It is a word every writer learns to appreciate with time. In the beginning it is frustrating and angry-making. Along the way it becomes “meh” to the point of quitting completely. Eventually there comes the realization that it is normal and part of the business.
Michael Jordan, basketball icon, said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
A Writer’s Guarantee
At some point in your writing journey you will face the question of whether or not it is worth all the work, disappointment, and minuscule dollars. I suspect every writer hits this place. It is embedded in the fabric of the creative gift.
That is because the marketplace is capricious. Your writing is good sometimes and great at other times. Your ideas connect with one set of readers and maybe not the second time around.
But if the big bad ugly traditional publishers don’t want the book you can always Indie publish and reap amazing success! Guaranteed!
You want guarantees? Better talk with your tax accountant or your mortician.
Even Michael Jordan missed a slam dunk every once in a while.
The only guarantee to avoid failure is to stop writing and stop showing your work to anyone. I’ve known many writers who have ended up in this dark and lonely place. The most unusual was a writer who had never experienced rejection. Not once. The author’s first proposal was accepted, another book became a national bestseller, and for years everything (fiction or non-fiction) created was published…until one day it all stopped. Suddenly no one wanted the next book proposal. I talked to this writer at length trying to figure out what happened. This author solved the problem by never submitting a new proposal. No more failure. In my opinion, that is not the right answer.
I have failed more than I care to admit.
As a bookseller I spent thousands of dollars on a big local promotional event only to have only about 50 people show up…and none of them bought anything.
As an editor I acquired books that no one wanted to buy. I also passed on books that became wild bestsellers.
As an agent I signed projects that received 100% rejections from various publishers. I invested time and effort that was for naught.
But none of those failures will be my last one.
A few thoughts on overcoming failure.
1) Define success. Then you have a goal or a threshold to achieve. But be realistic. I once received a proposal where the writer claimed the idea was bigger than Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings … combined. It may be that your “failure” really wasn’t a failure but was simply one more step on the journey.
2) Remember again why you are writing in the first place. Some fall into the idea of writing because it seemed a fun thing to do. Others have the pull from a young age. Others can do nothing else because the call to write is so very strong. Failure can blind or deafen you to remember what brought you to this place where failure confronts you.
3) Embrace your failure. And I mean truly grasp that smelly, prickly, burning, bitter, and nightmarish thing in your arms and pull it close. The sensation can be overwhelming. But it also can reveal itself to be the size of a small stuffed animal and not the scary beast from the forest of your mind. Once you have embraced the failure for what it is…
4) Go out and do it again. The rewards for sticking with it outweigh all the rest. And whether you publish Traditionally, Indie, or Hybrid the words you write will not be void.
As Winston Churchill said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”