Positive Writer

Write with More Confidence and Greater Satisfaction

How To Thrive as a Writer (But First You Will Fail)

I’m not always comfortable admitting this, but I make mistakes all the time. Some are major blunders, and some are not that serious. All of them make me feel like an idiot on some level. Sometimes I wish I would never fail, make a mistake, or stub my darn toe again.

And yet, without the potential for failure, and actually falling on my face more than a few times, I would never have had any successes. I would never have tried harder, better, and strived to thrive. In fact, I would not have created this blog, and published any books on writing, and tried to connect with you on such a personal level.

writing-failure

I write about failure a lot. It’s cathartic. It’s more than that. I think it’s important to write about the good AND the bad, or what at least seemed horribly bad at the time. I mean, we can’t always write as if Mary Poppins resides in our heads 24/7. (I hope she doesn’t. That would be too weird.)

Have you written about your failures, the potential for them, or the fear of? Give it a shot, see how it feels. It’ll suck at first. It’ll hurt. You might even feel shameful and regretful, and that’s a good thing, because it’s okay. Say that with me, it’s… okay.

I write about failure because I know that everything I try has the potential to not work and, in truth, 90% of what I’ve tried hasn’t worked.

Some of my failures were serious heartbreaks and hurt in such ways that although over time the pain may have diminished, it never completely went away. Dammit.

Failure can be had in one’s writing, creativity, art, and, of course, let’s not forget, in one’s love life.

I’m reminded of over 20 years ago when I met an incredibly charismatic girl. I only knew her for an all too brief winter’s break over Christmas, but as short as those few weeks were I fell for her hard, and if I’m going to be honest about it, I thought I fell in love with her. Maybe I did.

I still feel the echoes of that pain from so long ago whenever I’m reminded of her farewell letter, she wrote about what could’ve been but wouldn’t be. I never saw her again. I totally screwed up that relationship. I failed. Terribly.

We all have our farewell letters. Don’t we?

But you know what? That experience wasn’t a complete and utter failure.

A complete and utter failure is when you never try at all. (Click to Tweet)

Who was I to write and publish a book on writing? The Audacity!

My only experiences before Positive Writer and Writer’s Doubt were starting a dozen blogs and having just one survive and thrive, and I had written 10 books, published 5 of them, and yet only one sold very well.

I gave away the other 5 books as eBook downloads and only one of those took off. (And they were free!)

I worked countless hours on each book and out of 10, only 2 can legitimately be considered successful in any commercial sense.

It seems my experience is more in failing than in succeeding.

But isn’t that what success is?

If failure wasn’t a possibility, can the word “success” honestly apply?

When you read Writer’s Doubt the information isn’t shared from some pedestal on high as if I’ve always known better. Hell no! (Sorry for the expression. It’s the most accurate.)

It’s written from the lessons learned from escaping the pit of darkness and clawing my way back up the damp, cold walls of doubt, fear, and despair.

There can be no success without the potential for failure. (Click to Tweet)

Think about it a moment.

What exactly is “success” when there’s no potential for failure?

There have been times when I wished with all of my heart that I had never had that short relationship and thus never received her farewell letter. But the truth of it is that if I had not lived that experience, I wouldn’t have been ready for the right person when she came into my life.

There was so much I learned which I would not, and could not, have learned any other way. I’m sure if you look back at many of your so-called failures, you’ll find this to be true, too.

Joan and I happily and gratefully celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this past April. Our success story is in no small part thanks to our experiences, the good, the bad, and, yes, even the heart-wrenching.

When I recently celebrated the anniversary of publishing my first book about writing, Writer’s Doubt, I also celebrated something just as important and that was the understanding that I could never have written such a book had I not lived, strived, failed, and eventually (thank heavens) thrived, beyond my own doubts, fears, and what seemed like catastrophic setbacks.

And in truth, I’ll always be working to overcome doubt and failure. It’s the nature of life, but we can do it – me, and you. Yes. If we learn from our experiences, especially the failures, and don’t… ever… give… up.

It’s my hope, that we never, never, never give up. Ever.

Yes, failure is always possible, and in some cases it’s imminent, but here’s the thing:

Failure is essential.

It’s essential for our growth, to thrive in love, in creativity, and in our writing. It’s essential to life itself.

So whatever it is that you’ve been fearing to write (or do), feel it, it’s real, but know that the potential for failure and actual failure are part of the process and it’s going to be okay.

It’s not about expecting failure, ―no, don’t fall into that trap― it’s about understanding it’s a part of life and self-growth if it happens. There’s a difference.

So go for it, give it your best, and if nothing else, appreciate the experience. Learn and grow from it. Continue to scribble your heart out. Don’t let anything stop you.

It’s going to be okay.

For you, those who push through the fear, who fail and continue to write and tell your stories, thank you. We need you ―we need your stories― more than ever before.

How do you deal with your fears and failures? Share your story with us in the comments.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Aimee Mae Wiley

    Thanks for this honest article. Blogging feels like such an exercise in futility when I look at how few people read what I write and consider how much time I spend on each post. Still, when I come back to write again, I find joy in the process, whatever the dismal outcome may be. I journal mostly in my low times of feeling like a failure because, like you, I want to be a positive writer for others. There’s too much negativity around us; I want to be a voice of encouragement. Still, though, it’s important to be real and honest, which is what I appreciated most about this article, even down to the story about the lost love(?). I think we all have one of those:) I will forge ahead, trusting that the failures will someday lead to fruition.

    • R

      I’ve been writing for twenty years. I should say I’ve been playing at writing for a long time. The pattern has been to write intensely a week or two or maybe one day or two and give up for months at a time, even quit a couple of times for several years. A few years ago, I went back to school for the MFA in fiction. That would do it, that would make me believe I would be a writer. I worked hard, did well, graduated and stopped writing again after a few months. In school someone was always looking over my shoulder; respected writers were telling me I had what it took to be a writer. There were deadlines and I had always done well in “school.” I’ve come to realize now that I thrive best when I receive constant approval and adulation. You see I’m a “smart” guy with a string of degrees, and my writing must be smart and perfect, and it has been anything but smart and perfect. I have several computers full of incomplete drafts, novels and short stories. None of it was ever good enough for what I believed I could write. In this last year I have come to question why I wanted to be a writer in the first place and why I have failed. I’ve called myself lazy, untalented, and deluded. None of those judgements took me anywhere but failure. The idea of failure breeds failure. I’ve tried to stop writing altogether, but I became depressed, angry at myself for giving up. Also, somewhere down deep still I believed I could write. So I’d head back to the computer and around I’d go, writing and stopping. I never figured out why I wanted to be a writer. I know there are many reasons and they change and merge into one another. Some are selfish, some not, it doesn’t matter if they push you along. But I know why I stopped writing: impacience, lack of confidence, and striving for perfection. Writing became such a burden that it was no longer fun. I never gave the process of learning to write a chance. I never got past first drafts are bad. I never got past what the hell am I writing about. So I’ve decided
      to laugh about this whole damned thing, yes, laugh, to sit down, choose an unfinished story and finish it. I don’t care how good it is; I don’t care if it’s silly or makes any sense, not in the first draft. I’ll keep drafting it until I can’t anymore. I’ll keep trying to make it cohere, to bring it together as a story, and I’ll do it with a sense of humor and expiermentation– maybe like I did when I first started writing many years ago? (When writing wasn’t such an earth-shaking, profound task. When I wasn’t searching for the great American novel but just putting one word after another). And if it doesn’t work, maybe something in it worked? Maybe something will work in the next unfinished daft I choose to finish? With so many story lines out there hanging in limbo I have plenty to do with no empty white pages to face! The process is not about one great story but many failed, half-failed and almost stories. Thanks Bryan for your advice and thanks for looking over my shoulderfor a few minuets while I wrote this to me.

  • As I make a long awaited adjustment to my target audience, I appreciate the sharing about failure. I’ve used every excuse possible to wait. Tomorrow the waiting is over. A new blog post, a new avatar, and a new focus will go public.

  • I do as you do when it comes to fears and failures. I publish them. I’ve learned that my blog allows me to unleash what I normally wouldn’t tell someone (even friends). Whether that be an embarrassment I never told my wife or a dark truth I finally processed, disclosing my fears and failures has become therapeutic.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Oh boy – I am still processing your words…so all I can say right now is “Thank You” for ‘clawing your way back up into our lives”

    KItto

  • Thanks for the open heart surgery view on failure, very timely words of encouragement!!!

  • Melinda Liu

    I have learned from bitter experiences that the more I linger to fears and failures, the more I suffer. So I always remind myself my favorite words of wisdom: this, too, shall pass. It doesn’t mean that all the negative feelings and thoughts suddenly disappear. Sadness, disappointment, regret and anger are still there. Instead of trying to defeat all those negativity, I allow myself to feel it for a while. I also have time to examine and understand the cause and the effect of fears and failures to me. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. Practise make perfect. So don’t attach too long to these fears and failures as they, too, shall pass.

  • Susan Mary Malone

    Just love this, Bryan! Perhaps it’s something writers learn quite early–that our failures,whether in writing or in life–produce fodder for fiction. Failures, when faced, deepen us. And nothing is better for fiction than going ever deeper. It’s a cycle of the most useful kind.
    Thank you for the post!

  • Great post, Bryan. It’s always great to see someone take up the subject of failure and relate it to own experiences. It’s so easy to just assume that everyone who succeeds “just gets there” because of an “overnight” success. And so we give up before we even start. Persistence truly is the key to success (or self-development or any other goal).