The Power of Failure

The Storyteller non nano

I didn’t win “NaNoWriMo” this year.

The Storyteller non nano

For those of you who don’t know, one wins National Novel Writing Month by getting 50,000 words on the page between Nov. 1-Nov. 30. I had great intentions of finally penning a very rough draft of “The Storyteller’s” story . . . one that has haunted my dreams (and my blog) for many years now. I made a good start and have about 11,000 plus words written (including brainstormed ideas in a notebook that I haven’t yet included in the official count), but other things got in the way and it just couldn’t happen this November.

To be fair, I’ve probably written well over the 50,000 words, this month . . . just not on the project I intended. I have written:

  • numerous hand-written notes inviting people to read, review, and (hopefully) recommend P.O.W.ER to others
  • several blog posts
  • several future blog posts and interview responses for an upcoming blogging tour of P.O.W.ER (which will begin in January, details TBA)
  • assignments, syllabi, comments, and zillions of emails for my adjunct teaching work.
  • an application to direct a show this winter (interview is Monday)
  • numerous comments, messages, and reflections on various social media

But still . . . I am a NaNo loser. But you know what? I’m okay with that.

You learn more from losing than winning. You learn how to keep going.” (Morgan Wootten)

Lessons Learned by Living Life on My Own Terms

I am often very hard on myself and when it comes to my own definition of success. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said (out loud) “I feel like such a loser.” I get angry at myself every time I say it. Sure, if I define my life by the expectations of my youth or other’s definition of success–perhaps I haven’t achieved everything that I could have. But, if I look at what I have achieved, and how many of my dreams have come true, I cannot really call myself a loser.
I’m simply a person who isn’t perfect, as most of us are.
I have learned that more often then not the path that will make you happiest is not the one you planned to take. With each perceived failure, I come one step closer to becoming the person I want to be–to defining life and success in my own terms.
Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.”

C. S. Lewis
I was hesitant to commit to NaNoWriMo this year, because I knew I had a lot on my plate . . . but it was more than that. The inner critic was speaking loudly, telling me that I was insane to keep pursuing the dream of writing. Even though P.O.W.ER was coming together, my doubts gnawed at me. My manuscript from last year’s NaNo still waits for yet another edit (I have been working on it on and off throughout the year). And the Storyteller story is still somewhat beyond my grasp–a whisper of words that have yet to come together in a meaningful form (although they are getting closer). The inner critic just told me to give up–that it was hopeless.
Perhaps that inner critic succeeded in suppressing me . . . since I failed NaNo. But I don’t think so. I failed because this was not the time for me to be immersing myself  in the new project, it was the time for me to focus on giving P.O.W.ER a decent launch. The positive reception so far, as well as the wonderful support I’ve been receiving, tells me that my focus was where it needed to be.
So I will take this failure in stride. I will learn the lessons I need to learn. Lessons like:
  • I need a clearer outline to help me focus my writing (I got stuck a lot because I don’t yet know the story I need to tell)
  • I need to be proud of what I have done rather than focused on what I haven’t
  • I need to be kind to myself.
  • I need to embrace both life’s failures and life’s successes, because they tell me one important thing . . . that I am, indeed, living
 “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” (J. K. Rowling)
 How do you feel about failure? How do you define success?