A Recurring Dream About… Failure

Pile of Failure by Natalie Dee

I just realised one of my recurring dreams is about failure. Like a lightning bolt from the blue, as I sat there looking at my blog stats (who’d have thought it would be the site of any type of epiphany!) Failure as a result of not turning up, not having studied, or having completely forgotten anything important was going on.

Pause the tape… I had better back track and actually tell you about the dream first!

Since I left high school, I have had dreams with a recurring theme – of turning up late to class for an exam, or being in class and not knowing there was an exam, or having forgotten to study. This is also extended to pieces of assessment work, which haven’t been started, have been forgotten or which should have been handed in at an earlier period of time. This is in stark contrast to my performance as a student at highschool – where I was diligent, hard working, never wagged a day and go bent out of shape in the lead up to exams and assessment items. There was no chance of ‘forgetting’ something back then.

Other than the scholastic setting… the thing which mostly marks these dreams is my totally lacksidaisical approach to it. I never seem stressed out, upset or anxious about the prospect of what befalls me… or of failing.

Ahhh, another insight as I sit here typing. But more on that later.

Why the sudden introspection about a dream I haven’t even had in recent memory? Well, I’m back ‘studying’ again. Granted it is writing boot camp not a university degree or a diploma, but the expectation is to do writing exercises and hand them in. Write stories. Hand them in.

I didn’t get off to a good start on Jeremy Shipp’s Yard Gnome Boot Camp. For one I was away when it started and we left to go on holidays unexpectedly (I’m living in a state totally swamped by floods at the moment so it was touch and go as to if we’d even be able to leave – or to get back) which meant I didn’t even get to get in and introduce myself before I went away and the classes started.

So I was late to class. And then I get busy with other things. Then I got to thinking, perhaps this isn’t the best time to be doing boot camp (as if there will be a better time later on in the year when things get even busier). This was following by the creeping realisation that Sunday (yes just a few days away) is the deadline for the first round of writing exercises… all of which, yes you guessed it, I haven’t done anything on other than read and know they are there.

What the hell am I thinking?

I got back to thinking about the recurring dream. Since leaving high school I haven’t completed one lot of study. I started university twice and dropped out twice (it is good I’m over the delusion I need a degree to succeed in anything I want to do). I started a hospitality diploma, dropped out and ran away to sea. I started a doula course after my son was born and didn’t make it through the first module. When it comes to completing study, of any kind, my track record is pretty poor. Even 13 years of successful schooling at primary and secondary level can’t make up for what’s gone on since.

If it were not for the 12 magazine I left as my legacy at Down to Birth, and the three anthologies we’ve completed for Chinese Whisperings, the eBook conversion for Gnarly Planning and the several side projects, including Literary Mix Tapes, I might think myself incapable of completing anything. I might not start anything on the assumption it will never be finished.

Looking back at the dreams… failure is always lurking there, not just in my dreams but in life. The moment you start doing anything, failure is a distinct possibility. From risotto for dinner to the next great story you start to write. Failure walks side by side with us every day. But according to my dreams… I’m not too worried by it. While this has the upside of not being hobbled or frozen by the fear of failure, thus I will blaze a trail and hope for the best, the downside is a lack of impetus to keep moving when the momentum falls off. And let’s be honest… I started boot camp with no momentum.

So where to from here? Guess it is time to go (having got this all off my chest now) and bust out some writing exercises. I might even capture snatches of conversation which might be put to good use with my (Nothing But) Flowers contribution!

Do you have recurring dreams?  Do you finish what you started? Are you unhinged by the fear of failure?

6 thoughts on “A Recurring Dream About… Failure

  1. I haven’t dreamt and been able to remember my dreams most of the time in quite a while. Sometimes, like last night, I do. I can’t work out what controls it though.

    Mine usually feature people in my life and are to do with issues in my relationship with them such as family and friends. They’re fairly transparent.

    But I’ve also been a bit of a non-finisher, especially with short story projects. Something I want to turn around this year.


  2. This was really interesting to read, as I dream a lot but the ones that come back to me again and again are either my first day at Uni and I’m finding my room, or being late for an exam or needing to pass one more unit to graduate. So very similar to yours in fact. These dreams have been going on since the early ’90s!


  3. I have rather similar dreams where I have been away from school for maybe a month or two and am trying to find out if the exams have already been given and what I need to know for them. In real life I have delayed completing some philosophy writing projects for a long time, perhaps in large part because I see them as tests from on high rather than as part of a possible dialogue leading to support from equals with similar interests. My current lesson for myself: Instead of fearing judgment, think in terms of connecting through the writing with others with similar interests. At least that way maybe I’ll stop having these dreams and may also finish the philosophy work with elan. Thanks for putting your dreams out there.


  4. Pingback: Go! | 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky

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