Failure is good. Failure is great even. Sometimes we need failure to remind us that not everything is going to work out how we want it to.
I recently failed. I failed miserably. I didn’t want to admit it at first. I didn’t want to own up to my failure because I have way too much pride, but I couldn’t deny it. I had fallen flat on my face. I had fallen flat on my face and scraped my knees on the way down.
It was a story for a class. It was a story I was assigned. I did not pick it. It was a story that was more challenging than some of the other assignments my classmates got. It was about a subject I knew absolutely nothing about.
From the moment my professor handed me the assignment sheet I was annoyed. I have a hard time being told what to do as it is (curse this attitude of mine), so being given a story with a much bigger word count than my classmates’ stories that was about something very complicated and alien to me really set me off from the very beginning.
I have an attitude most of the time. I have an even worse attitude when I’m under a lot of pressure. Senior year of college has been cruel to me. I’m working at a job I love at a magazine. I’m blogging about what I love. I’m writing a feature for the same class about sitcoms that I couldn’t be more in love with if I tried. But the rest of my free time is spent doing silly school assignments and papers that 21-year-old me is very much over. I’m ready to be done with school. I’m ready to be a full time journalist. And so the story I was given in class was the unfortunate casualty of all of my stress, annoyance, and fear of senior me hurling closer and closer to a breaking point.
I knew from the moment I started writing the first draft that it wasn’t good. At the time that made me frustrated. I didn’t now how to fix it. I didn’t know how to bull shit my way out. I was failing and I didn’t know why. I turned in probably the shittiest rough draft I’ve ever written. I was hoping the feedback I would receive for the final draft would steer me in the right direction. And it did, but man was it brutal.
Have you ever had your favorite professor tell you they’re disappointed in you? Let me tell you, it is not fun. But I knew he had every right to be pissed at me. I let myself not care and it showed up in every gaping hole in my rough draft. I knew I didn’t care. He knew I didn’t care. The people we were freelancing for knew I didn’t care.
Although I could make the argument that my story assignment was not clear to begin with (it wasn’t), I could have worked a lot harder. There is no one to blame but myself. And my attitude-ridden senior self really screwed me on this one.
After complaining to my mom and journalism friends about how pissed I was that I couldn’t figure out how to make the story work I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and go to work. I started finding new sources, doing more research, asking questions. Everything I should have done the first time around.
I just turned in the final draft of the story. It got better. A lot better. It’s the draft I should have turned in the first time. I’m still mad at myself that I didn’t figure it out sooner. I started caring too late. I can see my professor’s comment now, “Why didn’t you do this the first time, Steph?”
I failed. I was very angry. When it comes to writing, I care. I think I learned that sometimes you’ll get that story assignment that you’ll loath, but you’ve still got to write it. I also have to remind myself that come May I will be free of silly school work. I’ll be able to do what I love for an actual living. I can focus on that story assignment instead of having to read “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” at the same time.
Failure, however, is a part of being a writer. I usually don’t fall that hard. Even though it pissed me off to no end, I got the message loud in clear. Sometimes failure teaches you the most important lessons.