Then there was the time, a few years on, when the component I was supposed to be working on with the lead from another team crashed and burned during the initial testing. I hadn’t been able to get a solid block of time with the team lead, and it didn’t help that we were in different cities. Because we were too busy with other work to put aside a whole day when everyone was available to test the component, we relied on it being built to design, and on the design being correct. Needless to say, it was neither. When you have many moving parts and a lot of things being done under the covers, there’s a million ways for it to screw up. During our troubleshooting, it felt like we hit every single one.
Of course, there were the small, silly failures in between. For example, the time when one manager told me to put all the files into separate folders, which I did. Unfortunately, he meant physical folders. My nicely arranged folders on my computer did us no good when we got to the client site and had no access to the internet or to any of the printers.
There are times I think it’s a miracle I ever got promoted.
But clichéd as it is, failure really does help us learn. It’s scant comfort to someone like me who utterly dreads it, but it’s true. These days, I double-check all information I get from other people. I always, always assume that when multiple systems (or people!) need to work together, something will invariably be overlooked. And when someone tells me to do something? I repeat it back to them to make sure I understood exactly what they were asking for.
I’ve been slowly trying to accept that the same thing will happen with my writing. I’m going to bomb out and fail spectacularly. I’m going to have to cut my losses and shelve things I’ve spent years working on.
Even now, the novel I finished in the past year (yes, it took me almost a year to get it out) is gasping for air. My wonderful alpha readers have very clearly pointed out that it lacks conflict and focus, as there’s no definitive big bad. Some things can’t be fixed with a few new scenes and updated chapters. They can only be repaired by gutting the novel and reworking it mostly from scratch.
Yes, I’m frustrated. My novels aren’t saleable, and neither are the short stories I’ve written in between. The failures continue to pile up, and it feels like the past 4 to 5 years has been spent focused on writing for naught.
But that’s part of the experience. Much like my failure of a second novel, a journey is considerably less satisfying, and doesn’t mean as much, if there isn’t any conflict. It’s about throwing yourself that that unbreachable wall time and time again, falling, stumbling, battered and bruised, until you see the smallest of cracks… and then keep on going. It’s about feeling weighed down by the unending darkness, but continuing to trudge onwards.
I’m still trudging, one small, painful step at a time. I’m still facing doubt, and fear, and worry. I’m still wondering if anything will ever come of it, and resigning myself to keep on walking even if nothing does. But persist I will. If I ever see the light, well, it will mean that much more for all that I’ve been through.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.