If At First You Don’t Succeed. . .

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A friend recently re-posted a piece she’d written about failure. I’ve been thinking a lot about that word lately. I’m knee-deep in the messy process of a grand-scale revision. I’m going against some of my original vision, but I hope the storyline will still work. In other words, I hope it isn’t a colossal failure. Then again, if it is a failure, what will actually happen? Nothing really.

There are obviously different levels of failure, and I usually try to see the bigger picture. Learning something new—even if the end result isn’t great—can never really be a failure, right? I’m bound to learn a lot as I trudge my way through this new draft.

I’m reminded of one little girl in the boys’ gymnastics class. At the beginning of the year, she struggled to do anything. She didn’t complete any of the apparatus activities. She’d get overwhelmed, and the instructor would have to modify the basic skill to the extent that it didn’t come close to what the others were doing.  On the balance beam, she’d grasp the teacher’s neck so tightly that I thought the instructor might faint and topple over taking the girl down with her.

But she’s extremely happy to be there. She smiles at the other kids and talks to each of them. She’s become a huge support to another small girl who also struggles with fear. She laughs and tries her best—even though her best rarely gives the desired results or expectations. She’s terrified of each skill she tries to learn, and it’s obvious from her wide eyes and tight mouth. The stifled fear shows in her body, which moves in robotic movements, but it doesn’t stop her from attempting the skill.  Each week, she gains a little more confidence; she’s able to do a little bit better on the skills introduced.

As I try to push through each writing day, I can’t help but think of this girl. In some ways, I’m clinging to the old draft like a trusted instructor. One of these days, in order to gain my balance, I’m going to have to let go, and try it all on my own–even if it means I fall off the metaphorical beam. Easier said than done.

What are you afraid to fail at?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “If At First You Don’t Succeed. . .

  1. Claudia Loomis

    It’s so difficult to release the white-knuckled grip to the past / the old draft/ what we thought we knew…
    I admire your persistence with your book. I am certain that in the end it will be published, and it will SELL!!!!!!

    Love ya.
    C

  2. Gilberto Lobo

    DANA:

    EL/LA QUE PERSISTE, SIN IMPORTAR LAS CAIDAS LLEGA A LA META.
    USTED ES UN PERSONA MUY PERSITENTE.

    SALUDOS A SUS TRES MOSQUETEROS
    GIL

  3. Dana,
    Thanks for your update and the kind words. I can’t imagine someone turning down an opportunity to work with a student independently on writing–I currently am doing an independent study with a young poet who reminds me much of you!

    Good luck with the revision–I applaud your continued perseverance on this most meaningful manuscript.

    I, too, have a blog and have also a writer’s group–
    falsecrabapple.wordpress.com

    and
    firesidewriters.wordpress.com

    Ciao!
    Lary

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