Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fail Better

Every year in late October I sit down with my writing calendar for the upcoming year and map out my schedule: due dates, book releases, conferences, classes, etc. This becomes the backbone of my plan for the year. From that, I decide when to work on a new project, when to polish existing stories. I’ve begun working on that for 2014 and had a moment of reflection remembering the same undertaking this time last year.

I had big plans for my writing in 2013. Jotting down deadlines, release dates, conferences, all the things on my radar for this year, I was both excited and a little overwhelmed. But mostly excited. It would be a lot of work, I realized that, but boy was it going to pay off. I had done my homework, I knew what to expect, what to anticipate, and I was ready. This was going to be my year!

Looking back, I can’t help a sigh and a very real drop of my heart. This has been a hard year in so many ways. I’ve struggled with a new and debilitating chronic illness, one that will be with me the rest of my life. Conferences that I had attended and loved in the past were extremely hard for me this year; I even had to miss some of them. The deadlines seemed to pile up, all coming at once in one crushing wave after another. Many of the amazing things I anticipated happening in my career this year didn’t happen--some of those things couldn't happen, some simply didn't.

I had planned to reach the end of this year high five-ing myself for a job well done and looking forward to another shiny and dreamy year. But here I am. Tired. A little discouraged. Trying to face another year with the weight of uncertainty and setbacks heavy on my shoulders. The sudden arrival of RA changed a lot of things. Circumstances outside of my control changed still more things I'd been looking forward to. It's hard to push on, to pick up the pieces of shattered hopes and find a way to make new dreams out of them.

So I had a little talk with myself the other day. I gave myself a figurative hug, acknowledging that the path I’ve walked these past months has been a difficult one and that discouragement and worry and disappointment are to be expected. I promised not to beat myself up over it but also to not dwell on it.

I’ve begun making a list, not of the disappointments (I’m acutely aware of those—no list needed), but of those things that worked out better than I’d hoped, of the things I’d anticipated that did come about, of the tiny victories in the midst of an overwhelming battle. I’m taking time each day to remind myself that, though so many things went wrong, quite a few things went right.

I’ve started the task of filling out next year’s schedule with those deadlines and commitments that are firmly set. I have set myself to the modest task of completing one new novel. But outside of that I have only given myself one expectation, one goal: to keep going.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Samuel Beckett. “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Knowing how many things fell apart this past year, I am struggling to get myself going for next year. What if it falls apart again? Falls apart worse? What if nothing goes the way I hope it will? It’s a very real worry, one that can be paralyzing at times, one I think we all deal with from time to time. So I repeat this mantra. “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Maybe it’ll be another disappointing year. Maybe it’ll be even harder than this one. But maybe it will be better. No matter what comes, I plan to tackle it. It’ll try, and maybe I’ll fail. But if I do, I’m going to fail even better than before. And then I'll try again. Because as long as I keep going no failure is ever final.


Terry W. Ervin II said...

You're so right in that some of our failures and missed opportunities seem to stick out more than the successes and progress made.

I truly hope you meet many of your goals this year, and in the years to come.

Kara and Chant said...

I love your mantra, because it's all about the fact that you've tried whether it worked out the way you wanted it to or not. Sometimes it's so easy to give up or not even try in the first place because something seems too hard or too overwhelming. I hope this next year is more kind to you!

Cooking up a Project said...

Sarah, You are an amazing woman. You have accomplished and will continue to accomplish goals that most of us only dream about doing someday. You are truly an inspiration to me. I hope the best for you this next year and for some relief from your pain.

I will share with you what I have been telling my struggling daughter. As long as you are moving forward, you are succeeding. It doesn't matter the pace. It doesn't matter the pace those around you are going. Even if you slide backwards or fall down, as long as you get up you are succeeding. Even if it is a crawl instead of a confident step, you are succeeding. Take it at whatever pace you can and recognize each step as a success.

Taffy said...

Thanks for your post, Sarah. I love your mantra. You are a strength to so many in the community!

Helen said...

Character building moments, weeks, years and even life times are proof that God is aware of you and is polishing you for great things! Pain can be your friend if you let it, pushing you to see things differently and become something that nothing else could. Pain as we know it is ever present, helping us to focus, if we will on higher things. You may feel frustrated because of the limitations that your body now faces but your spirit is ever growing and strengthening, my husband says to me often that our bodies are just suitcases that see us through this mortal sojourn and what matters is what is in side. Keep your chin up and know that MANY people are cheering you on!

Snowy Mornings said...

Moving from measuring my sense of self-worth by what goals and hopes I had accomplished and who I had served or pleased to, instead, whether or not I loved much was a challenging, pivotal and life-changing move for me.

We give lip service to that concept, but in our hearts we don't believe it. We live in a society that doesn't believe it either. So it's hard to learn. But when we learn, by real experience, that it is actually true, the increase of light is palpable. And the burden lifts.

It is true: success is, in fact, in the eternal scheme of things, measured by how much we kindly love those we interact with each day. And our hearts can love a LOT. It sounds to me that life has handed you a difficult situation that will put you in a position to learn this deeply to your core earlier than many of us.

I cheer you on in your journey.

Jewel said...

My dear Sarah,
I am truly grateful to have your example in my life. Thank you for sharing--in such real, tangible terms, what you are going through and, just as importantly, what keeps you going. It is inspiring to me and helps me have hope.

Michelle J. said...

Sarah, you are such an adorable person! I love your books and would love to read more (but I can wait however long it takes). I really appreciate cute, clean books that I can recommend to others. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!


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