We all fail at some point in life. Growing up, and even now as college students, our life is full of failures. Thinking of a coming-of-age event we can all relate to is learning how to ride a bike. Taking those training wheels off can be a horrifying moment, but reading a book or writing an essay about bike riding will not make the transition any easier. We get on the bike and try to find our balance. We fall down, we scrape our knees, but we all get back up and try again. We all learn from our failure, to find balance on the next go, and continue to get up and try again until that skill is learned.
Another maturing occasion most people can relate to is the terrifying escapade of learning how to parallel park. We know that one portion of the test makes everyone fail, so we practice but do not practice by reading or searching the internet for answers. We get in the car with our practicing buddy and try until we get that skill down to a tee. Funny thing is, as soon as I arrived at my driving test center and got in the car to do my driving, I completely forgot all the practicing I had previously done on parallel parking. I clearly failed my first time parallel parking. That did not stop me from going back to practicing parallel parking. Then to return to get my driver’s license.
Thinking way back to when we were little, and we were still learning things. We all failed at reading and writing. We are not born out of the womb with a pencil in our hands, brains full of information to record. As much as we would like to think writing is our natural talent and that we did not fail in our learning to write, we are vastly wrong. Failure is a necessary part of the writing process that should be sought out to reach creativity, risky thinking, and growth within our writing. There is no growth or courage to continue if there is no failure.
At this point, you are probably wondering: how is failure awesome? Why is it necessary to fail? Failure is awesome because so many amazing things come from failure. I recently had to look up the difference between failing and making a mistake; the conclusion is, there is no difference. We see failure as such a bad thing that making a mistake seems insignificant. We use things every day that come from failure and do not realize. Failure is the culture of innovation, meaning innovation and creative thinking come from failure. Therefore, failure is needed to innovate.
Writing is clearly a process that takes time and is not something we learn overnight. It takes countless hours and years to hone the skill of writing. That being said, there are failures within learning to write that no one acknowledges. Alison Carr states, “Writing is learned slowly, over a long period of time, and with much difficulty, and anybody who says otherwise is lying or delusional or both.” The writing process is full of messiness and failures. Every time we write a sentence and then go back and delete or rewrite that sentence is considered a failure, a mess that needs some fixing. But when we do that, we are creating a better piece of writing—a better story to tell. When we fail, it makes our brains think of a new approach. “How can I make this better?” Failure helps us proceed within the writing process. Carr has a great way of putting it,
“We start a draft; we get frustrated or stuck or side-tracked, or we discover halfway through that we’re actually interested in something else. We move to a clean sheet of paper or a fresh document and start again. And the process continues until we’ve made something cohesive, something that works. We scholars know this not only because we’ve researched it, but because we are writers ourselves, and we spend a great deal of time with people struggling to improve their writing.”
We know from our own experience that writing is not easy. It is not a one-way process. We write our thoughts that often do not make complete sense, or the ideas within the writing are scattered. But we fail, and we go back to that piece of writing and fix what needs to be fixed to get decent writing.
Clearly, writing is a messy process, but failure is a massive portion of success within writing. So get those ideas onto paper and work with what you have, not fearing the rejection or failure attached to the process. If we pass that fear, there is no restriction on how much creativity or risky thinking we can bring to writing.
History of Failure
Why is it that we see failing as being this awful catastrophe? We often think that failure shouldn’t happen to those that have such courage to do something. Wrong. Failure should be accepted and a climax point within the journey of learning or doing something. Those that fail achieve excellent writing and success from their failure.
Countless writers have failed but are still known for their fantastic writing abilities. Consider an example from your younger days, Dr. Seuss is exceptionally known for his rhymes and wacky illustrations within his books. Dr. Seuss was rejected by 27 publishers and was on his way home to burn the writing he had worked hard to put together. But, he ran into an old friend who helped him create over 60 children’s books and sell over 8 million copies of Green Eggs and Ham. Another successful person many people know and even adore is Walt Disney. Although he might not be the typical writer we would think of, he has written countless stories. However, Walt Disney failed differently as within creating his first cartoon company (Walt’s Studio), he ended up filing bankrupt selling his camera to follow his dreams in motion picture. Not catching a break, his friends that were also animators, left him for the competitor company not long after he started his business. If he had stopped when he failed, or his friends left his studio, we would not have the Disney we all love today. Lastly, there is the infamous Stephen King. As novelist Stephen King repeatedly speaks about his impressively large stack of rejection slips before Carrie was finally picked up, therefore launching his illustrious career. King was persistent and scared of failing, even though it has made him a fantastic writer.
Although failing is quite often referred to as a bad thing and something that should never happen, failure should be rejoiced. It should be recognized and told by those that have succeeded from that failure -moving past the fear of failure and acknowledging the greatness that can come from it can result in growth. There are so many different people who have failed in writing and in general life that have come to great success.
Failure is Necessary
As many of us are just beginning our journey in college, we face many challenges and failures ahead of us. That should not be a scary statement to make. Failure should be a normalized process in life. We must fail in order to grow. To get up and try again. Failure makes us resilient, whether it be in life in general or within our writing journey. Our brains are wired to fail, to make mistakes.
Writing is a skill that takes a tremendous amount of time to learn and even to develop a good writing piece. It is a complicated process that is not linear. Carr states, “it is foolish to imagine writing as a discrete and stable skill that can be mastered, a mindset that unfortunately dominates much writing instruction.” It is okay to fail. The following steps you decide to take are the ones that really count. You can fear failure and not express your thinking fully, or you can fail and express the risky thinking or creativity needed to make a great writing piece. Taking time to think about your failures is just part of the process.
As students, we should not fear failure in itself nor the consequences often associated with failing. Many of us pride ourselves on grades and the pressure to keep a satisfactory academic progress status. We know failing can put a damper on those grades, and often we “play it safe” when it comes to assignments. There is no growth if we continue to “play it safe” and worry about our grades more than we do our thoughts. It is like failing a test; yes, it is an awful feeling, and we see that grade drop, but we take that knowledge and study harder for the next test. We learn from what we did to create a new way to go about things. Writing is the same. We write our jumbled thoughts and then go back to create something better. We get that grade back as if it determines whether or not we should continue writing. The answer is yes; always continue writing. Take those comments, if any are given, and rework the piece to make it ten times better. Ask others to read your work once you have revised, and the next time you write, you will also be thinking about those comments and contributing that knowledge to the next writing assignment. Fear of failure will not allow growth and acknowledgment of better thinking.