Monday, September 21, 2015

Fail Bigger

Post by Jenny

Last month, I confessed to watching a few too many episodes of American Ninja Warrior this summer. Well, full disclosure here: I didn’t see the error of my ways after that post. I just kept right on tuning in until the end of the season, which is thankfully pretty short. For those of you who have never seen the show, there are no actual ninjas (I know, bummer, right?), just a series of increasingly diabolical obstacle courses which require ninja-like speed, strength, and skill. The final challenge is a climb up Mt. Midoriyama—doubly disappointing in that a) it is not a real mountain but a rope climb, and b) it has nothing to do with that bright green melon liqueur.

Both men and women compete, but the men typically have more success, probably due to their different weight distribution, greater average muscle mass, and overall longer reach. One very notable exception is former NCAA Division 1 gymnast Kacy Catanzaro, a 4’11” dynamo with a 100-watt smile and legion of loyal fans.

To cut to the chase: at the Stage 1 Vegas Finals, the Mighty Kacy failed on the second obstacle. And it was a pretty epic fail, one that left the crowd open-mouthed in stunned silence. You’ve heard the saying “shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”? Well, sometimes you land in a cold pool of Ninja Fail Water. After I watched it, and Kacy’s tearful interview, I thought, well, I’ve failed at my share of things, but at least I’ve never failed that big in front of that many people.

That’s good, right?

Not necessarily.

Sure, YouTube has taught us that epic fails often happen to common-sense-challenged people with too much time (and beer) on their hands. But they also happen to really talented, hard-working people who set ambitious goals and then do their darndest to reach those goals. The bottom line, Ninja writer friends, is that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. Have you ever written something you really loved but couldn’t muster the courage to submit it because you didn’t want to face that “no thanks” email? And how is that working out for you? (I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t work at all.)

Failure can be scary and depressing, but it is flat-out one of the best teachers around. Start small if you have to, but make room for failure in your writing life. Once you do, it becomes easier to fail bigger and fail better, and pretty soon, you might not be failing at all.

How has failure helped you as a writer?


Patricia Stoltey said...

I may have an epic fail coming up. I finally submitted a novel I've been working on since 2005 because I couldn't let it go. After writing multiple versions of the same story, varying one character's point of view, and nearly writing the life out of the novel, I went back to version three and sent it in.

The next brutal splash into the ninja pool may be me. If so, I'll let you know if it helped me as a writer....or not.

Jenny said...

Good for you, Pat! I have a project I can't let go, either, so I may be right behind you :-)

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