Be Vulnerable, Fail Forward, #WriterLife

sammie-vasquez-549428-unsplashI go through cycles during my writing process. Writing my first draft is my favorite part of the cycle. During that time, I tell the judgmental side of myself to buzz off. And for whatever reason, thankfully, it listens.

During that time, I get to explore. It’s fun. It’s freeing. It’s the kid-in-the-candy-store side of writing.

Even the inner editor in me is quiet, which allows me the chance to make mistakes. It lets me get the raw, uninhibited, noisy writing out on paper.

It’s the process of writing that I like the most. I don’t think I’m alone there.

Lately, I’ve become more aware of the part of the writing cycle that I don’t like.

It usually starts with the second draft. That’s where the judgmental side and inner editor make a grand entrance. Like Kramer from Seinfeld, it busts in the door, uninvited. No knocking, no doorbell.

By the time I’m deep into revisions and editing, it starts to overstay its welcome. It’s taking over my home, controlling my remote, and eating my favorite cereal.

I’ve been trying to figure out what is driving the “it” there, the Kramer in me, the judgmental side, the inner editor. What’s feeding it? I’ve recognized these three main things:

  • fear
  • doubt
  • perfectionism

Check out 10 Ways to Harness Fear and Fuel Your Writing by Writer’s Digest.

There are so many things that make up fear, but I seem to identify with fear of failure the most.

What if my book isn’t any good? What if I’m not good enough as a writer? What if I finally get this thing out there, and I get bad reviews? What if all of the family and friends who’ve been supporting me let out a collective groan when they read my stuff? Ugh.

Then there’s doubt. defines doubt as “a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something.” This creeps in so easily with the editing process. We writers are taught to pick apart our own stories, give it to other people to pick apart, then fix our stories per the feedback we receive. And all this should be done with a smile.

Merriam-Webster defines doubt as a lack of confidence.

With fear and doubt comes perfectionism. That effort can go in one of two directions—or both.

One can fiddle with and tweak a story until it’s unrecognizable, a long slog toward perfectionism. Or, like me, put a manuscript aside when disgusted with how imperfect the story is. I’ve been under the impression that a manuscript must be perfect for it to see the light of day. Why not abandon it if it’s less-than-perfect? Why not lock it in the proverbial drawer? Should I do that rather than risk shame or hearing the collective groan from my family and friends?

No, I shouldn’t.

There are two things that I am working on to tackle the dreaded feelings of fear, doubt, and perfectionism:

  • be vulnerable
  • fail forward

A dear friend and I have been talking about these two things a lot. When working on an endeavor, being vulnerable and failing forward are the traits to embrace.

Being vulnerable means exposing your writing and yourself to criticism. Bad reviews and the possibility of a collective groan are not as crippling or as deafening or as life-or-death as it may seem.

Vulnerability is an awkward place, but it may quiet the doubt and fear that linger. It may harness the joy one feels while writing the first draft.

Failing forward plays on the fear of failure, spinning it on its head, turning it into something positive. It strips away the idea that one can fail. Instead, one only takes another step ahead, a step in the direction of success.

And we can’t get closer to success when a manuscript is abandoned or stuck in a drawer. We must take that manuscript and fail forward.

Have fear, doubt, and perfectionism crept into your writer life? How do you keep it at bay?

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Published by Rene Penn

Author. Blogger.

4 thoughts on “Be Vulnerable, Fail Forward, #WriterLife

  1. Ooh, I can truly relate to your descriptions of your writing process. I love first-drafting. That ends up being my blog some days, when I don’t give the editing as much time. I think of blogs as “rough cut” where work that is to be published or submitted is more polished. If we enjoy the process, I guess sometimes we have to let go of the result, because we don’t really have control of that part. But the daily practice gets us to hone the craft and to develop networks we need to keep getting the work out there (this is also a response to your other post on not yet getting published). I look forward to reading more about your process going forward!

    Liked by 1 person

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