2 min read

Parallel Parking, Writing, and the Confidence to Fail Where You've Succeeded in the Past

Last weekend, I woke up, grabbed my phone, and while still groggy, opened Instagram. The first post I saw was from one of my fave restaurants promoting their weekend special: breakfast beignets.

I tumbled out of bed, tugged on the appropriate assortment of clothing, and seemed like two blinks later was in my car and headed their way. Upon my arrival, I noticed street parking steps from the entrance and also a spot at the end of the block before their location. To avoid paralleling parking, my immediate urge, was to pull onto their street from the cross street, and reverse into the spot at the end of the block.

Why?!

I was really going to go through with a riskier, more accident prone maneuver to avoid parallel parking. And you know what? I'm a pretty solid parallel parker. It's the only parking on my street and I lived in LA where you couldn't be picky about where you parked. The space in question was generous and it was early on a Saturday morning, so it wasn't like traffic was going to build up behind me while I slid my car into position. Also, I enjoy the satisfaction that follows a parallel park done well on the first attempt – Why would I deny myself this simple, easily acquired pleasure?

Because my emotions were overrun with the fear and discomfort I felt all the times I didn't parallel park successfully. My driving test (they passed me anyways though because it was 9/11). That time in front of the library that I hit the gas instead of break and rear ended the car in front of me. Every bumper I've scuffed. Every time I've given up in frustration and circled the block because I was so embarrassed by all the people witnessing my failure.

These emotions were prevailing, even though, at this point in my life, if we ran the numbers, it's probably 5:1 when it comes to parallel parking wins versus failures. Ultimately, I forced myself to parallel park that morning. Then, I sat in my car for 20-minutes just thinking because I'd rolled out of bed so quickly, I didn't realize I'd arrive at the restaurant before it opened and I forgot my phone at home.

Born of this thinking are all the ways parallel parking is a lot like writing. As a writer, you have to have a willingness to show up and fail at something you've succeeded at many times in the past. This is humbling as fuck. Like parallel parking, at no point does it become a given that you will succeed. You could turn the wheel slightly the wrong way, underestimate the difference between the cars, hit the curb – Any number of things can happen!

It doesn't matter how many essays you've had go viral, how many of your sentences are masterpieces, or what stage of your career you're at, you will write words that will not resonate. That will be clunky. That will make no sense. That will sink unnoticed and unread to the bottom of the worldwide web.

This is true for all of us, which was a frightening revelation for me in grad school when my professor whose books have won many awards shared what a struggle writing is for her – THIS SHIT DOESN'T GET EASIER??? But there's also comfort in knowing that every writer you admire feels the fear too. Fights the temptation of an easy out that will deprive them of the joy of their future success.

You must overcome your fear and on the other side of that fear ugly, unappealing writing is what's most likely to greet you. WONDERFUL. But if you're lucky, you revise. You polish. And you find success once more.

bell hooks says, "the space of our lack is also the space of possibility."

What space will you park yourself in today?

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