Fall Down Nine Times, Get Up Ten
By the time I post this, I will have missed a writing deadline. Here’s what I learned.
I am only human. I am full of excuses. Even if there were enough hours in the day, I probably wouldn’t have made it on time.
There is something about a ticking clock that freezes me. I work best under pressure, it’s true, but where do we draw the line? I needed to finish my manuscript by February 28, and I didn’t. I found myself at 55,000 words, cruising along steadily, only to be smashed by a million unwoven plot threads. It was like holding a hundred balloon strings on a windy day.
I faced a choice. I could forge ahead and write another 20,000-30,000 words that would need heavy editing. Or, I could stop, reassess, and make the changes now, forgoing my deadline. As much as I want to be superwoman, I had to take a step back.
Then, knowing what needed to be done and how much rewriting I needed (after the rewriting I was already doing), I found myself stuck again. This time by a different feeling: Guilt.
Why am I not the person who writes 30,000 words in a weekend? Why am I not the person who writes flawlessly the first time? (And honestly, WHO are these people, and what voodoo magic do they possess?) Why do I suck? Why, why, WHY?
As if I don’t have enough things in my life to worry about, I proceeded to beat myself up for not being creative in exactly the right way to instantaneously achieve my dreams. (Who the heck do I think I am, anyway?) Creativity it tough. And fickle. Sometimes I sit, and brilliance comes from my fingers. Other times, I write utter garbage. Problem is, I can’t predict when that will happen. So, I sit, and I hope.
I knew I wouldn’t make my deadline sometime last week. Still, I pushed forward, hoping against hope my garbage would turn to brilliance simply because it was on the page. How wrong I was. I spent the last few days deleting and cutting and pasting, salvaging what can be salvaged, and rewriting the rest. I’m still at 55,000 words, but you know what I no longer feel? Guilty. I feel accomplished.
Somewhere along the way, I made a conscious decision to forgive myself. Not only for missing my deadline, but for being less than perfect. And then I got to work.
I love writing, but sometimes it doesn’t love me back. Sometimes it means late nights and rejection and tears. Sometimes it means hating myself and every word I’ve ever written. Other times, it means losing myself for hours in a manuscript I’ve poured my heart and soul into.
But no part has ever been perfect, including the person sitting at this laptop.
So, this week, as I watch my deadline come and go, I’ll sit myself right back here at my laptop and chip away at my manuscript. Does the failure hurt? Of course it does. But this too shall pass, and failure is just another learning experience.
Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes you need to fail, to fall, but it’s the getting back up that matters.
Kacey Vanderkarr writes about brave teenagers and unfortunate situations. Her short story, “Distraction,” is featured in NYC’s Subway Library and the inaugural issue of Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. By day, Kacey is a sonographer, coffee addict, and proud member of SCBWI and the Flint Area Writers group. @kacimari