I been loving the blogging community and meeting wonderful people. Especially Rose, she's amazing and you can learn so much from her. I'll let her story explain who she is-Boundie.
I've been trying to tell the same story for 24 years. I started it when I was sixteen. I'm turning 40. The thing has gone through so many versions, revamps, do-overs, and restarts that it's hardly recognizable.
The first version was about an abused child who was rescued by a vampire and grew up to be the greatest monster-hunter of his generation. It was really about my life as a survivor of child abuse. Later versions kept the same themes, but the story evolved as I grew older. I lost interest what was essentially a private wish-fulfillment fantasy, and I learned how to use and subvert genre conventions. The last version I started was pretty awesome. It did some things I’ve wanted to see in the vampire genre for decades. But I still couldn’t pull it off.
Why isn’t it working? Why is it so hard? Why do I keep making what feel like obvious mistakes and not seeing giant plot holes?
I don't freaking know. Maybe I’m still too close to it.
Could I give up? Move on, write something else?
Well, sure. I've done that before.
I've written and published a serial. I have two non-fiction books, a successful blog, and drafts of several big fiction projects that are waiting to be revised and published.
My hard drives are littered with stories that never made it out of the planning phase, half-done drafts I don't know what to do with, and other junk I wouldn't show you if you paid me a million bucks. Maybe two million. Probably not.
But there's this one project that I keep coming back to. It keeps derailing, blowing up in my face, and generally being not right no matter what I do with it.
I hate the sucker, but I can't leave it alone for long. If I do, I feel empty and without purpose. The life drains out of me. I know I will finish it someday.
Then there’s the book I wrote in 2004, still sitting unpublished in a binder. The digital copies are all on floppy disk. Are you old enough to remember those?
That story was about a cyberneticist who was secretly being abused by her husband. Again, it was drawn from my life. I was in an abusive marriage. The plot of that novel was a convoluted mess with subplots about mental illness, spiritualism, child sexual abuse, and I don’t know what else.
When I got to the revision stage, I realized what a disaster the book was, and couldn’t figure out what to do with it. After several months of getting nowhere, I knew I had to move on. Will I go back to it? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know. My feelings change every time I think about trying it again.
I wanted to start a blog about my life as a creative exploring different art forms for years, but I thought, "How can I run a blog? I'm not an expert in anything. How can I put myself out there as someone who knows what I'm doing when I just bumble my way through everything and every project is a process of screwing up the same idea 100 times before I accidentally figure out how to make it work?"
Growing up, I was lucky to make it to school most days. After my divorce, I put myself through college. I struggled with PTSD, dissociative tendencies, and depression. I spent my college years in “survival mode,” so the few writing classes I took didn’t benefit me much.
When you experience trauma over a long period of time, you spend years afterward trying to “catch up.” Intellectually, you may have missed important parts of your education. Emotionally, you’re fighting a daily battle to interact and function in ways that others take for granted. Yet while your mind and emotions are still recovering, you have to keep going forward in your career. So I always felt like I was “faking it.” I knew that I was a talented writer and artist. I was good at what I did, but I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t have the benefit of “real” training, and mostly I just blundered around until I figured stuff out.
Finally, I realized that everyone's creative process is like that. My examples may be more extreme than average, but everybody learns by trial and error. That’s the only way to do creative work!
My folder full of stalled ideas, my unfinished novels, and my Flickr account full of textures I made from the ashes of digital art work that didn't go the way I thought it would aren't actually failures. They're the documentation of my self-discovery and the roadmap of my creative life. They're the stepping stones that have lead me to who and what I am, and all the knowledge I've gained about writing or art has come from them.
There are 3 things you can do with failure.
You can beat yourself up and stress out about what you wanted to accomplish and all the time you've "wasted."
You can work yourself into exhaustion or paralysis with self-criticism and fear of being judged.
Or you can cut yourself some slack and realize that mistakes are the best teachers in the world.
I’m choosing #3.
I'm a scifi author, so let me give it to you in nerdspeak
Repetition and practice are how our brains learn. Each time we practice a skill, our brains re-encode data along the same pathways, so that both information retrieval and physical response become easier the next time.
So, a failure isn't really a failure at all. It's just an exercise in learning a complex skill-set that your brain hasn't mastered yet. The more practice-hours you log, the more you’ll learn and the easier it will be for you in the future.
Which lesson are you most likely to remember? The one that came from an easy success early on or the one that you had to earn with blood sweat and tears? The lessons that take the longest to learn are the ones we humans will ultimately value the most, because we remember them better and because we had to work hard for them.
There's a reason that my most deeply personal stories are the most difficult to write. They mean the most to me, and they have the most to teach me. I can't release them into the world before they're finished with me, and so they take more time. The lesson I’ve learned from wrestling with my trauma history as I bring it into my art is that making mistakes or failing are good things. If I can recognize a mistake, I can learn to correct it. It doesn’t matter how many times I start over. Each one is an important part of my learning process, and ultimately my art will speak for itself.
Share this with your friends if they need help with failure their life. They might need it.
About the Author
Rose B. Fischer is an avid fan of foxes, Stargate: SG-1, and Star Trek. She would rather be on the Enterprise right now.
Since she can’t be a Starfleet Officer, she became a speculative fiction author whose stories feature women who defy cultural stereotypes.
In her fictional worlds, gender is often fluid, sexuality exists on a spectrum, and “disability” does not define an individual. She publishes science fiction, science fantasy, horror, and biographical essays.