Failure. That’s pretty much a dirty word when we’re talking about writing challenges, right?
Not at all.
All of us fail from time to time. We might miss a week’s goals, or our stories may not turn out as we had hoped. What then? Do you throw out your entire novel? Do you sit out for the rest of the ROW80 challenge, hoping to “do it right” the next time around?
Art, in all its varied forms, is an experimental process. Whether you’re trying out a new character in a novel or painting mountainside scenery for the first time, you’re doing something that’s never been done exactly the same way before. Though other writers might have had similar story ideas before, they never approached that story with your worldview and with your talent set. You’re bringing something new into the world with every bit of your writing.
Like any other experiment, it’s not always going to work out perfectly. We’re entirely accustomed to this idea in science. How many times do scientists have to run the experiment to find the correct process? How many “failures” did Edison endure before finding the proper filament for the light bulb?
Instead of scientific tools, we writers bring out our artistic abilities and intuition to improve, to craft a finer tale than the one we had imagined when we began.
But the only way to reach that stage of improvement is to get the words on the page. First, we have to get that first draft out there so that we can observe our progress. Did we “fail” with the first draft? No problem. We can revise a character right out of the story, or add one, as needed.
Writing Challenges and Measuring Failure
I’m especially excited about the ROW80 challenge because of the way that we can so easily recover from any missed goals along the way. Instead of facing one large, all-or-nothing challenge, we can set our own pace and recover as needed. Life happens, and it can be awfully disruptive to our creative pursuits, at times.
Looking at it from another perspective, if we’re inflexible with our goals and our writing, then we’re missing out on living, too. Your friends and family may or may not understand your love of the writing craft, but they care about you. If we put our writing first at the cost of our loved ones, have we really succeeded? How do we measure failure then? (After all, relationships are rich with inspirational tidbits for writing.)
Failure, as frustrating and painful as it can be, is a wonderful gut-check on what matters most in life. Is the story worth fixing? Then get to it. Is it worth it to catch up on your goals? Go for it. Is your writing worth disrupting your health and your relationships over? Hmm… you might want to think about that one.
Don’t lose hope when failure comes. Look for the opportunity to grow, knowing that every writer who has ever lived has had to overcome setbacks in order to accomplish anything worthwhile.