When You’ve Failed Yourself

photo-1429051781835-9f2c0a9df6e4I’ll be the first to admit that I have not written nearly as much as I would have liked to in the past year. New and more hectic life rhythms, a maddening case of writers block, more pressing writing projects—oh don’t worry, I’ve had excuses.

I just thought I’d be closer to finished with this novel than I am.

I can go ’round and ’round beating myself up, but that doesn’t put more words on the page. Actually, I found it was making it worse. I would berate myself for not making the time or procrastinating when I had the time. Once I was actually writing, I would be extra critical of what I had put down.

I was getting no where.

When you have failed yourself, it’s so easy to retreat further and further into yourself. It’s easy to avoid the tension or the vulnerability by just not doing. And that’s where I was at.

I had to learn to fight not only for myself, but for my work. And I had to fight dirty. This was not a chance to give up. This was a chance to power up.

My previous process had me doing light edits as I went. When I was producing lots of work at a quick rate, that worked well. I was able to clean enough as I went to not have to do heavy lifting during the actual editing process.

Once I was not producing chapters very quickly, it became difficult to ignore some things and easy to just skip straight to heavy edits. I was bogged down and nothing was good enough.

I had to learn to be okay with the mess. To promise myself I could sit down and fix it—but later. I just had to put my head down and keep rolling.

I also had to force myself to write.

There’s a saying that returning to a creative project after a while is like entering a cage with a lion. You need to climb inside and tame the animal. The more often you do it, the less intimidating it will be. The less often you do it, the more scared you will be.

In the process of beating myself up, I had begun to avoid my work. I finally had to suck it up and climb in the den to tame the beast. I had to sit myself down in a chair and make myself write 200 words before I could leave. Slowly, I was able to up that word count until I no longer had to force myself.

When you’ve failed yourself, it seems so easy to give into the failure altogether. But this is a battle cry, my friend! You may have failed yourself yesterday, but today is a new day. It’s time to pick up and carry on.

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