Breaking Streaks

You may have noticed that this blog has been silent for over a month. 

I could claim there were plenty of good reasons for this. I’ve been working on my writing non-stop, both fiction and non-.  I’ve written well over 100,000 words and have even gotten some submissions out to publishers. I may not have been blogging but I have been getting a lot of writing done. I’m totally not using this as an excuse.

Really though, what happened is I had a blog queued up and ready to go one week, and I just forgot to hit “post” on the appointed day. And nobody noticed. Nobody called me on it. I got no concerned emails or comments or Facebook messages. I realized what I’d done the next day, and immediately posted it a day late. Life went on, despite the minor hiccough. 

But it got me thinking: if my readers weren’t concerned that I was a day late, why was I guilt-ridden and terrified? What was the worst thing that could happen? That I miss a post completely? That I stop writing the blog? Because the idea of it scared me so much, I felt I should take it head on, and decided to take a break. 

What happened? A handful of people asked me about it, a few in person and a few in my inbox. But generally, nothing terrible. The sky didn’t fall. I wasn’t struck by lightning. I wasn’t exposed as an impostor.  To be fair, I doubt that most of my readers realize I post on a fixed schedule. I keep it mostly for my own benefit, and simply announce whenever I write something. 

I figured the worse repercussions would be internal, and I was right. I felt relief at my little blog-cation, which made me feel guilty. But more, I was worried about breaking my streak. 

To explain that, I need to go back in time a bit. When I was in college as an English major, I had a 4.00 of which I was very protective. I was so concerned about my grades that I would study for hours for possible pop quizzes. I was terrified of ever getting a B, because I was afraid it would break my forward momentum and I would be a failure. 

I pulled it off, but this came back to bite me. After I started working as a pianist, I decided to go back to school for music. I was already a working musician; I knew that I couldn’t keep up with the time commitment of maintaining a 4.00. This would be strictly a learning experience to advance my own education. 

I’m sure you can imagine how that turned out—surprise surprise, I never got a degree in music. I ended up quitting the program. There were many reasons for it, both good and bad. One of the bad ones was that I was spending too much time on schoolwork—because I simply had to get straight A’s. 

To this day, I still have a 4.00. But it’s no longer something I’m proud of. It’s become a symbol of risks that I wasn’t willing to take for the opportunity to learn more. I quit something whose sole purpose was my improvement rather than get a B. 

Now, there’s not much that will challenge perfectionism and a fear of failure more than the realities of working as an artist. As a model, I have to pose despite all the flaws that I see in myself. As a pianist, I have to give a performance knowing I’ll probably hit a wrong note. As a writer, I have to post essays sometimes before I feel that they’re ready. Battling perfectionism and a fear of failure in my career is something that I’ve been doing now for a very long time, with every piece of art that I make and share. 

I’ve been fighting this for years, so imagine my surprise when I ran smack-dab into this same perfectionism with my late blog post. If I didn’t post a blog when I was supposed to, wouldn’t I break my streak? Wouldn’t I be a failure?

There’s something I’ve learned since my 4.00, by making all that art. Failure is going to happen. Bad poses. Bad performances. Bad essays. 

Failure is never permanent.

But failure is never permanent. It is not about identity. You can fail, and not be a failure. To be really cliché about it, the only way you can really fail is to not try in the first place—like dropping out of a music program to preserve your 4.00. All those bad poses and songs and essays didn’t make me a failure. Making them and sharing them made me an artist in the first place. 

I have been posting this blog on a schedule for three years. That’s a hell of a streak to break. But I think it was more than worth it to reinforce a very valuable lesson: just because I failed to post for a month doesn’t make me or this blog a failure. It might make the streak itself a failure, but that’s just one part of the project. None of these posts have gone away; none of the things that people liked over the last three years has changed. And I can start posting again, starting with this. I think perhaps that streaks are ultimately meant to be broken. It’s part of how we learn and grow.