My date with failure

I didn’t publish anything yesterday, but that’s not an excuse for giving up on the October Daily Writing Challenge

Let’s not talk about October 19.

I’ll let you into a secret.

I didn’t post anything for the October Challenge yesterday. I wrote something, but I wasn’t happy with it. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shape it the way I wanted it. It was all awkward juxtapositions and clashing metaphors. A discordant mess of a story.

I was still wrestling with it at around 10:30 last night. A headache was coming on, and I was desperate for some sleep.

So I decided to call it a day.

In one very technical sense I failed the October challenge. I intended to post every day in October, and yet I didn’t yesterday.

And what implications does this have for anyone undertaking any sort of challenge which involves a daily commitment of some sort, such as a diet or training for a marathon. If you succumb to a slice of chocolate cake or eschew the morning run for more duvet time, should you just throw in the towel because of your one single lapse?

Definitely not. Instead, don’t fret about it too much and stick to your original plan. Everybody has off days, after all.

But all too often we treat one-off lapses like this as evidence of weakness. We’ve failed on this one occasion so we’re destined to fail always. We’re unworthy of our challenges. We look inwards upon ourselves and ask ourselves questions such as:

What on earth were we thinking attempting to do a thing like that?

Don’t even think about getting on this train of thought.

Instead, ask yourself these questions.

What was your objective in setting out on the challenge and what would happen if you carry on? In my case, I wanted to develop the discipline of daily writing practice, and become a more focused writer. The daily challenge is just the vehicle to deliver it.

Even if I miss the odd day, I can still achieve my goal.

The same is true of the diet, the marathon training, learning a foreign language, meditation or indeed anything else with a daily commitment. Of course, if you find yourself frequently missing days, it may be time to take a good look at your feelings towards whatever it is you’re trying to do, but that’s not the same as a single lapse.

And if you’re still unconvinced, ask yourself who was your commitment to? Most likely it was to yourself. How will you feel if you throw away the progress you’ve made, just because you missed a day? Yes, acknowledge that private guilt that comes from not sticking to the small print of your commitment but don’t dwell on it. Your wider objective is still well within sight.

The only thing preventing you from getting there is yourself.

So put that single lapse behind you and stick with it.

The Storyteller on the District Line — №34

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