So you might have noticed (then again, chances are you probably didn’t) that a couple of weeks ago I fell off the regular posting wagon. I’d been doing pretty well for a while, consistently adding a new blog post every Monday. Then one week I ended up not getting my post up until a couple of days after my self-imposed Monday deadline. I justified this by the fact that there was a long weekend, and it threw off my routine. I worried that this deviation from my plan would have a knock on effect, that now I had broken my posting schedule and nothing particularly bad had happened, there would be no reason to ever stick to it again. I felt a bit dirty about the whole thing.
I tried to tell myself that this was simply a blip, not something that constituted a trend. I told myself that I didn’t need to throw away all my hopes and dreams because I had put up a post two days late. I reminded myself of Steve Bloom’s post about reacting to failure on his blog Do Something Cool. His advice is to look at failure as a specific instance and not a reflection on yourself and lack of ability. I decided to not throw in the towel, and simply get back to my regular Monday posting schedule the following week. This was nearly three weeks ago. Three weeks in which I still haven’t written a single post.
I don’t have any delusions of grandeur (no really, I swear I don’t). I know exactly how many people read this blog. And let’s just say if I were to count them on my fingers, I’d still have a free hand. I do know that persistence is one of the most important traits which leads to success. You can see this in countless examples of people’s success stories. One that jumps to my mind is in Chris Guillebeau’s free e-book 279 Days to Overnight Success. Or even the stories of the early failures of Richard Branson in his autobiography Losing My Virginity. I know persistence is really important, but it is perhaps the thing I struggle with the most. I am able to get super enthusiastic about new projects, but I normally fizzle out quite quickly too.
A little while back I had an idea of a better way to conquer my lack of persistence. I wrote about it here, essentially my idea was to split my time across several different project. So that when I got sick of one, or was waiting on some sort of feedback on it, I could be working on others. This way, I thought, even if I was procrastinating on one particular project, I could be working on another. Increasing my all round efficiency and productivity. This sounded like a good idea. But after trying this strategy, I have discovered why the “one thing at a time” philosophy is so widespread. Doing more than one thing is really hard. So at least I’ve learnt something, I guess.
The other thing that you read everywhere about writing, and particularly in reference to blogging, is that it’s hard work. I certainly don’t doubt that those who manage to make a living from writing have put in a lot of effort over the years. The trouble I find is knowing when and where to put in this hard work. Writing, at least in the form of blogging, is incredibly self-directed. You are responsible for choosing all your own topics, your own deadlines, along with all your promotion and networking. Now these are some of the greatest things about blogging, and the reasons why so many people love doing it. The trouble is this means you are only answerable to yourself. Nobody is going to yell at you if you don’t get a post finished in time, and nor is anyone going to tell you what you should do next. And it is incredibly easy to let yourself down. When the world is full of potential distractions you have to stay on top of everything for every minute to get anything done.
The hardest part is not knowing what to do next. It is really hard to put in one hundred percent effort and work around the clock if you aren’t sure you are doing the right thing. From what I’ve read doubt and uncertainty is something that plagues even the most successful writers. It’s not something that ever goes away, it is simply something you need to learn to deal with and keep moving.
Don’t Fear Failure
This blog is about “overcoming fear, and doing everything,” you’ll notice that there is nothing about avoiding failure in that tagline. Failure is something we should embrace, because if you have failed it means you have tried. And almost always, when you fail there are lessons. Those lessons won’t always be immediately clear during that first crushing blow, but if you look I guarantee you will find them in time.
The most dangerous part of fearing failure is that you’ll start to detect a pattern. You’ll see that failures only ever come after you try something. So if you never try, you’ll never fail. It doesn’t take long for a fear of failure to morph into a fear of trying. And once you begin to fear trying you start to cut off the possibility of success, since you can’t succeed without trying. You’ll end up just sticking your head in the sand of scary negative logic.
So, while I might have failed at sticking to a persistent posting schedule over the last few weeks, this doesn’t mean I’m going to ditch this blog. I am actually impressed at how ludicrous this idea sounds, as just a couple of years ago it is probably how I would have responded (I used to do it all the time). What I have done is learnt about how my mind works, and the difficulties I have. This means that going forward I can take these lessons onboard and adjust how I work. This is the only way to ride out the failures (and there will always be failures) and succeed that I can think of – then again, if this strategy itself fails, I’m not beyond learning from that and rethinking it.