It’s a funny word that I’ve been throwing around a lot lately whenever anyone asks me how my writing is going. When I look up its definition, dozens of Physics websites pop up and talk about mass and velocity. Basically, it’s all about motion and movement. Like a snowball that grows bigger as it barrels down a hill.
I had slowly started to gain momentum when it came to writing. Last month, I started waking up early, sitting diligently at my desk, and prioritising my craft instead of answering emails. The first few days were torturous as I racked my brain for original ideas. But, slowly, the words began to spill out onto the page. The more I made myself sit in front of the blank page, the easier it became.
Then, I fell sick.
I think my body knew it was going to be a long weekend, so on Friday, it decided to crash. I felt fatigued, foggy, and frustrated because I knew I had to cancel all my plans with my friends. With a head that felt like it was stuffed full of cotton wool, I lay in bed and could barely lift my head off the pillow, let alone write.
Thankfully, my head cleared just in time for me to start working. But when I sat down to write for myself, my head was as blank as the page in front of me. I felt the same way you do when you’re just about to win a game of Snakes & Ladders, and one wrong roll of the dice causes you to slide back to the Start. You almost feel like throwing up your hands and calling it a day.
In true form, when things don’t go my way, I sit and berate myself: why do I suck?
Turns out, I’m not the first person (or the last) to feel paralysed and deflated when I lose momentum with my craft or when I feel like I’m going backwards.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how some artists lose the ability to create freely after producing one great piece of work. When their craft receives widespread praise and accolades, they believe they’ve reached the ‘top,’ and once there, there’s no where else to go but down, down, down. It’s why Harper Lee didn’t publish anything substantial after To Kill a Mockingbird – she was scared.
Last week, I published two pieces on Medium. Both were accepted in big publications and were ‘curated,’ which is a fancy way of saying an editor thought it was good enough to actively promote across the platform. I was over the moon when I first found out, and I felt driven to create more.
But since then, I’m finding it hard to write something new. Something worthy that will replicate its success. I’ve tasted the ‘high’ and now I’m scared of falling short.
But I’m learning that’s not the point.
Natalie Goldberg says we should give ourselves permission to fail. After she had published her wildly successful book, Writing Down the Bones, she signed a contract to write a second book about creativity. She entertained worries that she wasn’t going to live up to everyone’s expectations – but so what? She decided not to be intimidated by her success and allow herself to fail. Only then could she keep on writing.
It’s a lie to think my best work is behind us or I was ‘better off’ in the past. I’m always going to learn and grow as a person, and that’s naturally going to flow through to my writing.
All that to say, your best is not behind you; they’re ahead. Every opportunity and ‘win’ you’ve had so far is a jumping off platform for your next big win. You’ll continue to land promotions that match your expertise. You’ll get better at perfecting your craft and your work will land in front of the right audience. The more you keep daring to roll the dice, the further ahead you’ll progress along the board. There will be some dips and lows along the way (success isn’t linear, after all) but it’ll make the destination worth it.
This week, dare to keep stepping forward. Don’t be afraid to shoot high and miss. Give yourself permission to fail and keep creating anyways. Your future self will thank you.