Monday, 12 August 2013

You Will Fail.

Any successful person has failed and failed again. Most of writing is failure - failure to get the words right, failure to publish work, failure to win competitions, failure to get words on the page. The perfectionist in me wants to fight. I want to say "If I try hard enough, I won't fail!" But the fact is that you can try as hard as it is humanly possible and you will still fail some (or most) of the time. Many factors are out of our control; even those within our control can be affected by unforeseen circumstances. A straight-A record isn't feasible in the real world - and the real world encroaching on our studies means that most of us didn't get straight As at school.

A close friend recently managed to shock me. Did she commit a crime? No. Did she behave outrageously? No. Did she announce that she was a Justin Bieber fan? Absolutely not, thank goodness. She said she never learned to ride a bike. She tried when she was about six years old, but gave up because she kept falling off.

I find that ludicrous. I fell off my bike hundreds of times as a child - and dozens more in my teen and adult years. It never occurred to me to give up. I feel the same about writing. It's difficult to maintain confidence at times and the process can be tricky, but I never want to give up. I can't be the kid who decides not to bother learning to ride a bike just because it's hard.

I'm glad I learnt to ride a bike: it's given me many hours of fun and many glowing feelings of achievement. Ditto writing. I accept that I'm bound to fall off my bike every now and then. I can get distracted and veer into a hedge. I could hit a patch of gravel. Someone could ride into me... Well, actually, I rode into my mother! The point is, I'm learning to accept and embrace failure as an intrinsic part of writing.

Failing over and over is horrible, almost soul-destroying. But it's vital to get back on the bike and keep riding. What's the alternative? Never knowing the rush of freewheeling down a hill. Never feeling smug and satisfied at making it up a large hill without having to get off and push. Never simply enjoying the scenery and the hum of your tyres.

So, since mental illness has cause many writing failures this year, I'm going to celebrate failing as well as my small successes (like writing this blog post!). I suggest you do the same: congratulate yourself for every rejection letter and every crappy draft. Believe me, it's better than giving up.


  1. Words of wisdom Hayley :) I've failed more times than I've succeeded, but the joy is in the journey.

    I tell this to my kids when I'm playing one of my puzzle type games and they say "you're gonna lose" and I say "That's ok, cuz then I get to play again."


  2. Thank you for a great post, Hayley. I think these days people are scared to use the word 'failure'. But I don't see it as negative. The admission of failure is a way to address what's gone wrong and why I have not succeeded on that particular occasion. Trying again is the fun part, because I can use what I learned from the failure.
    My mother was horrified when I told her that schoolchildren these days are not given crosses in red pen on their homework when their answers are wrong, presumably to avoid demoralisation. But how can they understand that they have made a mistake? my mother asked me. A red cross is a clear sign, not an insult. Being told you have failed at something does not write you off as a person. It's there to point the right way forward.
    We can't all be perfect at everything all the time. But we can find out how to improve. And the only to do that is to accept failure and get back on the bike again.
    Well said, Hayley, and good luck with today's writing. x

  3. Thank you both for your comments - I definitely think we should make more effort to acknowledge the failure behind every success and celebrate our own failures! :-)

  4. Thoughtful, interesting post, as always, Hayley. Love the bike analogy. And I tend to agree with Joanna's Mum about the red crosses. We need to know and recognise our failures to go on to success!

  5. Another inspiring post, thank you. I see the effects of depression every day in my line of work and many times it's because the client feel' s a failure - I try to show them how to handle those feelings and turn them into a positive. Great post.

  6. Thank you, Rosemary and Shelley. I think I'm (gradually) getting better with coping with failure and it's helping me to take more opportunities.