Last week, I talked about how I “failed” as an author, and mentioned four lessons that I learned from my failure. This week, I want to go a little deeper into how failing or making mistakes affects us and our writing.
Note: if you were wondering, my series on Creating Fictional Governing Systems will start back up sometime in the new year!
Give Up Or Get Up?
So, you’ve failed. Now what?
Is it time to end your career or give up on your hobby as an author? Should you burn your failed manuscripts, torch your short stories, cancel your writing software subscriptions, and throw your laptop out your window? Is it time to go back to simply reading books and leave the writing to the “professionals”?
Well, to tell you the truth, the choice is yours.
Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend destroying your work—even if you think it’s the worst thing you’ve ever written. And throwing your laptop out the window is a little over the top…
But let’s be real. Like most things in life, writing is hard. And when things don’t go as planned, there’s a lot of temptation to blame yourself and give up.
There are a lot of reasons that people don’t give up, ranging anywhere from obligation, hope for success, feeling called to write, the expectations of other people, or pure spite.
Whatever your reason is, the one thing I don’t want you to feel is judged.
It’s Okay To “Give Up”
A lot of people encourage writers (as they should) to keep writing and not to give up even when it’s hard and the process no longer feels fun. I mean, if we gave up every time something got a little difficult, we’d never get anything done.
However, while I believe that it’s important to encourage writers to keep going, I also think it’s just as important to let writers know that they won’t be judged if they decide that it’s time to stop or wait until they’re ready to start again.
After all, if the only reason you write is out of obligation or that you’re afraid of what others will say if you stop or give up, you may find that writing makes you miserable, and you may burn out so badly that you never want to write again.
It’s okay to take a break from writing, and it’s okay to stop.
Maybe you’ll come back to your writing one day, or maybe you won’t. Either way, don’t let obligation and fear keep you locked into doing something that you really don’t want to do.
Regaining Your Confidence
But what if you do want to continue writing after you “fail” but the thought of starting over and working on a new project scares or overwhelms you?
Right now, I’m in the process of starting over—and it’s not easy. I have a few successes to look back on, like completing the first draft of a different novel, the second draft of my novella, or various short stories I’ve written and liked—but that doesn’t mean it’s simple or easy for me to get back up and start writing again.
Even if we learn from failure, failing still hurts.
Making mistakes can really shake your confidence, and building your confidence back up can take time.
But there are some things that you can do to speed up the process. In fact, here are five things that helped me continue writing after failing.
#1 List What You Learned
Failing or making mistakes doesn’t seem as bad if you manage to find value in your errors.
After I realized that my novel wasn’t working, I sat down with my mentor and talked about all the things I learned about my particular writing style, and writing in general while I wrote my novel.
You may need to take some time to think through all the things you’ve learned, but once you do, write them down and ask yourself some questions.
What worked? What didn’t work? Do you know why it did or didn’t work? If you don’t know, how can you find out?
By applying all the lessons you’ve learned, your “failure” will turn you into a better writer than you ever were before, and will actually end up helping you as you continue your writing journey.
#2 Revisit Your Successes
Not everything you write is going to be a masterpiece—especially when you’re just starting out. But not everything you write is going to be trash either. If you’ve been writing for a while, find the pieces of writing that you like the most, and reread them.
Rereading your favorite/best pieces should remind you that not only are you a writer, but you can write some really great stuff!
#3 Take A Break
Sometimes you just need to take a break from writing to rebuild your confidence, and that’s okay! Focusing on a different hobby, reading, traveling, or spending time with family and friends is a great way to spend your time.
You don’t have to focus on writing to regain your confidence as a writer. Regaining your confidence as a human being is just as helpful—if not more.
#4 Remember Your Why
Why do you write? What is it that inspires you to put words down on the page? What are you passionate about?
Remembering why you write is a great way to regain the motivation to keep going.
There comes a time when we all need to remind ourselves of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, so ask yourself, “why is it important that I keep writing?”
#5 Reach Out & Receive Encouragement
If you have a writing group, writer friends, or anyone else who could encourage you, reach out to them. Tell them you’re struggling.
The best way to boost your confidence is to surround yourself with a community that understands what you’re going through and will encourage and help you through your struggles.
I think we can all agree that failure sucks. It doesn’t feel good, and we’d all like to avoid it whenever possible. But since it isn’t possible to avoid it completely, figuring out how to move past your failures and into success is so important!
Before You Go…
What do you do to regain your confidence after a “failure”?
Let me know in the comments!
Since my next blog post won’t be until sometime in the new year, Merry Christmas! If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s my Christmas gift to you!