Of all the scenes I’ve ever written, there’s one that stands particularly vivid in my memory. It’s part of a trilogy that I wrote and the character – Nefna – is just having an awful time. Not an ‘arghhh I forgot that my tea was cold and also this isn’t my tea this is old mouthwash and WHAT HAVE I DONE’ day. But a ‘I HAVE BEEN MISTAKEN FOR THE WRONG PERSON AND I AM GOING TO DIE but on the plus side the snow’s dope’ day.
She’s kneeling on some flagstones and her blood is staining the snow and it’s just SO dramatic and terrible. I think I may have had tears in my eyes; it felt very real and vivid. One of those magic moments that happens when you truly connect to the story you’re weaving.
But despite that, that’s something that happens to Nefna. It’s not her fault. It’s just a huge misunderstanding that she’s going along with because of VERY VALID REASONS. It’s not a personal failure. (THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AND SOMEONE’S EYESIGHT – THOSE HAS FAILED HER.) but she hasn’t.
And I think, that I don’t let my characters fail as much as I should. As someone who hates failure – I mean, who doesn’t? and takes it to a dramatic level …
PAUSE FOR EXPLANATION:
There was this one time that I was doing this work and I did it WRONG and basically it was awful and no good. Did I react maturely?
NO. You bet your sainted peanut I DID NOT.
I ran up the garden and climbed a tree. And considered a life of nomadic Tarzan-ing but with more clothes and FAR LESS MUSCLE. And so much shame and guilt.
That’s me. And yes, that was young me. But my gosh, I still do that inside.
If anyone else fails – you bet I’ll be there, thrusting both hands out to help them up. I can’t bear to see people fail. I can’t bear it because when they do it, I feel it. And it sucks. Because it does.
I think I have this issue with my characters – I can’t bear to let them fail. I can’t let them because it’s painful and killmenow to write. I haven’t noticed properly until quite recently, but I can see how it has seeped into my subconscious and oozed out of my fingertips.
(Also. That analogy was icky. I beg your pardon.)
But I think I’m going to let them fail a little more. And perhaps – be kinder to myself when I fail as well. After all, it’s pretty prideful to expect constant perfection of myself. Or, like, any perfection.
We’re flawed and we fail but we’ve got God and so it’s okay.
And my characters … they’re going to fail, and it will hurt and I won’t enjoy writing it. But perhaps it will help me a little as well. I wouldn’t say writing is therapy, but I would say that I look back and see myself reflected. Glinting at me through the sentences. A little piece here and there.
I’ve always thought that I was disassociated – even divorced – from my stories. That they and I were different things entirely. Ha! But I WAS WRONG.
I look back and see – hopes, dreams, bad spelling – all of it.
And maybe I’ll look back and see failure and won’t be horrified. Won’t want to bury myself in a pit of dark duvets. Or travel to the tip-top of a high mountain and be a monk, looking serene and untroubled and having my meals delivered by an elaborate system of pulleys that I’ve already have-planned.
So, here’s to failure.
To forgiving and learning and dusting yourself off and continuing on regardless.