10 February 2012

Accepting the Challenge: Failing Fearlessly

If you know me, then you know I'm generally not afraid of making a fool of myself for the amusement and entertainment of others.  I love a challenge.  I love the way crazy challenges force me to come up with new and creative ways to do things.  Sometimes, I even set outrageous challenges for myself, just to see if I can do it.

When they announced that they'd be handing out an award for "Most Creative Costume" at our church Halloween party, I pulled out rolls of sparkly gold fabric and PVC pipe and turned myself into a "Trophy Wife."  Even though I was still recovering from my brain surgery and quite puffy from the steroids, the chance to get a laugh from friends and family was enough to make me climb up onto that pedestal!

A few years ago, when my youngest daughter outgrew her toddler bed and needed a regular-sized bed, I decided to build one for her, rather than buying one.  Though I'd never built anything more complicated than a bookshelf, I didn't even hesitate before pulling out my power tools and getting to work.  The playhouse/loft bed that resulted was amazing, if I do say so myself!

When I got an invitation to participate in a chili cook off last year, and the rules stated that certain ingredients were banned from the competition, I proudly pulled out my crock pot and created a chili recipe to include every single one of the banned ingredients.  I entered my "Disqualification Chili" into the competition and received rave reviews!

I'm always up for a challenge, even when it means making a complete fool of myself, trying something I've never done before, or risking the scorn of others, who might not agree with my creative interpretation of the rules. 

Except when it comes to my writing.

That's when I hide away in my little corner of the world and cringe and cower and totally channel George McFly: "What if they tell me get outta here, kid, you've got no talent? I just don't think I can take that kind of rejection."  Why? Because all those other things don't really matter.  It's okay if I fail epically at something that's just a hobby or something completely silly.  But I've always wanted to be a writer, and what if.... what if.... what if????

That's why I was so grateful to see this challenge on the SCBWI MD/DE/WV blog

We want you to fail.
And when we say fail, we mean FAIL EPICALLY. Epically, totally, and completely.
Write a short, picture book rough draft that is the epitome of your every fear. Cliche characters. Senseless plot. Ridiculous story line. Stuff that would make an editor absolutely cringe and share it with the rest of the office for a good giggle. Let your hair down. Embrace your fear of failure and run with it.
Go crazy. Get nuts. Don’t think!
And . . . you only have thirty minutes. Anything more than that and you’ll start thinking too much. You’ll over-analyze. You’ll let those nagging fears in the back door.
For example, here’s the title of my Epically Horrible Picture Book:
The Epic Adventures of Ricky the Road Kill Rattlesnake.
(I know, awesome, right?)

Fail on purpose?  And in a crazy way, so that if someone laughs at the silly story I write, I can smile because I want them to laugh?  Oh yeah.  Challenge accepted!!

So this morning, I set my timer for 30 minutes and wrote the worst picture book I could.  No meter or rhythm.  Forced rhymes.  No plot.  Boring character.  And it was fun!!  I'll let you enjoy my Epic Failure while I go tackle the next challenge.  If you want to accept the challenge and write a 30-minute picture book, I'd love to see it too.  Feel free to post the story (or a link) in the comments - remembering please that this is a family-friendly website. :)

Once upon a time,
There was a girl named Clara, who liked to rhyme.

Whenever she spoke with her friends,
She made sure her sentences had rhyming words on the ends.

Everyone thought Clara was clever and witty,
But though she could rhyme, she couldn't read, which was a pity.

One day, Clara decided to do something fun.
She wanted an adventure, a day in the sun.

(Never mind that the sky was cloudy and grey,
She wanted sunshine, so she would find a way.)

Clara boarded a crosstown bus.
The driver could take her to the beach, she thought, without any fuss.

If Clara could read, she wouldn't have made her grave mistake.
If only she knew how to read the signs, she would have known which bus to take.

Clara did not get to play at the beach.
The sand and waves were hopelessly out of reach.

Instead, she found herself stuck at the end of the bus route.
In a parking lot, full of buses, Clara wandered, but she couldn't find her way out.

All through the day, Clara searched the buses for the one
That would take her from the dreary lot to a place that was much more fun.

She searched and searched, but she couldn't find the bus that she sought.
"If only I could read these signs," she thought, "it would help an awful lot!"

When nighttime fell, poor Clara, still lost, started to despair.
"I'll never get home, and I miss my mommy.  Doesn't anybody care?"

Suddenly, a kindly stranger took Clara by the hand.
He helped her find the proper bus, because he was such a nice man.

As Clara rode away, she thought, "This day was such a waste!
I should've taken time to plan.  I skipped that in my haste!"

But now Clara is home, tucked into bed, safe and sound indeed.
And her next adventure will be much more fun, because by then, she'll have learned to read!

(Return to my list of "just for fun" stories)


  1. It was a lot of fun. I'm going to keep that one in my arsenal for when I'm facing writer's block :)

  2. I love the costume, the bed, and the epic failure! Way to go. Just in case you didn't see it on Mommy Authors, you won a copy of Saving Halloween! Send your email address to heidi[at]franticallysimple[dot]com to claim it. Thanks!

  3. I wish I could've seen you at the Halloween party! I was sick that day. It looks awesome! Inspiring post!