Fear of Failure by Elizabeth Mitchell

Kait talked about bravery in her opening post for Round Two. I want to build on Kait’s thoughts, because I needed to break it down for myself.  When I think of bravery in writing, I think of Malala, persecuted for writing about her views on educating women,  or Salman Rushdie, targeted for writing about Mohammed. Thus, my instinctive response, although I agree wholeheartedly with Kait, is “Nope, not me, there’s no opportunity for me to be brave.”

However, when I think more deeply about it, I find that there are small acts of bravery in writing at all.  The writer whose memoir may not paint a family member in the best light, or may not align with other family members’ sanitized history of a loved one; the writer whose day job as a kindergarten teacher may be jeopardized by her writing erotica; the writer who stares into the shadows of her own soul to find all sorts of uncomfortable monsters there. All these situations require bravery.

Then Kait really shot me in the heart, with “You have to be brave enough to fail so that you can LEARN.” I’ve always been the square peg, resisting the round hole with every cellulose fiber, but that is not failure, that is resistance, which can require bravery. Being open to failure is a different kind of bravery. I am the mistress of opting out. When friends convinced eight-year-old me to climb to the high dive, I teetered on the edge, panicked, then fought my way back down past all the people crowded on the ladder, ignoring the lifeguard’s admonition to jump and be done with it. Funny how one’s upbringing surfaces in such unexpected ways. My father would brook no failure. He did not know of Star Wars or Yoda’s famous dictum, “There is no try. There is only do,“ but it could have been emblazoned on his coat of arms. I find it hard to accept failure as a learning experience, although I know logically that it can be, and is not the end of the world. Without the possibility of failure, I am paralyzed just like I was on that high diving board decades ago. It is only with accepting failure that I am freed from my paralysis. If I truly feel what I have to say that is important, I must gather all the grit I can muster to put it out there.  Does it scare me enough to raise the fine hairs on the nape of my neck? You bet it does.

Kait’s post made me realize that I do not learn as much as I could because I do not try.  Failure takes all kinds of bravery and boatloads of it. Failure requires investment and “skin in the game.” Now I have to ignore how scared I am of failure,  because it is the only way I will learn. I commit to embracing bravery this Round, and will revise my goals to reflect that commitment.  Who’s with me?

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

8 comments

  1. An excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly with failure being a part of learning, and it definitely takes a boatload of bravery to put yourself into a position where you may fail.

    1. Thank you, K.L. I need to increase my comfort level with failure, or just move on in spite of discomfort. I have taken baby steps by putting little snippets up, and have almost stopped hyperventilating when I do it. 🙂

  2. Another part of bravery is to keep going, not just in the face of failure, but disregard. That’s a hard one too… You’re right that’s something that helps us learn. But don’t ask Dan about his feelings on the Yoda meme.

    1. That is a hard one, throwing a stone into the void, and hearing nothing back. I wrestle with the fear that no one wants to hear what I have to say. It’s hard to fight, except to acknowledge that I need to say it, and there is no way to know what will touch someone someday.

  3. Congratulations Elizabeth! You brave, brave girl!! Excellent post. Yep, I think I fail practically everyday. I just hope I learn from those failures. Hope. Big hugs to you!🙂

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