Failed projects. They’re like a flock of birds in a world with no shore. Nowhere to go, nowhere to land. They just flap until they exhaust and plummet to their death, slowly drowning in a sea of sorrow. A sea of wonderment. What if there was an island just over that next horizon, if I’d only held out for a little longer?
I would have to say with each successful project, you fail a mountain of others in its wake. And if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves overwhelmed with the failures, and forget the accomplishments. Or worse, we’ll find ourselves wanting to blame someone or something for things left undone. This sort of negative reflection can be unhealthy, and prevent future successes, because groaning about past failures will begat future ones.
In a lot of cases a failed project isn’t a result of someone, but a result of the project itself. Maybe it was doomed from the start, as the saying goes, whatever that means. Maybe it just didn’t have the guts to come into its own. Maybe… there can be a lot of maybes.
But, Nathan? What are you talking about? What does this have to do with writing? And quit depressing me by reminding me of all these past failures of mine!
Have you ever started a story, and never saw it through to the end? For whatever reason, you gave up on it, or the creative well ran dry on it? Or worst of all, you finished it and it fell flat? If you’ve been writing for long, I’m sure you know what I mean.
How do you leverage these failures with your state of mind? I don’t know that there is a perfect answer, a truth that never waivers. I wish there was, it would make writing a lot easier. I’ve been looking back over my failed projects a lot lately, and kicking my toes against the dusty ground. Shuffling around, sulking my shoulders about them all. But finally the other day, I mental-kicked myself in the backside and said, “Man, buck up, you’ve done a lot!”
In the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve been silently fighting what I am sure is ADHD, which has obviously not helped matters. But still, I’ve written, or half-written, over 50 short stories and novellas, outlined three or four novels and drafted one. And there is a laundry list more of achievements I could go on about, though I’m not doing so to brag, but to make a point. All while I felt I was failing projects left and right, which I was, I was also accomplishing a decent amount as well.
But better still, what I’ve come to realize is that even the projects you think you failed never really fail. At least, not in writing. There’s always a chance that some new creative jolt will revive the once dead bird, and you’ll be sitting in front of your computer with an undead bird and a zeal to get that story done. Point in case, I recently went back to work on a novel I’d started developing back in 2002, but hadn’t had any luck with in ten years! I hadn’t even thought of the story in about six or seven years, but then about a month ago my mind headed off into a direction for a story and then my mind said, “Hey, man, this is similar to that old idea, you should combine the two.” And the result is that I now have a story that I had once given up on, running the creative gauntlet once more. I didn’t realize, but that bird was still flapping out over the waves of uncertainty. It has now landed, and is catching its breath before the next flight.
But what about you? What about your failed projects? Don’t fret, just make sure they’re neatly documented and set them aside for now. Down the road, you may find yourself face-to-face with that bird again, wondering how in the world it made it across the great divide between conception and success. And it will be looking to you with hungry eyes, begging for a few bread crumbs. And what will you do? Will you feed it, or will you not even notice it as you sulk around wishing it was there?
And if you have to blame someone, blame Sally Pinkerton, that’s what I do. She’s an easy target, since she’s always scraping the bottom of the barrel anyway.
Thank you Nathan – it’s great to have you back!
Nathan Weaver, says he’s been writing for a “ridiculously long time”, and think he’s just starting to get pretty good at the nonsense. Do check out his two recently self-published books, Fatal Flaws and Everything. Both were collaborative efforts, and are cheaply priced. You can find him and his writing at http://talesfrombabylon.com and you can find me in his Rogues Gallery.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.
The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with non-fiction and short story author, and novelist Philip Bradbury – the three hundred and fifty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore, Kobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.
Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.