Wanna Succeed as a Writer? Buddy Up to Failure, it’s the Best Friendship You’ll Ever Make

failure-is-awesome-a-manifesto-for-your-20s-so-you-dont-suck-at-life-1-638

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt

The act of screwing it up, getting it all wrong and falling flat on your literary face is the worst, most evil thing that can be thrust upon the fragile ego of a creative person. No writer ever wants to be standing hip-deep in a congealing bucket of epically proportioned failure. Not only does it cling to you, branding you with the scarlet letter of incompetence, but the fumes from it seep into your pores and attack your confidence, enthusiasm, and self-esteem.

And even worse than failing? Atychiphobia:

From the Greek phóbos, meaning “fear” or “morbid fear” and atyches meaning “unfortunate” atychiphobia is the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure, often leading to a constricted lifestyle, and is particularly devastating for its effects on a person’s willingness to attempt certain activities.

But “fear of” is getting kicked to the curb in this post because—if you haven’t guessed from the title—I’m actually advocating for failure, which in my insolent opinion, gets a bad rap.

When you first begin to write for an audience, or writing in a genre that’s new to you, or in a different format, etc., your first attempts will most likely not be optimal. No two ways about it, no getting around it. Why? Because your life isn’t a movie, wunderkind wasn’t conveniently inserted into your backstory, and greatness isn’t DNA-encodable at this point in time, it still has to be strived for.

You. Will. Fail.

Fail to connect with your audience. Fail to notice logic issues in your plot easily spotted by a reader. Fail to end a story properly (if you even complete it at all). Fail in your use of words to convey the intended images. Fail to make a sale. Fail to impress your literary heroes. Fail to please everyone (always), the majority (on occasion), and anyone (trust me, it happens).

The only surefire way to avoid writing failure is to either never commit your ideas to paper—let them swirl around in the magical kingdom of your imagination, living their Peter Pan existence, as you vegetate in front of the TV—or never put your writing out into the world. If either of these sounds like a viable solution, good on you, and go for it. I’m not here to judge.

If, however, you’re not satisfied with letting ideas fester in your gray matter as you wait for the opportunity to unleash your genius in that perfect moment that never ever seems to swing around your way, you’ll need to look disappointment square in the eye and accept the fact that the outcome of your writing endeavors will not always line up with your expectations.

And though I’m not here to judge, should you actually consider never committing your ideas to paper, one possible adverse effect is that idea can metamorphosize into a bloated squatter that takes up an unnecessary amount of mind space, thereby blocking the arrival of new ideas. If it were me, I’d serve it an eviction notice and make way for a new tenant. But that’s just me. Still no judgments.

Once you’ve wrapped your noggin around the simple truth that you will fail and have given up feeling hopeless, weak, and belittling both yourself and your talents, you’re finally ready to accept the fact that failure plays a very important, incredibly positive role in your writing life. In fact, it offers you a chance to grow and learn.

The first step in learning how failure breeds success is to let yourself fail a few times. Experience it in it’s totality. When you discover that it does not, in fact, destroy you, feel free to brush yourself off and climb back on the horse. All successful writers have experienced failure (and a great deal of the time the success/fail ratio favors the negative) but what made them successful is they weren’t afraid to fail and if they did, they just learned from their mistakes and moved on.  They didn’t allow themselves to be defeated by rejection, hurt, or disappointment.

There will be those of you who poo-poo (yeah, I said poo-poo, deal with it) the notion of getting accustomed to failure because you personally know someone whose first-ever novel made the bestsellers list, whose first draft screenplay became a Hollywood blockbuster, whose tweets became a TV series, blah-blah-blech. There’s a professional name for that phenomenon. It’s called a miracle. Right place, right time, all the planets fall into alignment. This is great when/if it happens, but you shouldn’t factor it into your overall game plan. It’s akin to being dirt poor and signing the deed on a mansion just because you’re sure you’re gonna win the lottery.

Well, writing calls, so I must be off—I’m sure I’ll speak more on this topic in the future—but before I go, let me leave you with a list to help you on your way to palling up with failure:

  1. Read.
  2. Write.
  3. Fail.
  4. Learn.
  5. Repeat.

It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that.

Sally forth and be failingly writeful, you intrepid writer, you.

51 responses to “Wanna Succeed as a Writer? Buddy Up to Failure, it’s the Best Friendship You’ll Ever Make

  1. This post proves I’m successful at something! 😀 I’m currently learning about radical acceptance in therapy, the ACT method of essentially embracing problems such as fear and anxiety and learning to live with them instead of fighting against them. This appears to go along with your philosophy of accepting failure as a part of life and something which can actually be beneficial in the long run. Fear of failure is paralyzing. Your take on this is brilliant as always and makes sense, and your humor is such a good tool to employ in getting your point across. Thanks for the encouragement, Rhyan. It’s invaluable and timely. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • What we get wrong during a process is just as important, if not more so, than what we get right. Eliminating wrong paths eventually sets us on the right one. Being perfect is something for myths and fairytales…and if I’m being honest, is a little bit boring. Cheers for the read and comment, Mike!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Meyers-Briggs guarantees at least 25% won’t care for you or your work. You can minimize that to some degree with beige pablum. But not much. My professional life was creative for $. Our product is not our children, or an appendage like an arm or leg and it’s best to understand that, as you say, going in. Understanding no one else sees it our way is imperative. Write, produce, publish. Next. And keep your middle finger loaded and cocked for trolls.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hooray. Thank you for the encouragement! Learning to deal with failure is a powerful lesson for every writer, and I love the way you’ve explored that here. ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve failed more this year than in any other year. It’s been hard. I’ve lost so much but at the same time gained so much and learnt so much about myself. I’ve been an emotional yo yo. Elated one minute. Rock bottom the next. But it’s strangely been the best year of my life just because I have learnt so much…and your posts just confirm the path I need to take. Thank you for the wisdom and encouragement, Rhyan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think over the past two years what you’ve described has been experienced by all of us, but you have to believe that perseverance will see you through. The core message of this post applies to all aspects of life. You can’t be afraid to go out there and try and get back up when you stumble and press on. I wish you well in all your endeavors, Suranne!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think failure for creative people is especially painful, as writing is such a ‘no guarantee’ vocation already. But the embracing failure as a part of the learning process is really about not giving up doing it because you love it, and unless we enjoy the process then we are already setting ourselves up for disappointment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This really lifted me up, thank you. I have failed many times and like you pointed out, it affected my self-confidence and self-worth. But reading things like this and knowing that I’m not alone and even though failure hurts that it’s part of the process, now I can prepare my brain to get through the difficult outcomes and keep on going for what I want. I really appreciate this articles of yours, please keep doing them! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fernando, my father was the king of homegrown sayings and one of his favorites was, “Nothing beats failure like a try.” You gotta keep stepping up to the plate and swinging at the pitches. Cheers for the read and sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

    • The bombs need to explode. When they do, sift through the wreckage and salvage the good bits and leave the rest behind. You’ve gotten it out of your system and made room for better works. Cheer for the read, Greg!

      Like

    • Wish I had an exciting answer to this. These “suggestion” (I hate calling them “advice” since I’m not a teacher or guru, just a guy with an opinion) posts are the result of conversations I have with fellow writers on forums and the like. When I spot a topic that I have two cents to spare on, I post about them. It offers alternative reading material for those who don’t dig my fiction (which I understand completely, horses for courses, as they say). Cheers for the read!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just my point of view, but blogs are the perfect place to fail. You get to test things out, run ideas and concepts up the flagpole, see what resonates with readers, and discover all the little darlings that you thought were oh so clever that fall flat on their faces. It’s like a standup comic workshopping material in small clubs before doing a televised special. Trim the fat of what doesn’t work and offer up a work that’s in tiptop fighting shape. Cheers for the read and comment!

      Like

  7. Failure is my second name and I flaunt it with pride. I’m talking about many things in life. And it has made me want to try for things even harder. I’m not the one to sit down and cry in a corner. That ain’t my style. You seem to be on a motivational spree, Rhyan. Are you the new ‘writing preacher’ in town? I like it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Truth within the words my friend! Before I started writing Tales by Haiku (my short story series) I messed up so many times before. But it was the failures of those past experiences that led me to grow into the writer that I was today. Ever since I started writing in 5th grade I have learned one very important thing; you are not the one writing a story or poem, we as writers are simply vessels that allow the story to manifest itself onto paper. So I always say to myself, my relationship with failure is something of love/hate, at this point I treat it like it’s another family member. Excellent post my friend 🙌🏾

    Liked by 1 person

    • Treating it like a family member is a bright idea, Haiku, because if you continue to create in any form, failure will be lurking somewhere in the vicinity. Cheers for reading the post and commenting, as well. Best of luck in all your future endeavors!

      Like

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