I once heard a quote from a high-jumper. I don't know who or where, but she said that the high jump was the only event in which you always ended with failure. In any given meet, the bar keeps getting pushed higher and higher and higher until you finally fail. You never quit at seven feet and say, "I'd like to stop now. I think this is the best I can do."
No. You keep jumping, you keep stretching, you keep giving it your all until that bar bounces on the pavement, marking your failure.
I wonder how they feel about that sound.
If that's not a sport to teach mental toughness, I don't know what is. Fighting against our self-doubts, self-limitations, and fears of failure are the hardest part of achieving anything. I am my own worst enemy when I'm pushing myself to succeed. I impose limitations and can'ts, and, worst of all, a fear of failure. With the big N coming up, little fears keep niggling at my ear. I keep laughing at them but they're still there.
To push myself, I've decided to try Candace Havens' Fast Draft class: a manuscript in 14 days, starting January 10. My all-time high is 40,000 in ten days, but I suppose that's not that fast, since I wasn't day-jobbing that week. Among the phrases I'm hearing in my head are:
- A novel is a new form. You should read and study more of them, before attempting to write one. Why don't you take a couple weeks before you start your novel and read one a day?
- If you wrote another couple novellas before writing the novel, you'd have a nice little buffer for any financial emergencies.
- You know, maybe you could write a couple stories, just to make a little extra spending money. Buy some new clothes; get a haircut. You know, if you wrote two novellas now and put the money in a CD, there'd be no way that money would get spent and you'd definitely have enough to go to the RWA Conference this year.
Get the idea? All day! I'm wandering around, and these little doubts jump up. I'm getting better at recognizing them and laughing at them, thank goodness.
But I've been listening to myself express my self-doubts and worries, and I realized that I fear writing a novel and falling flat on my face. Well, is that so bad? So I write a novel and it doesn't sell. I've become one step closer to understanding the structure of the longer form. A failure? No way. Just one more step on the path.
When I worry about failure, I always think of the high jumpers who keep jumping and keep striving until they fail. Every damn day, they fail.
I'd like to meet an Olympic gold-medalist high-jumper some day. My new motto?