way, this performance side to being an author and again, I must find a balance. I must find some way to fit it all into my life.

I don’t want to think about the wasted years not spent driving myself towards my writing goal. I’m no teen-author, that’s for sure, I’m not even a twenty-something author. But I still have a few good years in me and a few good stories, I hope. So, I won’t look back at the failures or the lost years, I’ll only look forward to the next submission I make and to living in hope that it will be a ‘yes’ this time.

And next time you receive a rejection don’t dwell on it too long, for your time is precious. Just remember my 400 failures and remember Mary Pickford’s words:

‘…this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.’

Aleesah writes picture books and novels for children in the fantasy and contemporary fiction genres. She also reviews books for The Sun Herald. Aleesah’s stories have appeared in the black dog books Short & Scary anthology, The School Magazine and Little Ears. She has won numerous awards for her writing. In 2009, she was awarded an ASA mentorship and was runner-up in the CBCA (NSW) Frustrated Writers Program.

To find out more about Aleesah, visit her website at: www.aleesahdarlison.com.

Next stop on Aleesah’s blog tour is Susan Stephenson’s, The Book Chook blogspot at: www.thebookchook.blogspot.com/ where Aleesah will talk about ‘What’s the Go with Pokemon?’

Images courtesy of Aleesah Darlison