Failing Forward

Don’t let anyone tell you that failing is bad.  Failing is how we learn.  If you are failing, that means you are doing and doing is taking action, which will eventually lead to success.  Hopefully, you won’t kill anyone along the way.  Remember Maverick’s conversation with Viper in Top Gun, after Goose has been killed:

Maverick:  So you think I should quit?

Viper:  I didn’t say that.  The simple fact is you feel responsible for Goose and you have a confidence problem.  Now I’m not gonna sit and blow sunshine up your ass, Lieutenant.  A good pilot is always compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned.  Up there, we gotta push it.  That’s our job. 

So how the heck does this apply to writing?  Well, ‘we gotta push it’ too.  That’s our job – no, really – we do have to take some risks and the main one is:  risk writing badly.  Believe me there is a pony beneath all that – you know what.  But if you don’t write, and you wait around for just the right bit of inspiration or to be struck by Writing-Talent-Lightening, then you will fail because nothing gets put on paper.  Writing badly is what we are supposed to do.  We have to write ourselves into success, but it won’t happen unless you actually start filling up a blank page.

We do have to ‘evaluate what’s happened, so we can apply what we’ve learned.’  When I started writing my novel, I didn’t know any better.  I just started writing.  I didn’t even really know who my characters were, much less what was going to happen.  I had to go through a lot of pages and drafts, and frequent dead ends to see what was going to work, but eventually you start listening to your characters.  They can tell you their needs and wants and goals, and those are the things that generally move a plot along.  If you play ‘what, if’ and provide some obstacles along the way, then you’ve got some drama.  Not cheap drama, but real organic drama that’s born out of your character’s psyche and your reader won’t feel manipulated.  You have to have a reader’s trust because that’s what compels them to go along for the journey, to see what happens and make the investment of time that it takes to read your book.  So go for it, write badly, screw it up, but write, and find your pony.

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