I want to address the relationship between fear, failure, and writing. The month of October, as well as the current global pandemic and other current events, makes many think of and feel fear. There is no shame in being afraid, everyone has the emotion in all stages of life. However, as we grow older we are expected to hide and manage our fear better than when we were children.
Fear is simply a concern about the unknown or the possibility of something negative. Those concerns change, even diminish, as we gain knowledge or confidence. The reason for this doesn’t have anything to do with the changed possibilities, but rather our understanding of the probability.
I remember being completely convinced and afraid of the tiger that was under my sister’s bed. It posed no threat to my sister because it couldn’t see her. But the tiger watched me all night from across the room, waiting for me to close my eyes long enough for him to pounce. Only a few years later did it occur to me that the tiger likely wouldn’t have gotten into our bedroom undetected. The possibility is very real, but the probability is extremely low.
To fail is to miss an opportunity. The miss may involve absolutely no effort or just not enough. It may even just be not enough preparation soon enough. Everyone has experienced failures and I think we’ve had both effortless fails as well as the opposite. The most discouraging fails are the ones in which we put in substantial effort and preparation. And at the last moment, it’s just bad luck.
My most recent and extremely frustrating fail involves another hunting story. With bow hunting, you adjust the tension on your bow to increase the power. Since I don’t have the greatest upper body strength, I had the tension on my bow just above the legal hunting limit. As I’ve gotten a bit more practice and strength, I’ve turned up the tension. Most of my hunting this year has been a struggle to get close enough to the deer to shoot. So imagine when I am finally in a perfect position with three deer to choose from and I can’t pull back my bow. For whatever reason — the angle I was sitting at, the fact that I was a little cold, or maybe nervous — I didn’t have the strength to pull back the bow.
Defining writing may seem a bit silly, but it involves more than just making words and sentences. Because, in fact, it is creating, editing, and sharing. These tend to be a bit harder than just taking a dictation. Writing involves a lot of mental and emotional effort. (In the case of writing as a profession or craft). Though, young students generally find writing difficult as well.
When I first knew I wanted to be a writer, I would write little stories. But about 90% of the story was just the word “really”. I was in first grade, so my vocabulary wasn’t the largest, and the vocabulary I could spell was even smaller. However, the real reason I wrote “really” so often was because I was still learning how to write. I hadn’t figured out the creative part, or the editing part of writing. As far as the sharing goes, I clearly didn’t think about writing for the reader.
When I first thought about the relationship between fear, failure, and writing, I felt like the first two went hand in hand, but writing seemed an outcast. However, that isn’t the case at all. Writing does not exist without fear and failure. Failure generally involves fear, while fear may be independent of the other two. The reality is that writing will include some fails and fears. But the bonus is that it’s part of the process that makes it better.
One of the most common writing tips is to be okay with writing a crappy first draft. The first big fails are part of the process and no one can skip it. Thomas Edison included all of the failed lightbulbs as little successes in the process of eliminating what wouldn’t work. Taking risks is part of the creative process and is exactly how you make something new. Learn to turn your perspective on fails, they are simply stepping stones and learning experiences.
Sharing what you have created is one of the scariest things I can think of. As long as your creation is safe in your custody it is the most brilliant thing in the world. But once you share it, thousands of other opinions will be critiquing your work. The blessing is that the fear urges you to make improvements and get your work to be the best it can be. Then you need to take a big breath and let your creation loose into the world.
Nat’s Nook – Writing’s Relationship to Fear, Failure, and Writing
This blog is a realization of all three of these and the relationship between them. I love writing, but it is a hard process. Writing about writing is sometimes a little bit easier than creating and writing fiction. There are plenty of failed blogs, that really aren’t great and have never been read. But the process of sharing even the not-so-good blogs allows me to slowly get over my fear of sharing my writing. Even sharing some of my fiction.