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.
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.