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On Failure.

Once upon a time, I yodeled proclamations across the vastness of the internet — pronouncements about determination and accountability and about being a writer. As a result, over the last year I have started — and stopped — writing three very different novels.

And that’s not counting the other quick-jot new plot notes, the scribbled introductions, the glimpses behind the sweaty folds of an undeveloped idea. No, these were beefy endeavors, one nearly three-quarters the length of an average fictional tale, and each a painful passing of some kind of lumpy constipation — a necessary process for tapping back into the free-flow of creativity I enjoyed without struggle as a kid.

Why is it, do you think, that as we transition into adulthood, some of us lose our inherent ability to indulge in indolence and bask in the limitless warmth of wild and precious expression, untamed?

We turn, instead, to judgement. To guilt. To self-critiquing in the worst kind of way. We abuse our psyches more than any negligent parent, misguided educator, or high school bully ever dreamt. We create our own blocks and build our own barricades.

We do this to ourselves.

And that is insane.

When I am at my lowest, my thoughts run acidic. They call me a fool, a failure, and I become what I think, because in that moment I identify with my pain. Until I understand what I’m allowing, my pain becomes who I am. I crumple to the floor and focus on my lacks — my lack of creativity, of career, of kids– and I wonder about the point. Of love, of life, of anything, really, because none of it feels real. I wonder if I should consider having a child to satiate the simple curiosity of whether that’s the one thing I’m maybe meant to do right.

But then maybe not.

When I talk to people, I only see the facade — the personality they’ve created to face the world or just me in particular at that moment in time, and I feel the isolation I’ve created in my head.

And I wonder —

If someone were to pick us up in one hand and crack us hard against the lip of a bowl, like an egg, letting our smooth yellow yolk slip away from its shell and separate from the slick suspension of goopy translucent white — that make-believe mess of carefully crafted persona — so we’re laid bare in the bowl, shining and gold, who, then, would we be?

FreeImages.com/Justus Kindermann
FreeImages.com/Justus Kindermann

I don’t know, but I would like to find out. And so I will try again, and again, until frankly I do.

Katie

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Comments

Elaine, aka RHome410
Reply

Haha… It seems like I’ve read several books that were 3/4 of a good story… So you are not alone in hitting a bump in the road at that point, but maybe more unique in caring that your novels exceed that! Can’t wait to read one.

The problem with the free-flowing, wild expression we had as kids, is that we no longer have such an accepting peer audience. The novel equivalent of a drawing that included a stick figure jumping rope, a giant blue bunny, and a rainbow might be hard to follow. ;-) It’s hard to ‘not care’ about what others think, when you need them to like it in order to publish and sell anything. One of life’s infinite number of Catch 22s. Saying the book or artwork is ‘for ourselves, and only we have to like it’ is a nice idea…

I recently read a book called ‘Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done,’ which addresses similar struggles to what you are here. It’s geared toward creative types, which pretty much means it applies to everyone (because it’s only the stupid monkey that keeps some people from believing they are creative), and was a fun and enlightening read. One of those books I want to give to everyone.

My shell is too often shaken in raising certain teens, as a result of another Catch 22… the idea of parental ‘responsibility’ while having no real control. I’m afraid my yolk would be found almost lacking, broken and spread thin, stuck to the pieces of smashed shell. :-p

But what I enjoy about you is how you seem to more freely show us your beautiful yolk. I am a color-inside-the-lines person, and I appreciate how you aren’t bound so tightly. You are an encouraging example of “She believed she could, so she did.”

Katie
Reply

Hey Elaine! It’s good to hear from you and I love this thoughtful comment. You’re so right that in some respects we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard in our finished product as adults, but I still find I’m missing that raw connection to the creative flow — it has to be part of the process, if it’s going to be a part of the result. THAT is what I’d like to find again. I can judge it when it’s done. :)

I will definitely check out that book! Someone else suggested another book in the Facebook conversation about this post. It’s great to hear what has resonated with others.

Your last comment nearly brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, sincerely. Your yolk is not lacking in the slightest — it’s whole and it’s beautiful. I hope you know that.

Dave
Reply

Dear daughter, you think too much.

Your loving father.

Katie
Reply

Dear Father,

Yes, yes I do. ;)

CC
Reply

You titled this entry, “On Failure…”, but I fail to see where you have failed (haha!) You’re not dead yet!

Just from this post alone, one can see the beacon of your talent and writing skills shining brightly! Okay, funny stuff aside, you truly have it in you, Katie. I know you do.

I just saw something a friend posted on FB this morning: The biggest wall you’ve got to climb is the one you build in your mind. Listen to your daddy! ;)

Katie
Reply

You are awesome for this encouragement — thank you! Haha not dead yet… I love that. :)

Colleen Brynn
Reply

I would argue you haven’t failed. :)
You are insanely gifted, keep those fingers tapping away. Let your brain spin!

Katie
Reply

Unnecessary adverb! Unnecessary adverb! (Ha, couldn’t help myself. ;) ) Thank you, dear!

Stephanie
Reply

Ah, the inner critic. Bind her, gag her, and chuck her down a well. She serves no valuable purpose unless you are evil or something, which I don’t think you are.

There’s a quote out there about comparison being the root of misery. Or that’s the gist, anyway. I paraphrase and can’t be bothered to look it up. Anyway, while I can see that there can be validity to that, I think it might be assuming that people are comparing themselves to the wrong people. Because I can tell you, comparison can also make you feel pretty damn smug.

I think you should compare yourself to a) all those people who talk about writing books and never even start, and b) all those people who do write books that are utter rubbish. Why? Because you, my friend, have written most of three books. So you’re already ahead.

And I know you said you’ve abandoned them, but I think you should finish them. Maybe they aren’t perfect. I don’t know. I haven’t read them. But they are things that you thought about and worked on, and at the very least, if you finish them, you will be able to read them when you are old and recognize who you were when you wrote them. Better though, would be if you self-publish them and give them to everyone you meet. And maybe they’ll recognize something of themselves in them too. (I think they will, actually.) That would be fun.

Katie
Reply

Love it. I definitely need to gag my critic. At least until I make it through a damn draft!

But that’s a big fat NO on the self-publishing of the first three. I said they were long, but they’re definitely not done. Or good. Hah!

Andi
Reply

We’ve all got one of those little devils inside of us. My hubby is always saying to write a book and I say, “about what” everything has already been written about, I’ve got nothing to say that’s unique” he scoffs but I have yet to sit down myself and write the book, any book. I’ve got ideas but they are quickly abandoned, so I say bravo to having gotten as far as you have with 3! I will read any of them when you are ready!

Katie
Reply

Aw, thanks! And you’re right — everything’s been written already. I’m told accepting that fact is the first step to starting. ;)

Travel North Peru
Reply

I think you are far too critical with yourself!! You are having a successful blog, people enjoy reading you and giving you encouraging comments.
Don’t be that hard. Put your project aside for a while, and the motivation and inspiration will come back eventually. And if it doesn’t, well, you’ll do something different.
Continue as you do. Cheers :)

Katie
Reply

Ha, will do! Thanks for the encouragement and advice. :)

Juan F. Diaz
Reply

Hi Katie! This is an awesome post. I think we’re all struggling one way or another (even if it doesn’t show). I wonder if we could enjoy the happy moments without the struggling moments :)

Katie
Reply

Hey Juan, I think you have a good point. Life is full of peaks and valley’s, and it’s important we see the beauty in both. :)

Katie
Reply

Peg, THANK YOU! I will watch this for sure. It sounds fascinating! (And might help me out of my rut. ;) )

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