Believe me when I tell you that I am not the poster child for achieving goals. I can, in fact, set and subsequently abandon a writing goal faster than a political tirade can light the internet on fire. But, with the help of hindsight and a newly acquired self-growth mindset, I have been able to look back and realize that all of these dropped goals were not without value. For what I’ve learned over the last decade-plus of eyeing and then shying away from my big writing dreams, is the numerous avenues for assuring disappointment.
A word of warning: This advice should be followed only if you want to remain stuck on a viciously inert cycle with regard to your hidden passions. If you want to wake up in a year, five years, ten years with that dream still tucked away in your heart or that unfinished manuscript still collecting dust on a high up shelf, then by all means, read on for my top ten ways to succeed at failure.
- Don’t take yourself (or your writing) seriously. Don’t stick to a regular schedule or safeguard blocks of time to write or work on your goals. That way when your significant other, kids, mailman, or neighbor from down the street, needs something they won’t feel bad interrupting you because they won’t take you seriously either.
- Wait for conditions to be perfect. Wait for inspiration to hit. Wait for all the kids to be in school (or out of school). Wait until you have the office set up, a certain amount of money in the bank, or a less chaotic schedule. Just wait. And eventually, after all that waiting, you can rest assured that you will have run out of time.
- Let fear and doubt become your new besties. They seem friendly enough, right? I mean, they do have your best interests at heart—they are, after all, only protecting you from that big, fat F-word (as in, Failure)—so why wouldn’t you trust them when they suggest second (and third and fourth) guessing yourself?
- Compare yourself to others. Compare early. Compare often. Then, when your story doesn’t evolve like Stephen King’s or J. K. Rowling’s, you can deem yourself a failure even before leaving your starting block.
- Do not dare to share your dream with the world. Do not tell anyone that you want to be a writer and never, under any circumstance, let anyone read your words. This could lead to unexpected encouragement and support and someone (or several someones) to hold you accountable. And if you want to succeed at not succeeding, you definitely do not want to be held accountable for making progress.
- Set a deadline, but whatever you do, don’t stick to it. If you view your self-imposed deadline as more of a loosey-goosey guideline with all kinds of wiggle room, you will absolutely, without a doubt NOT meet it.
- Save your writing for last. Tackle easier, less scary jobs first. Do the laundry. Mow the lawn. Clean behind the refrigerator. Cross every item off your to-do list. With any luck, by the end of the day, you will either be too exhausted to write at all or any feeble attempt you make will turn out like crap, thereby proving to yourself (and your good buddies Fear and Doubt and quite possibly the entire universe) that you do indeed suck and were right not to even try.
- Look for inspiration on social media. Then learn to convince yourself that the three hours you lost obsessing over the royal family’s picture-perfect life were all in the name of “research.”
- Invest in your excuses. Don’t just repeat them in a daily mantra, but truly believe them all the way to your core. Believe that you can’t do it. Believe that you aren’t good enough. Believe that you don’t have the time, you don’t have the energy, you don’t have the skills or the ability to acquire them. Believe that change and growth and breakthroughs are possible for other people, but are unquestionably, indisputably, totally inconceivable for someone like you.
- Blame someone else. Do not take responsibility for yourself, your time, or your life. Trust that these things don’t belong to you and it is actually your spouse, your kids, and that pesky neighbor I mentioned above who hold the authority for your dreams. And if blaming someone in your present life doesn’t work, take it all the way back to childhood—blame your parents, blame your teachers, blame that kid who pantsed you on the playground in fourth grade—because, if nothing else, carrying around a lifetime of bitterness and resentment does wonders for blocking creativity.