Thursday, 9 June 2016

Finding Success in Failure

Life is full of little ups and downs. You win some, you lose some. And other cliches as well.

Writing is the same.

Some days the words come easy and some days it's like pulling your own teeth out. The trick is getting to the point where the former is more common than the latter. You need to be able to produce content on the regular, reliably, if you want to produce any kind of body of work.

And if your ability to keep a roof over your head and food on the table relies on your writing, well, it's even more important. Mine doesn't, yet. That's the ultimate aim though, so a lot of the time I try to act like it does.

I've found that doing extreme writing challenges like NaNoWriMo really help my output. There's something about the extra accountability, the public nature of it and the mass cheering on that happens that really helps be get stuff done. I've done three successful Camp NaNos and one successful main NaNo so far with more planned in the future.

Spurred on by my success at NaNo, this year I decided to attempt a couple of other writing challenges. In March I joined in with a challenge to write a videogame and in May I tried Story-a-Day. Did I succeed at either of them? No.

I'm not sure whether it's because those challenges lack the comprehensive progress tools of NaNoWriMo or if it was because no one else around me was really doing them, but I failed. I did not write a game in March and I did not write a story a day in May.

But did I really fail?

No, I don't think so.

I planned to write a choose your own adventure game in Twine for March's challenge and got very little done. However, I did start getting to grips with Twine, which is something I'd not really tried before. And while March was a bust the project lives on. In fact, I've written more words on it this month than I managed in March. And it's fun. Seriously fun.

So was that a failure? No.

I didn't manage to write a story every day in May either, but I did manage to write stories some of the days. I have more stories finished than I did at the beginning of the month, which in my book is always a win.

When you set yourself challenges like that it can be tempting to view missing the target as an abject failure, but I don't see it like that.

Did I learn something new? Yes.

Did I get something written? Yes.

Did I end up with more words at the end of the month than I had at the beginning? Yes.

Then as far as I'm concerned it was a rousing success. And as a bonus, I have a better idea of my strengths and weaknesses. I know what sort of challenges are best for me, which ones I can get the shiny certificate for, and that feeds back into my process.

It's Camp NaNoWriMo again in July and I plan to not only participate but win. Same in November. But as long as I'm writing, I'm winning anyway.

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