Writing and Giving Yourself the Freedom to Fail

It was a big deal for me to sign up for the MLitt course and I was full of self-doubt before I arrived at my first class. The fear quickly faded by being amongst a group of supportive fellow students and enjoying every week of a well-structured meaningful course. I’d made the right decision BUT…

What if my work isn’t good enough? What if my submission is ripped apart in the workshop? What if I don’t do well in my assignments? What if my family and friends think my writing is rubbish? What if I can’t make it as a writer? What if? What if?

There’s no end to the list of insecurities! I don’t think a writer is ever free of self-doubt. It seems to come as part of the job.

But if ever I needed a boost, the visit to uni this week from the award winning writer DBC Pierre was inspirational. In 2003, Pierre won the Man Booker Prize for his debut novel, Vernon God Little. Wow! But how did he manage to win the world’s most important literary award?

A contemporary The Catcher in the Rye

Anyone who’s ever heard of him will know that his juicy life story is as interesting as any of his novels. But for Pierre, the positive side to hitting rock bottom meant that no one had high expectations of him and he was free to fail.

No one likes to fail and it’s hard not to be your own harshest critic. My internal editor is always sitting on my shoulder and instead of just getting the words down on paper, I constantly go over my work getting hung up on every sentence. And then there’s the expectation of others.

When I told my mum I’d finished my first attempt at a novel. She told her friend. And a week later her pal phoned my mum to ask why she couldn’t find it in Waterstone’s!!

No pressure then…

Pierre’s key message was to give yourself the freedom to fail. He wrote the first draft of Vernon God Little in a stream of consciousness in five frenzied weeks. But it took several drafts and many months of sifting through the original material and reconstructing the writing to create a phenomenal novel.  Everyone needs TIME to experience failure before they can achieve success.  No artist uses watercolours for the first time and has the painting hung in the National Gallery.  It takes years of hard slog to achieve such glory- just ask Jack Vettriano! I know now that I need to give myself permission to produce crap and then keep writing in order to get better.

At the book signing, Pierre wrote on my copy of Vernon God Little,
“Be free to fail- only by staring into that abyss can we write!”

No excuses left now…

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