Friday, March 16, 2012

Success, Failure and Telling the Difference

I was reading a newspaper article about one of our (Australia’s) Olympic swimmers who recently won gold. She said that winning gold made all those mornings she spent vomiting in the front yard worthwhile. The journalist jokingly said that while a vast majority of Australians spent the morning vomiting in their front yard, few could wipe their mouths and think: “One day I’ll win a gold medal at the Olympic games and tell everyone about this.”

It instantly struck me how much success can look like failure. Most of us end up vomiting in the proverbial garden, and sometimes it’s very hard to tell the drunken slobs from the people who are working their asses off. For those people, fertilizing the plants with your weetbix is the cost of success. For everyone else, it’s the cost of time poorly spent.

I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter what you’re working toward. A degree, owning your own house, starting a small business, writing a novel, giving birth... at some point it really looks like you’re not getting anywhere. You know it’s all uphill and somehow you look just as bad, or worse, than all those people who are wasting their lives. You can see it, everyone around you can see it and I think for a lot of people, the faith runs out there.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a writer has told me they don’t feel like they’re getting anywhere. Or they can’t finish anything. Or they feel guilty about writing for some reason. I’d retire.

However I think for everyone, Olympians, brain surgeons, new mothers, home owners, business owners, writers... we all have a point when we’re puking in the garden and it’s hard to see how we’re going to get from there, to where we want to be. You just have to remember it’s a part of the process.

You CAN NOT get there without going through the messy, hard part. If there is such a thing as talent, most of us don’t have it, and we still succeed. I don’t have any talent. I worked my ass off to get where I am in writing. I read and wrote like a fiend. Stephen King and J. K Rowling both have their stories—and they are not clean, easy happy ones.

And even if you aren’t a starving drug addict living on the dole, there is a point in the writing process were the writing itself is the pain—most of us are going to struggle very hard to get even the smallest measure of success.

But just because it LOOKS bad, it doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes that pain is failure and sometimes it really is success. Either way, it’s still going to taste like vomit.

Talitha Kalago. Copyright 2008.

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