“Failure hurts, doesn’t it?
It can be brutal, humiliating, and demoralizing.
From the giddy heights of your initial creative rush, the long hours wrestling to keep your labor of love alive, to landing smack on your face on releasing it into a world that frankly, doesn’t give a damn.
That’s one heck of a fall.
But we’ve all felt like failures at one point in our lives. And the pain that it brings can be enough for us to slam the brakes on ever trying to be a writer again.
However, if you study successful writers, you will discover that one of their most defining characteristics is that they have all failed, sometimes multiple times: failed to finish novels, failed to get them published (assuming they did finish them), failed to make a living writing and even failed to carry on writing.
Those writers who succeed understand that to stop feeling like a failure and dare again, you need to re-examine your idea of what failure as a writer actually is and what it means to you.
Because before you can start to feel like a successful writer, you must stop feeling like a failed one. Here’s how:
1. Stop seeing failure as your enemy
When you fail, you need to know that it isn’t personal. Failure doesn’t wake up eager to single you out as its victim.
So stop taking a fail as a personal attack on you and your writing goals.
Treating failure as your enemy adds significantly more stress and conflict to the creative process. You need clear thoughts to regroup and re-plan. Don’t waste energy on how battered you feel from the blow of an imaginary adversary.
Instead, embrace failure as a friend, as an honest if brutal editor. Friends and editors tell you how things truly are so that you can move on. They’re right there with your best interests at heart.
Failure similarly shows you where you need to improve your characterization or plot or strike out on a different approach. Or maybe abandon an idea altogether and start afresh.
It’s sending you a clear and positive message that you need to hear.
Take every setback as valuable, constructive, and well-meaning feedback.
Realize that maybe that first version is indeed crap (Hemingway famously stated that ‘the first draft of anything is sh*t’). And yes, it hurts to have to start again and re-write the whole thing but if you want to be a successful writer, that’s what successful writers do.
Realize that failure can be your greatest friend and most powerful editor – listen up and take note!
2. Stop thinking that failure defines who you are as a writer
You alone have the power to craft your self-image. The labels you define yourself by steer your every thought and decision. So you must choose only those that will serve you.
The self-portrait you hang in your mind will frame how successful you become.
Describing yourself by derogatory, disdainful, or disparaging terms will sabotage your every creative effort. Thinking of yourself as a failed author, screenwriter, poet or blogger will ensure that success eludes you, no matter how hard you try.
Realize that failure is an event, not a person. You may have failed three of four times to be published or to write that viral post, which means three or four decisions and paths of action didn’t work.
It doesn’t mean you don’t work, or that something is wrong with you, or that you’re doomed to fail in life. It absolutely doesn’t mean you can’t succeed next time.
It might also mean that someone else has failed. Publishers failed dozens to hundreds of times to recognize great works – Dune, Carrie, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Dubliners, Chicken Soup For The Soul – many were rejected time and time again.
Imagine if these authors had thought of themselves as failures and given up? Imagine all those works lost to the world!
Every failure brings the opportunity for you to decide that the act of failing won’t define who you are.
Instead focus on your creativity, resilience, and strength in the face of failure.
Remember that rejection is part of the process. It’s a case of working through the ‘No thank yous’ to get to the ‘Woohoo – yes!
Cut yourself and your creativity some slack as you build up your failure stamina. You’re human and writing is your passion. It means the earth to you, thank goodness. So, momentary wingeing and whining are absolutely acceptable.
Then with your next breath, get right back to honing your craft. Focus on pouring your very essence into each and every word. Picture your message hitting your readers between the eyes as if they were wearing 3D glasses.
Believe, like all the great writers, that you are a writer who fails — but isn’t a failure.”