Failure. Say it, now. Fae-y-l-yur.
Failure has an allure, doesn’t it? I mean, we all strive to keep well away from it but it’s gravity is the singularity of a black hole; nothing escapes.
Even if we succeed, whether by miles or millimetres, some part of us is devoured by the mere possibility that we could have … [term omitted].
We don’t like to speak about it. We’re not prepared to admit that we’re fallible and prone to messing things up with so much style that we come off looking fabulous, dahling.
The Two Week Challenge flopped. I failed. I don’t have to explain myself but I will illustrate why I failed because it helps me, as a human being as well as a human being who writes, to recognise where I’ve come from and where I’m heading.
This time last year, the 10k was well under construction. I was confident and scared, competent and bluffing. I was screaming toward my goal - walking off the course with a Distinction even though the odds were against me.
My first year’s grades weren’t enough to balance the books; I’d need a flurry of 70+ marks if I was going to subvert my tutor’s gentle prediction of not quite being there yet. In other words, it was okay if I didn’t get those marks because I hadn’t grown into my writer’s groove yet. It was okay to fail. But it got to me and I hammered out consecutive assignments which snuffed the prophecy. I was not self-fulfilling.
If anyone reads this, they know I’m not of sound mind half the time. I live with depression, anxiety and Fibromyalgia - need I say more? So writing in the final year, the final throes of the course, was a magic trick I flowed through with a sleight-of-hand I didn’t realise I possessed. I paid for it, after.
I pulled The Challenge off last year because I wasn’t ready to fail. I wasn’t prepared to come up just short again, not after all the other times. I was fed up of not being good enough.
But this year, I failed.
I’m still living with poor health; it’s changed its tune a bit since last year, got worse in areas and weirder in others, but I’m still working on how best to lead a life.
You can’t shed illness like you can sunburnt skin.
My plans for the past two weeks were extinguished by a bout of depression that made me sit and think, long and hard, about why I’m still breathing; I’ve been host to a family of anxiety attacks; my body has relapsed into the pudding that is Fibromyalgia.
During a time when I’ve really wanted to succeed, I’ve been sick. It’s that simple.
But being the stubborn creature I am, words have still been put down. I haven’t calculated it all yet as a lot has been pen to page rather than fingers to keys - screen time is a no-no when I’m unwell - but I think I may have just scraped half-way into my original target. Unedited.
What worked for me last year, didn’t this year. That’s what failure has taught me. I need to change my thinking, adapt my approach so that I can finish this book in stages without killing myself in the process.
I’m coming up shy of 40k; if I put the pressure of a 100k target on myself, I’ll struggle. Instead, I’m going to call 40k my middle-mark, the satisfying point where I can say I have achieved half of what I intend. And when I reach that place, I’ll stop and edit so that I can fill the other 40k in a coherent way.
I’ll expand, cut, adjust, change, map out my book. And when I’m done with that, I’ll start writing again.
Time can fly. I’m not putting a deadline on this. Getting to my middle-mark will be measure enough.
I always used to say failure is not an option for me. Turns out its the best possible outcome I could have hoped for.