Fear of Failure

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photo credit: zetson via photopin cc

Here’s a universal truth for you: everyone fears failure. Here’s another universal truth for you: failure is inevitable. I believe those two truths are responsible for more people not pursuing their dreams, writing or otherwise, than almost anything else.

We fear failure, rightly, because it’s emotionally difficult. Those sloppy, ill-considered, early attempts at something new don’t seem to measure up. We look at our heroes, compare our work to theirs and are struck by shame or inadequacy. We just aren’t good enough. We’ll never be that good. What the hell were we thinking even trying this new thing?

That negative self-talk leads to one inevitable conclusion. Go back to what you know. Go back to what you’re good at and never try something new again.

Of course, there is also the inevitability of failure. We go into most new things cognizant that we probably won’t succeed the first time or the second or probably even the ninth or tenth times we try. That inevitability paralyzes us because we also know, going in, that we’re going to feel like crap when we do inevitably fail.

The thing about failure is that it’s largely a matter of perspective. The first novel I tried to write…in point of fact, the first three novels I tried to write were awful. I’m talking awful on an epic scale. Aside from a few concept level things that I cannibalized for other works, there was almost nothing redeeming about those books. By my current standards, those novels were failures. The operative phrase in that last sentence is “by my current standards.”

At the time, I was writing as well as I could. From my perspective, then, those abandoned attempts at novel writing were not failures. The words I put on the page were trite, contrived, pretentious, clichéd and derivative words, but no more so than any other novice writer cutting his or her teeth. They were not failures, but learning experiences. Incidentally, if you can avoid being self-critical, all failures are learning experiences in the long run.

Since I took my first swing at novel writing, I’ve had a lot of practice at writing. If I had to take guess, I’d say a couple million words worth of practice. Practice taught me a lot. Study of the craft hasn’t hurt either. I’ve probably read tens of millions of words in the intervening years, which was a learning exercise in itself, as well as reading some excellent and not-so-excellent guides on craft. All of that has given me a very different view of what comprises good writing.

Here’s another truth, the sting of failure fades. It doesn’t necessarily fade quickly, but it does fade. The sting of regret, on the other hand, lasts for a lifetime.

Link Roundup – Tech and Software

photo credit: EssjayNZ via photopin cc

photo credit: EssjayNZ via photopin cc

As a writer in the Age of the Internet, you have two choices. You can either hire/beg someone knowledgeable to handle all of your technical/software/website issues – a perfectly valid and even wise course of action – or you become tech savvy. Of course, as a writer, the lion’s share of your time is probably spent on writing, not picking apart the pros and cons of the latest WordPress update or theme. So, here are some resources that I found helpful in navigating the brave new world of technology and software.

WordPress Hacks – How To: Move Your WordPress Blog to a New Domain

The info in this one is getting a touch dated, but I found it invaluable for getting started when I moved my blog from one domain to another about a year ago.

SiteGround: cPanel Tutorial

If you’re running your own website, there is a good chance you’ve been confronted with cPanel. It’s one of the major interfaces that hosting providers use to simplify website management for customers. cPanel can be daunting at first glance, but the tutorials found at SiteGround walk you through most of the essential functions.

Codecademy

Sometimes your website does weird things and you wish you knew how to fix it. Well, that’s what Codecademy is all about. It offers free training on HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Python, Ruby and PHP. Odds are good that whatever problem you’re dealing with is rooted in one of those languages. Even if you aren’t interested in becoming an expert programmer, understanding the basics of HTML and CSS will let you deal with a lot of the website issues you’re likely to bump up against. Plus, the courses cater to the rank novice.

Copyscape – Plagiarism Checker

Even the most honest writer can trip over the line into plagiarism and never even know it. With so much written content in the world, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up with sufficiently similar phraseology to trigger a plagiarism alert at some point. Copyscape is the go-to plagiarism checker for pretty much anyone buying content from freelance writers with the intention of publishing it online. It is a paid service, but remarkably cost effective at 5-cents per scan. That nickel is some of the cheapest peace of mind I’ve ever bought.

Write or Die

When it’s hardcore, do-or-die, you must get the words on the page this instant and keep at it until you’re done time, there is no substitute for Write or Die. When set to “consequence mode,” this little bit of software will literally start deleting your words, which means you have to get it down on the page (or screen) without stopping for pesky typos or to polish that awkward sentence. This is not for the faint of heart. If you’re ready to step up to kamikaze writing, though, it’s absolutely worth the $20.

There you have it, five of the most useful tech and software resources I’ve run across in my years as a writer.

Is there a tech or software resource you’ve found especially helpful? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!