A lot of us writers had childhoods that were less than the spectacular childhoods written about with nostalgia like The Christmas Story. And you know, what? That’s okay. If your childhood was hellish, I’m so sorry for you and I hope that you’re okay and recovering now. If your childhood had angst and worries and hormones and mistakes? Well…
Welcome to the world of humans.
And welcome to the world of writers.
As writers, we often get to mine the experiences of our childhood to make better, more emotionally resonating, stories. But also as writers, the fear of failure – of not being good enough to write – also often stems from this same time in our lives.
Do you have a Fear of Taking Chances, of Stigma, of Failure?
Look back on your youth.
As kids we had a lot of things happen. Memories were made. Some of them are amazing. Some? Some are horrifying. A good way of going deeper in your writing and to address your fear of failure is too kindly delve into those times.
TIPS ON How to Think Back On Your first failures and Use them
- Think back about being a kid. Do you remember failing?
- Think of a time where you knew you messed up somehow, when you understood that you failed.
- Write down your thoughts about that. Now, look at the next set of questions and write about those, too.
- Who was there when you failed?
- How did they respond to your failure?
- Did their response become internalized? Did they judge you? Did you internalize that?
- Did their response become more important than your own response?
What you just wrote down, what you remembered, is part of your personal associations with failure from just that one memory. When we’re aware of these associations it helps empower us to make choices that are stronger, deeper, and more reflective of our true wants and dreams.
Often, our associations with failure is a big part of what holds us back from our successes.
For me, the act of writing holds a lot of positive feedback and feels like success. That’s partly because of the early childhood associations that I have with it. I was put into the gifted program at school because of a second-grade haiku. People thought I was cool in fifth grade because I kept winning the Author of the Month contest with a funny story about a girl in the Army who falls in love with a dog named Abba. A high school teacher told me I was a ‘keeper’ because of my writing and that I’d be a bestseller someday.
All those people gave me really positive associations with writing. They helped shape me into being someone who believed I could do this, that I was meant to write.
But when I look back on childhood, there are two other moments when I can see that other people’s judgements really held me back from what I love doing.
One, I’ve talked about before, and that’s my mom declaring that “Nobody in this family has an artistic bone in their body” after watching me draw Sunday after Sunday, hour after hour.
Disclaimer: My mom was actually awesome. She just doesn’t sound awesome here.
I never pursued art because I was positive that I was genetically incapable of it. Now, one of the hardest things I make myself do is share on my Facebook timeline paintings that I’ve made. I’ve been doing it every Friday. It’s so hard, but I know it’s necessary for me to face that stigma and fear and just be.
Another thing that happened to me as a kid was I loved singing. My grandpa was a professional jazz drummer and people in my family love music. I think I was in fourth or sixth grade and I tried out for something at school. We had to sing “America the Beautiful” and I just got back from being out for two weeks with bronchitis. I was terrible. So terrible! Seriously. It was so bad.
I had no breath control. I was hoarse. I coughed. No… I hacked up a lung in the middle. The music teacher made me stop.
I’ll always remember the music teacher’s cringing face and all the other kids’ looks – pity, anguish, horror. And though I ended up singing in a professional troupe eventually, I’m horrified still at the thought of auditioning or singing in front of other people. So horrified. I love singing as much as I love writing, taking photos, painting and hugging dogs, but I don’t even like singing “Happy Birthday” at Rotary meetings. So obviously, I still need to work on that bad boy.
But the thing is…. It isn’t that fear of my failures in the past that’s keeping me down. That’s already happened. It’s my fears of failing in the future – of the looks, the stigma, the gossip behind my back.
And that’s ridiculous. Because I can’t do anything without potentially failing. There is a chance of failure in every big thing we do, new thing we try.
The thought of potentially failing can cause us to freeze, to ignore our dreams and our loves. That’s not cool. We have to fight it.
So, look back in your own life. See what happened. See how you internalized that. And if you’re a writer? Use those memories and emotions for your characters, let them come out in your story. When your characters suffer failures or stigma or setbacks, remember your own and use that to make fuller, richer characters who leap off the page.
WRITING AND OTHER NEWS
I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here.
People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
FLYING AND ENHANCED
Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them hereor anywhere.
OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
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