Modern society is fascinated by success stories. Look at social media, and you’ll be inundated by examples of people who’ve turned their life around by getting in shape, improving their eating habits, or launching a successful career. Like most people, I enjoy seeing those posts, but I wish I saw more examples of what happens later. Ever notice that you don’t always hear the rest of the story?
I suspect that’s because often the person isn’t able to maintain the behavior. Sooner or later, they fail. Not surprisingly, these folks aren’t quite as keen to share their failures online as their successes. I think that’s a shame for a couple of reasons.
Sharing failure has advantages
First, not sharing limits the person who failed. If they felt free to admit what was happening, they could grow. Acknowledging our shortcomings allows us to learn from our mistakes.
Second, the lack of sharing negatively impacts the people who are interested in that person’s work. If you’ve been telling people about a project, but you don’t tell them when your progress halts, you’re leaving them in the dark. Sure, they’d be disappointed to hear that your work isn’t progressing, but they’ll be far more disappointed to think that you’ve dropped off the face of the earth, or worse yet, that you don’t care to keep them informed about your work. Audience can learn from the hangups, just like the person doing the work.
Sharing about setbacks benefits the person pursuing the goal as well as those who watch their progress.
Failure in writing
Whether you are a established or aspiring writer, people expect output from you. Writing isn’t the kind of work that you can con people into thinking that you’re being productive while you’re doing other things (unless you’re extremely successful and receive large advances). If you don’t write, people won’t have anything to read. They’ll know you screwed up.
Some writers find ways to cover this up. Ever notice that chronic procrastinators are also masters of making excuses? Don’t be that person. If you falter in your writing, admit it.
As much as people want quality work from you, they probably want consistent work even more. In general, it’s more important to keep the content coming than to hold out for your ideal product. This is particularly true because most people use the ideal as an excuse and don’t complete their work at all.
How to do it
You don’t need to tell the whole world if you screw up, but you do need to tell somebody. Keeping it to yourself is as bad as not having anybody on board with your work in the first place.
So the first step is to ensure that you’ve already told at least one person about your project. Do it early. Then review with them about the work on a regular basis. Above all, when you falter, tell them. Ask them for support. Get them to brainstorm with you about how to get back on track.
Notice that I said “when you falter.” While really committed writers become masters of consistency, everyone has the dry periods. If nothing else, something unavoidable will interfere: illness, financial burden, or family emergency. Have the stopgap of accountability in place, so that you will be prepared to get back on track.
Exhibit real persistence
Anyone can post on social media about how they are starting something new. Very few can post about finishing a challenge or reaching a goal. A crucial component for being in that latter category is having a plan. Know how you will share about any lapse in your performance. Put the plan in place. Just doing that will give you greater confidence, and paradoxically, make it even less likely that you will falter.
Don’t be the person who hides their failures behind excuses, or who fails to communicate altogether. Engage with others, tell them when you’re struggling, and get back on track.