Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Reflective Tuesdays: Failure

Failure – it's not a nice word, is it? It's a word I've struggled with for years. As a child, failing was not an option. One vivid memory I have is hiding in the bathroom, copying out words I got wrong in a spelling test. I was too ashamed to let my parents see that I had only got one word right in the entire test. Another memory was when I received a lower grade than expected for giving a speech in my English class. Horrified at being awarded a dreaded grade 3 (with grades ranging from 1 – 8), I insisted I be allowed to give the speech again. The teacher obviously sensed my desperation and gave my pitiful performance a grade 2. I sat down and breathed a sign of relief.

The point of these anecdotes is that I always have been afraid of failing. A tango partner to fear of failing is setting high standards for one's self. When I was praised for doing well, my eye would pick out the one piece of criticism. That is what I would remember over and above everything else.

At the grand old age of 27 I am tentatively trying to learn from failure. Rather than seeing it as a reflection of my character (which I'm sure many people are guilty of doing at least once in their lives), I try to see it as a learning curve. Fear of failure has kept me from doing basic things such as speaking up in meetings or trying a new approach to an old task. My inner daemon is still good at heaping on the guilt when I have an idea shot down in a meeting or no-one signed up for an event I had spent weeks preparing for.

Again Psychologies magazine has been a great help in this area. I'm still reluctant to pick up a self help book – perhaps it's because I (still) view admitting I need help as a sign of failure. However Psychologies has interviews with admirable women, fashion tips and a problem page so my self-doubting can perceived it as entertainment rather than self-improvement. Each month I'm reading small chunks of articles that are going towards building my self-esteem. Once I've worked through some of the exercises, I'll share them here.

Having an amplified sense of failure does not help when it comes to writing. Using statistics from Duotrope, one publication I recently submitted work to has a 3% acceptance rate. That leaves a staggering 97% of submissions that are rejected for a number of reasons. Despite the vast numbers of writing publications out there, not everyone gets work published. Does that mean they are all failures? No, it simply means that their work was not suitable for that particular issue. It is rare to get any critiques back from rejection letters – the volume of submissions means editors do not have the time to provide such as service. However, it does lift my spirit when I read a small tid bit of praise within a rejection letter. That is what I need to focus on, not the rejection itself.

In my next post, I'll talk about what I've learned through embracing failure.  

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Reflective Tuesdays

I'm thinking of trying something new. As I'm learning and growing to be (hopefully) a better person, I'd like the opportunity to record it somewhere. Perhaps my naval gazing thoughts might even help someone else out there.

Starting from next week, I will deliver a blog post on the theme of 'Reflective Tuesdays.' To be honest, who wants to reflect on anything on a Monday? Wednesdays might be taken up by another themed post and Thursday and Fridays are too close to the weekend. Be honest, who actually does anything on a Tuesday? It's a perfect opportunity to take stock of what's going on.

I'm looking forward to this and I hope you guys are too.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The wheels on the bus go round and round.

© Wandering Naval Gazer 

Looking back over this blog I noticed a recurring theme: I get the urge to write when I'm travelling by train. My new home means I can choose either a thirty minute train journey or a hour long bus journey to get to work. Way back at my first writing class in years (June 2009 for those interested) the tutor encouraged us to find a way to chip away at writing. One recommendation he made was to try and write whilst commuting. At the time I tried writing on the bus and all I was successful at was making my handwriting look even more messy than usual. It made me feel a little sick - the journey, not my handwriting.

Last week, I decided to throw a small notebook into my work bag. As the train clattered through the suburbs, I pulled out my pen and started to scribble down a story I had been tossing around in my head for some time. OK, the writing was not 'brilliant' but whose first draft is? Each morning last week I battled for a seat on the train, got my breath back and then opened my notebook to a new page. At the moment I'm working on a potential story to submit to this upcoming roller derby themed anthology. On Friday morning I started working on a piece for the current Write in for Writing's Sake  topic. The best time for me to write has been on the morning trek into work; strangely my brain seems to be rather awake before I've touched coffee.

On the return journey, I have been dipping my toe back into reading. Currently I am making my way through the magnificent Look At Me by Jennifer Egan on my Kindle. The equation is rather simple: if you want to write, you have to read. No wonder I could hardly pick up a pen when I was avoiding books. Last month, reading felt like too much hard work. Instead I channel hopped, filling my brain with whatever crap was being broadcast (apart from the Great British Bake Off which is allowed simply because it concerns a lot of sugar).

Some of you may remember my pancake person post . At the end of that post, I still had not decided which route I was going to take. However, I appear to unconsciously have made the choice to pursue writing. It is still one of my biggest regrets that I let my writing self slip away for ridiculous reasons (read: a boy paying me attention who turned out, in the end, not to be very nice) and my confidence took several knocks because of that. Anyway, enough of the pity party.

I am in the process of submitting my writing to various outlets using this nifty website called Duotrope. The site allows writers to search a vast database of publications that are looking for contributors. You can create an account which helps you track your submissions. In turn, Duotrope uses this data to create statistics for these publications such as submission acceptance stats and turnaround for feedback. There really seems to be a publication out there for almost every writer: the ocean is vast.

I'm rather looking forward to it :)