Failure is part of life. We cannot avoid it. Whilst this is obvious, in ‘real life’ we can kid ourselves that it’s a ‘once in a while’ thing, especially once we’re out of school. It’s not like we take tests and exams every day, right?
But as writers, failure seems to be CONSTANT, especially in the form of rejection:
- Producer, publisher or agent said no?
- Only getting radio silences?
- Didn’t place in that contest or scheme?
- Film, show, web series or book reviewing badly?
- No one buying your stuff?
I’m sure you can recognise all of these things instantly. You’ve probably had all of them at some time or another – I know I have! These can compound our feelings of failure and can make us wonder whether it’s all worth it.
Failure is a learning experience
But newsflash: we NEED failure, if only to learn what NOT to do.
Sure, obvious and stupid mistakes can be avoided on the advice of others who have already been there – that’s one of the purposes of this blog! But that’s the key … Others who have already been there.
Sometimes, we ourselves have to BE that first person. Other times, the only way we can find out is for ourselves. Simple.
As Thomas Edison said, ‘I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ Edison is right on the money … As long as we learn from our mistakes, then there is no such thing as failure. Here’s another quote I love:
Failure makes us take responsibility
Lots of writers ask me WHY they’re not getting any success with their work. My question is always: ‘What are you DOING to ensure you get that success?’
Lots of them have a go at me, saying I don’t understand what it’s like for them. Some just shrug, confused. An even smaller minority will tell me their strategies and what has – and hasn’t – worked for them so far.
I’m happy to work with the last two. But there’s very little I can do for the first. You see, if you won’t take responsibility for your failure and blame others, or circumstance, or WHATEVER for your lack of success? Then you deserve to fail.
What’s more, if you keep doing the SAME THING and never re-evaluate, you deserve to fail too. Harsh maybe, but true.
Failure makes us rethink
When something goes wrong, we shouldn’t think ‘Woe is me, the world is against me’. Instead we should think like Edison or Einstein and say, ‘Well that didn’t work, what next?’
WHAT NEXT is always the key. Sometimes there will be lots of ‘what next’; other times, just a few. But if we treat failure as something that is not fatal and keep moving forward, then it is not possible to stand still …
… And then we succeed.
Sometimes, failure is not our problem
It is someone else’s. Sure, projects will up-end; books will get pulled; finance may collapse. You may end up with nothing to show for your efforts, or you may end up with a story that no longer looks like the one you first conceived. This obviously sucks. Big time.
But at the same time, we have to recognise our own efforts too. Even if a project goes tits up, as long as we have done what we’re supposed to, we can hold our heads up high. We have delivered.
Not afraid of failure?
Congratulations! You are now invincible. You will never take a shit deal, for fear of being thrown aside. You will walk away and know you are doing the right thing. You will never sell yourself short.
Always trust your gut. This means you have succeeded … Because you don’t act like failure is inevitable, like so many. This is why Coco Chanel’s quote is my favourite here (and not because she’s the only woman on this list!).
So, keep on keeping on … what else is there? If you keep going, you can’t NOT to get where you want to be, as long as you take responsibility and learn from your mistakes.