Originally published on Swirl and Thread as part of #IrishWritersWed
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Westward Ho – Samuel Beckett
Full disclosure: I’ve never even read Beckett. However I am a sucker for inspirational quotes (if only I could remember them!). I immediately pinned this one, in the hope that through some kind of Pinterest osmosis (Pinmosis, if you will) Beckett’s greatness would somehow rub off on me. A cursory glance shows it to be an insightful, motivational line that suggests perseverance will result in success. Look a little closer, however, and you will see that this statement isn’t so happy-clappy. It doesn’t mention a thing about succeeding. What it’s really saying is: Trying is failing and success is willing to fail, over and over again. What can I say; us Irish are a pessimistic lot! But there’s an authenticity there, the kind you don’t often hear in our goal-driven, success-obsessed and competitive society.
“In order to do something well, we must first be willing to do it badly.”
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
I think we all like the idea of being a writer, but the reality involves staring down your inadequacies (or at least pretending not to see them) and not crumbling at the first sign of how crap your writing is. People assume they can just sit down and start writing a brilliant novel. But like that ill-judged skiing holiday, where you assumed that the sport involved nothing more than launching yourself down a slope and letting momentum do all the work, it’s not that simple. And like skiing, the biggest challenge is taking the risk to look like a complete eejit in the hope that eventually you’ll look like less of an eejit. Oh I know us writers must sound like such moaning Michaels. ‘Writing is SO hard!’ we lament, while onlookers observe that we’re not curing cancer but whinging about a career choice we could just as easily have chosen not to do. But that’s what is so hard. Nobody gives a shit if you write that book or not. Just like nobody on your skiing holiday really cares if you make it down that mountain (well, except for maybe your family who are waiting at the bottom, wondering if they’ll now have to perform a sky burial). But essentially, no-one gives a shit, only you. So yes, writing is hard because it’s so easy to give up.
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4 thoughts on “Fail Better”
Love your words! All true.
Thank you Lucy, it’s a bit of a manifesto! 😉
This is so true. Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through it. I love thinking the book out, that little buzz I feel when I think of a really great plot development, but I LOATHE writing the first draft. I have to force myself to the lap top, every day, during first draft season. I work through it by saying ‘you can stop when you’ve written 2K words’. More often than not I get into it and write more, but sometimes it’s like wading through treacle. I love the redrafting and editing months (I go ‘yee-hah’ when I can finally start that bit), but am fed up with the sight of it by the time it’s ready for test/proofreading.
And, yes, there is always the option: I could just not do it. I could have a cleaner house, do all that rubbish chucking out stuff, decorate the bedroom, go for more walks, be a full time book blogger……
Love your comments 🙂 Completely agree Terry, coming up with the idea is so exciting, but then you have to sit down and write the bloody thing! I can see how great it wil look, but then I start typing and inevitably ruin it by dragging it into reality. I’m sure lots of writers wonder if it’s all worth it, but for whatever reason, we can’t not do it. the thought of not writing just fills me with emptiness.