In theory, I love the concept of failure. Perfection leaves me cold. Where there is a trail of untarnished perfection, you are often likely to find a life devoid of risk.
In theory, I know that failure shouldn’t be something to be afraid of.
And then there is the reality.
I spent a large portion of my first thirteen years writing stories. Up until that point I was a consistent child – all I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’ was write. And then for some reason, I stopped. My pen didn’t touch a page for fifteen years.
On a silent retreat 18 months ago I realised that writing is still at the heart of who I am. I find it frustrating and incredibly difficult at times, but I love it and know that without it there is a part of me that isn’t being expressed.
I decided to take it up again and wrote the first few chapters of a book. In the words of Ernest Hemingway “The first draft of anything is shit.” And it really was. I became so overwhelmed by the possibility of writing an entire first draft that…well, could have been written by a ten year old on a sugar-high, that I gave up half way through chapter five.
In my head I’m a great novelist. If I actually try it out in the real world, I may find out that I’m not. It’s hard to keep fooling yourself when the harsh glare of your failure informs you otherwise. Dreaming, rather than actually trying, is a safe bet because you can control the outcome and avoid falling short of your own self-belief.
This year I’m going to try to write a book. The end result might be the literary equivalent of a drunk penguin on a unicycle, but my fear will just have to deal with it. This is happening.