I like to think of my blog as a dear diary to my kids; a place where they will one day come (if this type of space even still exists in a few years) to learn more about why their mom did the things she did, how she felt about decisions, what she struggled with, and how much she loved them (even when, I’m sure, it seems I’m crazy and not being the kind of parent they want me to be). Here’s another life lesson from me to them:
I have spent my life pretty good at everything I have set my mind to.
I re-wrote that first sentence many times, but in the end I just decided to let it be what it is- I have spent my life pretty good at everything I have set my mind to.
The truth is that I haven’t had a huge amount of failure. I fear failure. I run from the possibility of failure.
I was always excellent at school; I have always been a good writer and had a creative mind; I didn’t like math but I wasn’t bad at it; I could give a presentation on a moment’s notice like no one’s business; I got great grades in university and I loved my courses (it’s getting nerdy, right?); I made friends; I had boyfriends; I moved to a new province by myself post-university and somehow managed to find my way; I’ve been able to pick and choose my job and pleasure/passion projects with ease. With the glaring exception of sports (which I do not play AT ALL because I know I won’t be successful ever- seriously, walking is my sport), I have succeeded.
But then I had kids. And suddenly I wasn’t so sure if I was good at anything at all anymore.
Parenthood presented me with failure after failure in a way that was so foreign to me that I felt like I was unable to function – the fear was so paralyzing. And it’s safe to say I didn’t handle it well.
The first thing I did, post-parenthood failure, was leave a career I was good at (teaching) for a career with a high, high failure rate (writing, and later television, and then back to writing).
When I made the decision to leave teaching and pursue my ridiculous pipe dream of working – MAKING MONEY – as a writer I was, once again, paralyzed by fear of failure.
Nonetheless, spurred on by my newfound feelings of failure thanks to parenthood, I set out to reinvent myself as a writer.
And guess what? I was a flop.
I started this blog, I wrote almost daily, I craved the keyboard- and nothing happened.
I pitched and pitched and pitched stories- and nothing happened.
I spent months looking at my inbox with anticipation, waiting for that “you are a genius writer and you deserve a book deal and your own magazine” email- and nothing happened.
I felt like an absolute failure.
I kicked myself for leaving a career I was good at for something I was obviously so brutal at.
I cried. A LOT.
But then – as is often the case, isn’t it? – I had nuggets and glimpses of possible success. A story picked up here, an editor’s interest expressed there, my name in print just enough times to make me hang on to hope.
It took almost two years before I would consider myself even remotely successful. Even once I had some success and name recognition, I found I still wasn’t good enough. I still failed more than I succeeded. I got rejected and was told I wasn’t good enough more than I was ever patted on the back. Editors still turned me down (and often), (many) people expressed a dislike of my writing style, and I still (regularly) questioned if I was cut out for the writing life.
After years of struggling to prove myself and make my writing dreams happen, I allowed all the doubt and fear of (even more) failure to fill in the crevices and cracks of my heart until I started to hate the clacking of the keyboard and the ebs and flows of creativity. I dreaded trying to meet a deadline and I stopped pitching story ideas to editors completely.
I did what any sane 30-something mother of two would do and I all but stopped writing.
I pursued other passions. They were good passions that filled my heart and allowed me to be creative in a different way. I was on television. I found jobs that were light and fun. But after a while, I realized all those other pursuits were just fill-ins because I had abandoned what I really loved to do; I was hiding from the fear and the possibility of failing at becoming a writer.
Fast forward to 2015.
It has taken a lot of soul searching to decide to go back to writing. I am approaching it in a different way this time- I am not making it my all or nothing and I am not hanging my hat on the possibility that I will write the next great children’s book or viral magazine article. I am not assuming that an editor or agent will read my blog and send me an email that BEGS me to move to NYC with my family to become a full time author. I am not waiting with baited breath after I send out article pitches.
I am being more gentle with myself. I’m reminding myself that I love to writing and it’s why I started on this road of certain failure in the first place. I am not counting hits on my blog or reading articles line by line to see how edited my printed piece is (they’re always edited, for what it’s worth). I am just writing and creating and letting myself get back into the headspace I need to be in.
And – the biggest of all – I’m coming to peace with the fact that I might fail.
Maybe I’ll find out I’m not that good at writing after all, or maybe I’ll find out I’m greater at writing than I ever dreamed, or (and this is most likely) I will discover that I am something in between.
But at least I’m back and trying to feed my true creative passion, one keystroke at a time.
If you’re anything like me and you’re struggling with finding that creative passion, set aside 20 minutes and watch this TED Talk from Elizabeth Gilbert. I must have watched this daily for two months after choosing to go back to writing this summer. Elizabeth talks about why it means to feel success and the biting sting of failure and how to find your elusive creative genius that lives within you – it might be just the medicine you need!