Permission to fail

June 26, 2013

I have recently been pointed toward this excellent article by Scott Simpson, which was originally published in the fourth issue of the also excellent The Magazine. The article is titled: “You Are Boring”, and it’s about how most people on the Internet seem to keep publishing mostly self-centered, navel-gazing stories without ever really saying anything interesting:

You listen to the same five podcasts and read the same seven blogs as all your pals. You stay up late on Twitter making hashtagged jokes about the event that everyone has decided will be the event about which everyone jokes today. You love to send withering @ messages to people like Rush Limbaugh—of course, those notes are not meant for their ostensible recipients, but for your friends, who will chuckle and retweet your savage wit. You are boring. So, so boring.

It’s true, and I know that sometimes I’m one of them. We all are.

Exhibit A: my recent series of posts about my struggle to redefine whatever it is I’m doing here, and finding a writing habit that works for me. It’s all pretty boring, I know (unless you’re me, I guess). But I believe it’s important to allow ourselves to be boring sometimes. Being boring is how we learn. The reason I write and publish these posts is not to try to appear like I have all the answers (if anything, I think it’s painfully obvious that I’m still trying to figure out the questions).

Exhibit B: this very article you’re reading. I suppose I could have finished it and then just put it in a digital drawer, never to be shared with the world. Perhaps the Internet would be a bit less boring then, but I think it would also be less honest. I decided to publish it not because I believe it’s terribly interesting or particularly original, but because I want to be able to look back on the archives one day and see my evolution, not only who I am, but how I got here. And I want anyone to be able to see that too. I believe there is value in the learning process.

If everything we read on the Internet were perfectly penned stories, interesting dilemmas and inquisitive posts, it’d be pretty intimidating to write. I find it extremely motivating to come across other people who, like me, are struggling to hone their craft. The fact that I can look back on some of those stories makes me relate, and it makes me a bit less scared to try new things. If being boring keeps you writing and helps you evolve, then by all means, be boring. So long as you keep trying, you’ll be OK. There’ll be plenty of time to ask the interesting questions later.

NOTE: This is not to say I don’t appreciate the excellent advice given in Scott’s article about writing and engaging your audience. It’s pretty good stuff, very helpful and I actually agree with most of it. We should always try to write interesting stuff, to tell a story that goes beyond the obvious. There needs to be a purpose to our writing, but we should give ourselves permission to fail every now and then. Even though it hurts, that’s the only way we’re ever going to learn.

Just keep writing, and tweaking. Try new things and challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll fail, but that’s OK. The trick, as they say, is not minding that it hurts.