How to deal with failure (or at least feeling like a failure)

You know, some really cool things have happened for me this year so far: I had a story published by Little Fiction, another piece by Aftertastes, I taught a short fiction and a social media class at the community college, and I had a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. And now I’m back in Vancouver taking a workshop at my alma mater, UBC. Pretty good, right?

And yet, with all that, I feel like this year so far has been such a goose egg as far as accomplishments. It makes no sense, right?

If you do anything long enough, I think, you’ll feel like you’ve made a complete screw-up of your project/your job/your life/human existence as we know it. If you’re a writer, you’re going to run into that and you’re also going to have a chorus of people who will be more than happy to tell you how you’ve disappointed them. (Hi, Goodreads!)

So what do you do when that happens (because it will happen)? What can you do to keep that from paralyzing you? How do maintain momentum on the next project when maybe the last one sank like a rock? (Note to self: “sank like a rock” = cliché, revise later if time permits.) Well, Brent Hartinger and Erik Hanberg posted a podcast at the beginning of the year on just that topic, and it’s worth a listen:

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Also? If you’re not familiar with Brent, his blog, Brent’s Brain, is worth reading. He’s clever and funny and insightful. Hang on, that’s three adjectives in a row; I should go back and strike at least one of them. He’s funny and insightful.

(There. I feel better.)

Maybe you need to switch to a different project than the one you’re working on. Would it help to take a step back from the thing that is giving you cause to second-guess yourself, and you do something different for a while? And by different I don’t just mean another book, but maybe a different genre, a different target age range, or a different medium entirely. (Think visually, write a screenplay, or a romance, or a YA, or a crime novel, or poetry.) Maybe it takes some time off before you can go back to the thing that made you feel like you couldn’t do this—and feel like you can do it again.

So, I’m juggling my own priorities. And my projects. We’ll see what happens!