03 December 2010 ~ 3 Comments

Failure is the new success

Some of you, I’m sure, have been waiting to hear about the results of my NaNoWriMo undertaking. I basically finished up the “My name is Loco” series and put my blogging on hold to crank out the Great American Novel.

50000 words in thirty days.

Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

Bad news first.

I failed…miserably. I cranked out about 14000 words and then suffered a setback from which I couldn’t recover in time to finish. A self-inflicted setback (as, let’s face it, most are.)

I feel bad. I let myself down. I let you guys down. I let the readers of the world, who I’m sure were lined up at Barnes & Nobles or had their fingers poised atop the “Pay Now” button on Amazon just waiting for the release.

Please accept my humble apologies, and allow me to explain (yeah I know, excuses are like ass holes. We all got one.)

I didn’t realize why I’d failed, at first.

I had a great idea, rich with potential. Enough fertile possibilities, enough raw energy, to keep me hammering away at the keys for days and nights on end, happy as a pig in shit. I didn’t so much have an outline as I had a premise, part of a plot, part of a sub plot, a beginning, middle and ending. More than enough to pull together 50000 words into a splendid rough draft, which is about the best one can expect from a novel written in 30 days. Yep, I had realistic goals, too.

I had it all. And for one week -the second week- of November I was writing like a man who knew he had it all.

It’s a wonderful feeling. Euphoria. Words were  just flying outta me. Funny stuff, profound stuff, clever stuff…even silly, useless, and off-the-wall stuff I knew wouldn’t make the final cut. I let it all out.

So, how did I fail? What happened?

The other day I wrote a post about what a rough day I’d had. That day, I kept asking myself why I was feeling especially sensitive to the same shit I see every day. I mean, nothing extraordinarily offensive happened that day. It was just typical every day Japanese bullshit. So, why was I so uptight, I asked myself.

That rough day, by the way, was December 1, hours after the November 30 midnight deadline when my failure had become official. 

I wasn’t walking around thinking about my failure that day, though. I mean, I had stopped even attempting to meet the deadline almost a full week earlier. So, in my heart, my failure had already occurred. 

But, it must have been in my head all day, like some kind of radiation spill in my mind poisoning all my other thoughts, weakening my defenses, making me view my every day life through a spectrum of defeat. My visions of returning home an unabashed success dashed, replaced by one of a prodigal son with a minimal ability to speak a dying language and spin tales of the dying culture of a cowardly people who won’t even deign to piss in the urinal beside his.

Yeah, I was feeling wretched.

Amid this gloom, I realized something, though. I’d made a crucial mistake.

…and here comes the good news! (thank goodness, right?)

Up til and during the first week of NaNoWriMo, I spoke with several trusted friends about my ideas for this project. Friends whose advise I value highly. And, they each gave me feedback on my ideas. Their feedback helped me to shape the grand idea I described above. By the end of the first week I was set and off to the races. Ideas flowing from me like piss during an all night karaoke session.

It took a few days before I ran into any obstacles. Surmountable obstacles, mind you, but obstacles nonetheless. I negotiated the first couple, and gained confidence with each negotiation.

I can do this! Yeah!

Then, two weeks into NaNoWriMo, I got a call from a friend of mine in New York. 

This is a very close friend. An ex-girlfriend, actually, and one of the smartest people that I know, bar none. She is a wealth of sound advice and a genius at dispensing it. She is a connoisseur of the fine and dying art of effective communication. She is an authority on any number of topics, and my novel idea’s theme was one of these topics.

My god, I thought. How the hell did I forget to get in touch with her before setting out on this journey? So, naturally, I ran my idea by her and…

Naturally…she hated it.

She trashed it! She said it disgusted her and that it was stories like mine that diminished the seriousness of  issues like the one I thought I was tackling in a significant way.

She said all of this the way Kofi Annan  might have, of course, with a great deal of diplomatic polish.

And, all that lovely confidence shot out of me like entrails out of road kill when a 18-wheeler coasts over it.

So, what was the good news, you’re asking yourself.

Well, I learned a very valuable lesson. Priceless, even: Don’t ask for or take advice once you begin a project- especially from a person whose advice you feel is valuable or crucial. Get it upfront or wait. They’ll be time enough for that once you’ve at least completed  your rough draft.

And, as an addendum: Don’t value other people’s advice more than your own! That’s a recipe for disaster. They may be smarter than you, or more successful than you, and still be wrong at the same time.

Anyway, I’m grateful that I have learned these lessons. I’m not accustomed to writing longer works. It’s been a while. There’s a lot of time to talk between chapters. I have to learn to refrain from doing so.

When I write posts for my blog, I can usually knock them out in a couple of hours. I might tweak it over the course of a day, at most. And, I rarely get advice upfront. I go on my intelligence, experience and gut feeling / intuition usually and have been fairly successful. And when I get criticism after the fact, whether positive or negative, I take it for what it’s worth.

I just have to believe in myself more.

I’m going to finish this project. I just have to pick my face up, brush my ego off, and get back to work on it!

Loco

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