I was reading through some great short stories from the past and ran across that very apt and timely quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (above).
Would you? Start all over again, that is? There’s the promise of tabula rasa. A clean slate. An opportunity to rewire your life. Erase all those false starts, the bad decisions, the squandered opportunities. You could replace them with the opportunity to see things that startle you; feel things you never felt before; meet people with a different point of view, live a life you can take pride in.
Best of all, you can do it–starting today because it’s a new day with no mistakes in it. Which is to say, you don’t need to go all the way back to Begin Again because you can start from Here. The beginning is always today. If you didn’t reach the heights you tried for yesterday, today you can start a new climb.
But wait. Are you mentally ready? It’s so easy to get down on yourself, to tell yourself I’m a loser, especially if you can’t let go of past mistakes, missed opportunities. You tell yourself you’re tired of trying, especially if you’ve fallen and gotten up more than once. Basketball legend Michael Jordan said I can accept failure because everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.
There is no instruction sheet for how, mentally, to get past failure and start over. But everyone has the ability. It’s just a matter of exercising it. Winston Churchill said Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.
Writers are particularly susceptible to mental anguish. Rejection letters and polite e-mails that tell you we really like your work but it doesn’t fit what we’re looking for feed insecurity and threaten to kill the courage to continue. Too often, we compare ourselves to writers who have already achieved “stardom”–their every work is charmed. Yet looking through the archives of writing success, you’ll find that most of those authors were at it for years–some, decades–before they saw success. Yes, there are the phenoms who hit it big with their first novel, followed by an option from a film company. Big bucks! But they’re in the minority. Another reason not to compare yourself with other writers. If you love to write and think you have a story to tell, keep at it. Remember it isn’t luck (maybe a little sometimes)–mostly, it’s talent. And perseverance.
I like Marilyn Monroe’s slightly homespun philosophy: Keep your head high, your chin up and most importantly, keep smiling. Life’s a beautiful thing. There’s so much to smile about.