I did it! I wrote a novel! The first draft is 47,504 words and belongs in a nice, shiny trash can.
About 2/3 of the way through my novel, I realized that it was no good. All my illusions of being a naturally talented writer were brutally smashed.
But I picked myself up and kept going, painfully aware now of the quality of my work.
And I’m so glad I did.
Even though the words are worthless and the draft is unprintable, the act of finishing was immensely energizing.
I hear the advice all the time, quoting Beckett: “Fail. Fail better.” I never got it. Failure is painful, terrifying, and seems useless.
But I see now: becoming aware of my incompetence gives me the capacity to become awesome. I can now learn how to write well, whereas before I didn’t really have the ability to do so.
How you can write a novel and fail better
Write. Write as best as you can. The point when you realize that your best is no good is agonizing and depressing. Keep going. Finish it.
The point: finishing isn’t going to improve your ability, but it expands your capacity to learn to improve. You now have the capacity to be awesome, whereas before you had no place within you to hold the awesomeness.