Let Me Tell You a Story About Failure

I’m taking a break from revising, squiders, because I got really excited about my own story and, while that’s a good thing, it’s not the best state of mind to do revision in. (Almost done! And then on the rest of what needs to be done to get this book out.)

So, it seems to me–and feel free to fight me on this–that most author fears fall into two categories: fear of failure, or fear of success.

(We’ll talk about success later. Tuesday, maybe. I’m making no guarantees til this revision’s back in.)

So! Story time. Imagine, if you will, a 15-year-old Kit, learning to drive, because I lived in a single parent household and my mother really wanted there to be another driver around.

I was terrified of driving. Nothing seemed like a worse idea than giving me control of a several thousand pound machine and letting me around other people. But I did it, because I wanted to help my mother, and I liked the idea of freedom, and it’s typically one of those Life Skills that American society expects you to have.

The driving school I went to had a week or two of classroom education before they released us into the student driver cars. Now, I’d handled a car before: my father had let me steer the car on his lap since I was four or so, and my mother had let me drive around the neighborhood and other low-population areas as practice. But my first day, I went and got in that car with one of those people that you wonder how exactly they came to be teachers, because they obviously dislike children.

So I’m stressed to be driving at all, and then I get the least sympathetic person possible on my first “real” time out.

He had me drive around the neighborhood next to the school for about 20 minutes, then suggested I take a left turn out onto Colfax. (Colfax is a 3-lane-in-either-direction state highway, for non-Coloradoans.) I told him I wasn’t ready. I asked to spend a little more time in the neighborhood. I asked to try a right turn onto Colfax, since I’d never been on a big street before.

But he insisted, and off we went, white knuckled on the wheel. The light turned, I went, then realized I wasn’t turning quite enough. So, instead, I overcompensated, went over the median into oncoming traffic, and blew the tire.

My teacher was irate. I was much relieved.

Here’s the thing. When you fail, you have two options. You can give up, or you can try again, knowing there’s no way it could go worse. I’m pretty sure I was the only one of my friends who managed to physically break a car while learning to drive, but on the other hand, it gave me valuable experience.

In retrospect, it was good that he pushed me. Could he have done it better? Sure. But it forced me to give it a try, and even though it ended poorly, I felt better in the end, probably better than I would have if I hadn’t tried at all.

So don’t let your fear stop you. Yes, you might fail. But then you can try again, with no where to go but up.

Had any particularly spectacular failures, squiders? Stories about learning to drive?

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