To paraphrase one of my favorite sayings, ‘the difference between a master and a student is that the master has failed more times than the student has tried’. Continuing to try in the face of failure can be very difficult.
If you dream of becoming a writer then you know that failure is not just an option but virtually inevitable. While I’m not sure it’s true, I’ve heard JK Rowling was rejected by nine publishers before Harry Potter was published. Considering the brilliance of that series, you can see how rampant ‘failures’ are in the writing world. Clearly, she got the last laugh but what about the rest of us?
First, you must emerge from the hazy dream stage and put in the work to write your own Great American Novel! It takes hours, weeks, months to complete…and then it is time to edit and revise…and then it is time to edit and revise more. There are many opportunities for failure here. However, at the end of that road you’re flushed with your own success! You’ve written a book and are ready to share it with the world.
Yet more opportunities for failures await.
You’re giddy to submit your work and anxiously await replies. As multiple publishers and agents alike reject your manuscript, you start dreading those e-mail responses. Then, a miracle happens. It only takes one YES and again you are flushed with your own success! You’ve written a book and are going to be shared with the world.
Yet more opportunities for failures await.
You now anxiously anticipate reviews and sales reports. Perhaps your family and friends purchase your book and post a nice review. You’re once again flushed with your own success. Then…it’s the sound of crickets…no new reviews, no soaring sales reports, no movie deals. You wrote your book, you found a publisher but then it seems as if the whole world is rejecting you.
No longer do you feel immortal at seeing your words in print. No longer do you feel part of the artistic world, the world of language and change. Instead you feel alone, powerless.
Failure is certainly an option.
You have a life, family, friends. You don’t need the hassle of writing. You still wrote and published a book and not everyone can say that – there’s no need to continue past that success.
Writing isn’t the only goal/ dream that can take us on a roller coaster ride of success and failure. There are so many opportunities for failures in our everyday life. There are jobs, romances, weight loss, families. Truly, the list for potential failure in this world is endless. It’s easy to quit and much less stressful to walk away. There’s more fun to explore new options where you haven’t experienced failure (yet).
Failure is certainly an option…
We can keep trying again and again and again. I’m not a big fan of beating one’s head against the same wall over and over, but I think it’s important to keep trying. The trick is to make changes and keep learning so you try something new. So here’s what I’ve learned while struggling with my writing.
First, one of the best ways to learn to write is to read…A LOT. Take notes on what you like, what you didn’t like and adjust your writing style. The next step is to edit your notes into a book review. All writers need reviews so be an active member in the writing community (or any community). I think it’s important to not just take but to give back! It helps others and yourself!
Next, an obvious path is to learn from a teacher. If you have the funds, try writers’ conferences. There are also free writing classes online so there’s no excuse. Another option is to watch and learn from an unsuspecting teacher. I’ve found several indie writers whose works I enjoy and whose work ethic I also admire. To name one: Kristen Painter (author of one of my favorite paranormal romance series, Nocturne Falls). I follow her – stalkerish behavior really as I follow her on Goodreads and FB and also get her newsletters. I pay attention and take notes when she offers writing advice and as she communicates with fans and markets her works. Writing is a business and even if you write well there’s the marketing aspect of the vocation. There are contests, social media, advance reader groups, blogs, newsletters, etc. It seems overwhelming at first but I believe (or at least hope) that these are skills, not gifts. With time and effort, skills can be learned.
Again, there are many areas in our lives outside of writing where we face failures. There are also many areas where we can learn and give back. I believe there are always options. Some are harder, slower, and not as obvious at first frustrating glance. However, I do believe there are options at any crossroads.
I’ve stood at several crossroads in terms of my own writing. Things didn’t go according to my plan and there have been failures. However, I’m not finished yet. I am watching, learning, researching, writing, planning, etc. I am still trying. No doubt there will be many more failures ahead as I continue to try.
There are always also dark periods of doubt, bitterness, and anger when we don’t immediately reach the destination we want. Often though, it isn’t the destination but the journey that’s important. So we must continue the journey – even if we’re taking the slow scenic route, even if we get lost and have to turn back, even when there are road blocks. Those are the times we are growing and changing as a person and that should be considered a success in anyone’s book. We have to keep moving and progressing.
To anyone reading this and facing his/ her own struggles of any kind, please know that you aren’t alone. Please also know that while failure is certainly an option, so is trying again and again and again.