Fear of failure is a natural feeling to experience. We don’t want to be seen as incompetent, imperfect, and just plain stupid. That feeling of discomfort and embarrassment is something we as humans actively avoid.
Writing is no longer a new endeavor for me, but it almost wasn’t an endeavor at all. I procrastinated starting my projects; I was comfortable being a thinker and never a doer. The idea of failure — to be less than perfect, to embarrass myself because I wasn’t good enough — was holding me back.
So I leaned into that feeling, wrestled with it, and eventually came out the other side. Did I fail a lot in those early months of writing? Absolutely. Did I get back up after? You bet. Do I still fail? Every single day.
And I’m okay with that. Because failure is one of life’s greatest teachers, and by leaning into that discomfort and vulnerability of failing, I’ve found tremendous growth. Here’s how you can fail and celebrate in all its glory.
Failure is the fastest way to learn
How do you know how to write a book if you never do it? Sure, you can read all the articles that tell you how to do it, but until you put your pen to paper, you aren’t truly learning. You’ll never understand what it’s like to write a chapter, tie in a surprise or twist, or connect dots. The longer you put off writing, the longer you put of failing, and the longer you put off learning.
If you want to learn, you need to fail now. Besides, if you figure out what doesn’t work, you’re closer to finding out what does. My first 50K words of my novel were garbage, but I’d never have figured it out if I hadn’t written it first. I’d still be sitting back wishing I could write a book. Now I can say I have.
Fail fast, forward, and often
Just like you should get to practicing, you should fail fast by pushing your writing out into the world. Test articles on your blog, write about anything and everything, practice different styles, follow different ideas… the possibilities are endless. Work on it every chance you can and you’ll find failure faster, but you’ll also grow faster.
You’ll never go anywhere if you stay still, and you’ll definitely struggle if you go backwards. When you fail, continue moving forward. Reflect on the failure and make the adjustment. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.
Fail often by getting your work out into the world. You never know what drives the next viral piece. Increase your chances by putting your work out, testing the waters, and exploring new topics often.
I post on Medium nearly every day. Some topics are hits, others aren’t, but I’m always using my failures to make the next one better.
Failure builds resilience
Sure, it’s disheartening to fail at something, but every time you get up, you build your resilience to bounce back. The more you can practice, and the more you fail and get up, the better you are equipped to handle it. You gain skills in reflection that better equip you to manage the next writing project.
My first 50K words taught me that I was missing a lot of book writing skills (not surprising, I had never done it before). Instead of looking at that work as complete failure, I failed forward, built resilience, and found ways to develop my skills to make the next draft better.
Failure inspires creative solutions
If you don’t practice your writing, you never know what ideas will work. You can build up a project in your head, such as a story idea, but until you see it on paper you aren’t able to fill in the white space and gaps that your imagination doesn’t see right away. After you start writing, you see where those shortcomings are and you can either fix them or learn how to find new creative solutions. Maybe in writing it down you discover a new path to follow instead.
In a fifth book I was writing, I thought I had the whole story planned out perfectly. I knew what was going to happen and how it would work out… until I started writing it. I got halfway through and realized my characters were pulling me in a different direction. Sure, I failed in this story, but now I know where they want to go and how I want the story to go. I found a new solution.
Failure is not the end
Failing can knock us down a peg. Sometimes it comes in the form of a failed article or book, something you poured your heart and soul into that just didn’t blossom. Sometimes it has everything to do with timing, such as sending your new book to a publisher that found their next novel just two manuscripts before they got to yours.
Failure is not the end. In the process of testing your writing, you learned some amazing lessons. The best part is that the sun is going to come out tomorrow, you’ll still be able to write, and you can approach it with a new mindset. Failure humbles us, but it also makes us work harder for our dreams.
Not only can we celebrate our writing failures as growth opportunities, we have the power to share our lessons with others. When we share our failures, we share our humanness and we can use our lessons as inspiration for others to continue after their failures. We have the power to build up others’ resilience to failure and equip them with the necessary tools to bounce back.
So how are you going to fail today?