Pixar Rules of Story #11 – Don’t be afraid of failure


Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

Rule#8 told us to…

…not let the perfect be the enemy of the good…

and not to let striving for an unattainable goal (perfection) prevent us from getting something finished and/or moving on to something else when we get blocked. Ultimately it was encouraging us to just keep writing and not get ourselves stuck – we learn by writing and rewriting our efforts.

Rule #11 presents a similar recommendation to get words on the page but looks at it from a slightly different angle, telling us not to…

…let the perfect be the enemy of the bad.

Just get it out! Get words on the page and don’t be afraid to get it out of your head – however bad you think it might be. The first draft is likely to be bad, but just get it down on the page, don’t try and write perfect first time… it isn’t worth the stress or the strain. You can fix it after you get it down.

The trap many of us may fall into with this rule though is the fear of failure. We let the perfect be the enemy of the bad and keep things in our heads because we don’t want to fail, we don’t want to produce bad work – we think it shows us up as amateurs.

Whereas the opposite is probably the reality.

What Rule #11 tells us to do is learn not to be afraid of failing. Actually, we need to embrace the fact that failure is a part of writing that we need to learn to deal with. Produce bad writing, take the comments and criticism, then learn how to rewrite, revise and resurrect bad projects.

We learn by failing and failing leads to rewriting and, as a writer friend Sutinder Bola once said:

“Rewriting isn’t just about improving your script. It’s about improving yourself as a writer. It’s only by identifying and tackling the problems, mistakes and weaknesses that we hone our talent and skills. It’s only by rewriting our material that we evolve as writers.”

So if we rewrite to correct our mistakes and recognise our failings, we will be learning from them.

Or, as Alfred says, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up”.

Bad writing and failure is part and parcel of being a writer. Even the most successful writers will have a bad day, but they pick themselves up and try again and again, and again. As Stephan Vladimir Bugaj says about the rule:

“The professionals are the ones who keep going back to the plate and working it. The greats are the ones who never give up, learn from every mistake, and with a combination of perseverance, ability, and great luck, manage to go beyond.”

So let’s all fail together, get the bad out, avoid perfection paralysis and keep working and writing to make the next thing we write a little less bad!


Are you afraid to fail?

How do you get over your fear?

Feel free to comment below and remember to come back next week for Rule #12 –Experiment!

Please also check out the Introduction to the series if you missed that, where you can also find an index to all the posts.


Posted on May 20, 2015, in rewriting, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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