I’ve always had a deep-seated fear of failure, long before I even know what to call it. It’s the reason I never volunteered an answer in school even when I was confident I was right. The risk that I was wrong, and everyone would know it, wasn’t worth it to me. It’s the reason it would take me several days to review term papers in college, papers I would always shove in bag without looking at them the second my professor would hand them back. I would have to spend hours syncing myself up just to look at the grade and it would take days to prepare myself to read through the comments, though sometimes I never got to the point where I could read the responses (and that was on papers I received A’s on). It’s the reason I refuse to use a red pen while editing because just the sight of it causes me anxiety. And it’s the reason I created Crystal Wolf in the first place.
I’ve mentioned before that I first created Crystal to go into a series of fan fiction stories I wrote with a friend in middle school. The Crystal in these stories was absolutely perfect. She was smart, funny, attractive, and strong. Everyone loved her and respected her. She was who I thought I needed to be in order to be loved and respected as well. An ideal to strive for. And because she was perfect in every way, she never had to deal with failure. She was also a really flat, unbelievable characters.
When I decided to give Crystal her own story and started writing The Journey Missions, I knew that I needed to give her some flaws to make her more believable. So I gave her cute little flaws like she worked too hard, and was too dedicated to her work. Flaws that still didn’t allow room for failure.
I quickly realized that if I wanted to write a good story, then I needed to let Crystal fail. She is still relatively new in her career, even if she is highly successful, working with nearly impossible obstacles to overcome. Of course, she was bound to fail. It’s a part of life. Something I knew but was still having a hard time accepting in my own life as well as I entered the work force. And so like any good writer who doesn’t know how to handle their feelings, I gave them to my characters.
Thus Crystal’s fear of failure was born. It’s manifested itself in small and big ways throughout the story. The moments of second guessing and hesitation, that’s her fear of failure rearing its ugly head. Something she had to push aside in order to move forward. The most obvious representation of this is in Crystal and Flint when Journey is attacked on their maiden voyage and a small equipment failure escalates the situation. Something she had no control over and still she takes this failure as her own. It was her job to oversee the construction of the ship after all. To ensure it was perfect, and she missed it. She failed. And later when she is sitting in the Ward Room explaining to the rest of the team what went wrong, she feels that failure so deeply. She is living her worst fear waiting for them to tell her that she doesn’t know how to do her job, that’s she’s incompetent, that it’s all her fault. Logical or not that’s where her mind goes in the moment. That’s where my mind goes every time I make the tinniest of mistakes.
Giving Crystal this flaw has allowed me to recognize it in myself and more importantly it has allowed me to name what it is I’m feeling in these moments. Once you know what something is, it’s a lot easier to manage it.