Monday, June 2, 2014

Why you should fail

By Pamela

No one brings home a report card eager to show Mom and Dad a bad grade. No one puts in hard work only to hope it doesn't pay off. No one shows up expecting to quit. No one likes to fail.

But as writers, we have to expect to fail.

To fail means we've put forth the effort to accomplish something just out of reach. To fail means we've attempted a feat only to fall short. This time. Even if we didn't get an agent or didn't get a publishing deal or didn't win the award for best debut novel, in that failure is the attempt and the realization that next time the outcome might be different.

If you have 12 minutes--maybe not today but maybe in the near future--you should watch Markus Zusak talk here about his brushes with failure, as an 8-year-old and again as a 28-year-old. (It's listed as The Failurist on the bottom of his blog or you might find it on YouTube.)

What we glean from his words--and the words of other failurists such as Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill--is that quitting is the only downside of falling short. When your short story gets rejected or your early draft of your novel doesn't get the praise you feel it deserves, choosing an easier path doesn't mean your life will be better. It just means you've decide to pursue that which is easier. What's safer and gentler on the ego. What will cause you the least amount of stress yet possibly result in a lower level of satisfaction.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." ― Thomas Edison

But eventually he found more than one way that DID work. Call it a light-bulb moment, if you will.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”― Winston Churchill

But it's hard to not lose your enthusiasm, especially if others around you seem to have an easier go of it. Perhaps you write and rewrite, only to get rejection after rejection. Chances are your writing isn't the problem. You just need to find the right story. Or the right character to tell your story. Make sure you have beta readers you trust to tell you the truth (that's not somehow influenced by their own failures) and listen to constructive criticism.

“Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door. ” ― Coco Chanel
Perhaps you also need to take a class or attend a workshop or seminar to help you work on craft. You can't transform the wall into a door without the proper tools. Figure out what might be lacking in your skill set and work to improve upon it.

Plenty of writers--if not all GOOD writers--have experienced rejection. And we can all be thankful they didn't quit. Be thankful you're not a quitter, either. Learn from failing and fail less next time.  


  1. Great post, Pamela. Loved the talk by Markus Zusak. Funny and honest! THE BOOK THIEF is one of my favorites, and it was interesting to hear how much he struggled with it.

    1. Cindy, a few of us had the honor of hearing Markus speak here in Dallas at an event and he shared a lot of what was in his TED Talk. He's a great storyteller--both orally and in print. If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you should follow him there as well.


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