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Failing in the Right Direction – the Writers’ Life

Warning! Warning! Personal Post Ahead! There will be failing! (And possibly…

Warning! Warning! Personal Post Ahead! There will be failing! (And possibly flailing.) Eeek, get it off! Get it off!

Just kidding. Well, not really. But this is actually a post about failing, and having a bit of a rubbish year, and there are less dragons involved than you may have come to expect. Although I’ve added cat gifs to soften the blow.

failing in the right direction - the creative life and writing

My current status in 2018.

Still here? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here’s the thing.

May sucked.

May was a no-good, terrible, horrible month. Lots of things happened, with people I love getting sick and being taken into hospital, and relationship issues, and work issues, and all sorts of stuff. The kind of stuff that makes you just want to cancel the month immediately and request a refund, although probably not a do-over, because you don’t want to risk what might happen if you go through it again.

In fact, the whole first five months of 2018 were actually not particularly fantastic.

I know I wasn’t the only one – not this month, not this year, not ever. Life likes to stick its fingers in the pie and mix things up now and then, and it’s not exactly gentle about it. Stuff happens. As it did.

And a lot of what it did involved failure.

failing in the right direction - the creative life and writing

Some days, life is that ice cream.

So let’s talk about failure.


I think there’s a tendency to shy away from that word. “You didn’t fail. You just didn’t succeed quite the way you wanted to.”

Um, yes. So what I was doing failed, right?

“Yes, but you didn’t fail.”

Which, you know, that’s nice. No one wants to be called a failure. It’s not a nice term. It has the stale taste of wasted time and broken biscuits.

But sometimes we do fail.

And I’ve failed a lot this year.

Which, oddly, I’m okay with. Because each failure put me closer to what I actually wanted to do, or so it feels. It’s like being a mouse in a lab, looking for the cheese and trying a bunch of dead ends before she finds the right one. Even if it does feel like I have a really bad sense of smell and a very grazed nose from bumping into walls at this point, and I’m kind of surprised I haven’t knocked myself out, considering the speed I was going when I hit some of those dead ends.

failing in the right direction - the creative life and writing

Ahahahahaha. Ha. Sigh.

Some of these were small failures – like my 100 days of sketches, which petered out at around the 60 mark. That’s okay. I want to start them again, and I will at some point. They were fun. But life sort of swallowed everything fun there for a bit.

I was going to be more productive, but we all know how that goes.

I was going to go out more, but ahahahaha. I’m an introvert. I know that. I need more time at home, not less.

I was going to get really ahead on my blog posts and social media and be a super-organised amazingly together type person, but I don’t know if that’s actually even in my nature.

I was going to read some actual educational books and learn stuff, but, well, life.

And then there were bigger things.

I set up an online personal training and yoga website, which took a huge amount of time and effort, and which I still think is a good idea. But two months in I realised that I’d never have time to write anything for me as long as I was producing content for that site, and that my headspace was completely taken up with it. Not only that, I was already dreading having to come up with ideas for it on a regular basis.

It came to a choice between burpees and dragons. The dragons won. The dragons always win.

failing in the right direction - the creative life and writing

Seriously, how could I not choose dragons?

And then the biggest failure – the BBN (Big Bad Novel) manuscript was out on a rewrite and resubmit with an agent that I was so excited about. Unfortunately, when it came to it, it turned out that the rewrite didn’t work. That one hurt. I mean, I knew the odds. Even just getting a request to resubmit after so few submissions was amazing. I was prepared for it not to go further, and the agent was wonderfully encouraging about everything, but still. I kind of feel like I really fell over on that one.

There were other things, too, that felt major at the time but that maybe aren’t so much in retrospect. But sometimes heaping failure on failure means that even though they’re small, they just build and build until you find yourself lying on the kitchen floor next to the cat at 11am, staring at the ceiling and wondering if there’s anything you’ve got right this month. This year. This life.

And then the cat walks away in disgust, and you spot the missing peas under the fridge from that bag you dropped last week, and now you can’t even clean right, and the cat hates you.

failing in the right direction - the creative life and writing


You know, talking hypothetically.

But, failure. It’s part of it, isn’t it? Part of life, and particularly part of the creative life. I don’t think we get the option to avoid it. And, kind of like how saying ‘no’ opens new opportunities, failing can provide us with other options, too.

Having to admit that I couldn’t run a fitness website and write made me choose, and choosing means that (maybe for the first time) I really found out how important writing is to me. I discovered that it matters more to me than expanding the other side of what I do, even if that is the (sometimes) paying side. And it told me that, because I’m lucky enough to have the option of working my life around writing, I need to do that, rather than the other way around.

Failing in my BBN submission (although I do have the option for another rewrite, which I’m still considering), didn’t convince me that my writing sucked, luckily. It could have, considering the way the rest of the year was going, and I’m actually kind of astonished it didn’t. I think that one’s down to super-supportive beta readers and writer friends – if you don’t have them, find them. They matter.

failing in the right direction - the creative life and writing

I think stock images do take the failure thing a LITTLE too far, though. Maybe?

But anyhow – what that failure did tell me was that my story as it is wasn’t right for that agent, or maybe even that market. And it made me rethink. It made me realise that I don’t exactly write what the market wants, which is unfortunate. And while I’m happy to learn, and willing to change my stories to fit, I don’t want to do that with Beaufort. I want to write him as he is, and while I’m going to continue to chase traditional publication for the BBN, I’m not going to do that with him. Not Beaufort, not now. So failing pointed me in a new direction.

All of which is a long way around to saying: stuff sucked. It’s currently a little less sucky. Failure happened. It’ll happen again. It always happens. It’s life.

But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

failing in the right direction - the creative life and writing

This is not failing. It’s just… redirection.

How about you, lovely people? How has your year been so far? What have your wins and non-wins been? Let me know below!

failing, self care, writer's life, writers' problems, writing

  1. Lisa Sell says:

    So much of what you’ve written resonates with me.

    Firstly, I’m sorry you’re having a rubbish time of it. Life is a bitch sometimes and doesn’t let up with the curve balls. I’m only just exhaling cautiously now after having it rough for most of last year.

    It’s so tough when you feel like you’re failing left, right, and centre. But maybe you’re not? We are so hard on ourselves, particularly writers. It’s excruciating putting our work out there to others, especially agents. We’re practically inviting ‘failure’. I’m glad though that you’re starting to see that maybe it isn’t. You’re learning Beaufort deserves the best publishing avenue for him. That takes knowledge and strength. That definitely isn’t failure.

    Your post brings to mind one I wrote about looking at whether we have failed or prevailed. I don’t want to be that arsehole who promotes their own blog in comments. You know the people I mean. But I figure we know each other well enough for you to know I’m sharing this for solidarity and showing that you have already shown you’ve prevailed for being strong enough to write about it.

    Here’s the post if it helps:

    Keep on keeping on. Kick failure up the arse.

    1. kimwatt says:

      I LOVE that post of yours. I’ve just had a re-read now, and it’s reminded me that I haven’t sworn at my regrets in a while. Hang on, back in a minute…

      And doesn’t life just love to keep piling things on you? It seems so many people I know are having a tough time of it at the moment. I’m so glad to hear that you’re starting to feel that things are letting up for you a bit. It’s been beyond amazing – and inspiring – to see you keep going through everything that’s happened.

      And thank you for the encouraging words! I think there must be something with that age thing – I know that when I was younger I would have spent much longer on the kitchen floor, probably clutching a bottle of gin. Now it just seems like it’s one of those “this too will pass” things – get through it, learn from it, keep going.

      Plus swear a bit.

  2. Lynda says:

    Oh, Kim. We have all been there and we’ll probably all feel like we’re there again, even though that’s really not any comfort at all when you think about it. What you’re describing feels like the entirety of my 2017. I blogged about it a few times on my other blog and just found it hard to pull myself out of the hole I felt like I was sinking in. When we’re hit on multiple fronts, it’s hard to believe that the failure actually doesn’t lie with us, but rather circumstances. An author friend of mine–my bestie, in fact–recently wrote a post about why she hasn’t written for her novels much over the past year or two . . . and the irony of that was cemented when her website crashed right after she posted it, so most people haven’t even gotten to read it yet! But the point was that she has been building another portion of her business and had to recognize where her time was best spent for her own satisfaction. She writes because she loves to write, and making money off it is a bonus. But she was putting so much time into other things that she was forgetting to do what she loves.

    I’m sorry that you were not able to pursue the health and fitness avenue as well as the writing, but I can’t say I’m sorry you’re going to focus on your writing. You’re so talented and your writing is so entertaining and varied, I would love to say someday when you’re rich and famous that I knew you “back when.” (Hmmm . . . how did I manage to make that about me? Lol)

    But seriously. We’re all cheering for you and wish you the best of success and peace of mind in the middle of it. Thanks for your super honest and vulnerable post. We go through the things we do so that when we come out of them we can help others who are in the middle of them. I’m here to cheer you on if you need it. Big hugs!

    1. kimwatt says:

      Thank you so much Lynda! I’m so serious when I say that the support of all my online writing-related friends makes such an enormous difference. Knowing that there are people out there that enjoy my writing really makes it easier to understand that it’s not about failing as a writer – it’s about not having written the right thing for a certain situation. And I hope so much that this post will maybe strike a chord with someone who needs it. Life is as full of rubbish moments as it is of good ones, and they really seem to like to pile up on us. Well done for pulling yourself out of last year’s hole – it’s not easy!

      I hope your bestie got her website back up and running, and is back finding the joy of writing!

  3. ChanAtkins says:

    Great post Kim, and I could so relate to it! I’ve had a few months like that too, or maybe more like a year, I think I’ve lost count! I feel like I keep trying and trying and trying and failing and failing and failing, and so far, I keep getting back up again after a little sulk, and I try and take the good bits out of what I’ve learnt from failing…but it gets tiring!! I want to quit at least three times a week. Not writing, because I could never do that. But submitting and getting rejected, and being an indie with my books, all of it really. I’m tired of it! Tired of trying so hard and feeling like I get nowhere. Same for my writing company, keep trying and trying and getting knockbacks and on a daily basis I think quit this before it gets ridiculous and get a proper job! Last week I went on holiday knowing I’d come back to two bits of news. One was a response from a publisher who had asked to read the whole novel Id submitted, and one was a response for funding for a community writing project I’m trying to put together. I was really hoping one response would be a good one, but sadly both were negative. I felt really defeated and deflated and wanted to cry. But with the project there are still other avenues open, so until I have exhausted them I will keep trying and hope to get this thing off the ground. And with the book, I had already got accepted into Pict Publishing which is basically an indie author collective or women writers. Self-publishing but with a brand name, I guess. So I didn’t feel down for too long. It’s hard though! I don’t knw why we do it to ourselves sometimes! I guess we must have a lot of hope! I hope things get better for you xx

    1. kimwatt says:

      I’m both happy that you connected with the post, and also so wish you didn’t – I’m so sorry to hear you’re having a tough time of it! It just seems to be such a common theme for so many of us. And how rubbish to come back from holiday to two lots of no, too. Sometimes it really does feel like the wins are so few and far between. But it’s that getting back up again that you’re still doing that matters (and the sulk. Everyone needs a good sulk now and then). I hope that knowing you’re so very much not alone helps a wee bit!

      (Also, I think the phrase “gluttons for punishment” comes to mind when describing writers, as well as being relentlessly hopeful…)

  4. Jon says:

    You have my every sympathy. I’ve been failing on all fronts for the last four years.

    1. kimwatt says:

      I refuse to look further back than the current venture. If I start looking at historic failures, I might crawl into a packet of chocolate hobnobs and never come out.

  5. Misha Herwin says:

    Writing this with a broken wrist which says a lot about 2018, so far! Nothing but rejections on the submission front, but have decided that, though my readers love my books, none of the big guys share their enthusiasm, so I’m Indie and proud. Love dragons too.

    1. kimwatt says:

      Ouch! Your poor wrist – well done for keeping writing with that! And I’m absolutely terrified by all the things I have to think about, but so excited to indie publish my dragon stories. I think it’s going to be enormous fun!

  6. Lorinda Johnson says:

    Yay for all the good in the bad you’ve found! Individually, ‘failings’ are hard enough, but when they have a big party… yikes. Kudos to being brave and finding your way through the maze!

    So, do you turn left or right at that one really difficult intersection? I haven’t figured it out yet, but hopeful. Also, M&M’s added to the kitchen floor lie-down have proven helpful.

    1. kimwatt says:

      I’m going to start keeping M&M’s on the bottom shelf in the kitchen from now on, so that I shall be fully prepared for future floor lie-downs. Excellent tip!

      And I think the only option is to make peace with the intersections. Whether you make the correct turn or not, you can only make the best decision at the time, which just has to be good enough. And pack M&M’s.

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