Friday, May 6, 2011

What failing has taught me

I originally titled this post 'What failure has taught me'. I changed it because, in my mind (and this is just my thoughts, not a literal definition!), 'Failure' is what you are, whilst 'failing' is what you did. To put it another way: When Diva and Blue were little, if one did something daft and the other called her 'stupid' I would always correct them by saying 'what she did was stupid but she isn't stupid'. It took a while for them to understand what I meant but they got there eventually. Of course these days they call each other far worse but unless there are actual offensive and/or swearwords involved I let them get on with it. Indeed, some insults that teenagers come up with can be quite inventive. It was important to me that they learned the difference between what a person is and what they do. I grew up being told often that I was stupid and that sense of failure never quite leaves you. Thankfully that's not something that affects my girls.

I still haven't read the final draft I submitted to the competition. I will one day because the changes that Techno suggested are good ones and I think it could turn out to be a great short story. I'm just not ready yet. The whole experience has taught me something important though and it's that if I'm not totally convinced that there is nothing I can do to improve my story then I'm not going to submit it anywhere. Of course that's different to being convinced that the story is perfect, but I'm pretty sure you understand what I mean. One of the many reasons that I write is because it makes me feel good. Why do I want to replace that with a feeling that I let myself down? The old adage is true 'You never get a second chance to create a first impression'. The first impression I gave the people judging this competition (in my opinion, I haven't actually asked them, obviously!) is that whilst I might have some talent as a storyteller I fail in the execution of detail and presentation. This last is particularly annoying as the one thing I pride myself on is presentation. It's the one area where I have total control. I can't guarantee that someone will like my work but I can guarantee that it's spelt correctly and that I've used words that mean what I think they mean (wear and where, anybody?).

I'm very lucky in that the people who now have this less than stellar impression of me are people who (hopefully) I'm not going to come across again in the course of my writing career – unless of course I go to work for Alibi TV in which case I'll just change my name – but imagine that was an editor, or agent. Realistically, they wouldn't remember me if I chose to send them something in six months time, but the fact is I would always wonder and because of that I probably wouldn't send them anything. This industry is difficult enough without shooting yourself in the foot.

I'm not a failure, I failed. I'll fail again. Next time, I won't be the one who engineers it.

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