Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Have A Friend In Failure

I have a confession to make.. I am mortified by failure. It not only haunts me, there are times when it literally it paralyzes me.

I cannot tell you how many times I have started a project, spent hours thinking, outlining, and writing.. only to hit the delete button because of that nagging voice of doubt that lives in my head.

"This is crap." "You can't write." "You're wasting your time." "You'll never be published." "You're going to fail."

Most of the time the voice stays behind the  scenes. It's not until I actually start taking steps toward a goal that it visits my thoughts.

However, I have learned as the years have passed that failure is not a consequence of trying, it is a result of living. Failure is inevitable. I loved JK Rowling's quote above because, to me, it encapsulates the essence of how we should look at failure.. how I should look at it.  It should not be feared, but accepted as a chance to learn and improve.

Thomas Edison had over 1000 failed attempts at making the light bulb, but when asked about his attempts he replied that he never failed, he merely found 1000 ways not to make a light bulb.  Edison also calmly watched as his workshop burned to the ground one day.. over $2 Million dollars in damage with only $230,000.00 insured. Rather than swear or rant or cry.. he asked his son to go fetch his mother because she would never again in her life see such a site as the inferno.  When asked about the disaster, Edison said, "There is great value in disaster, all our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew."

Edison completed the final prototype of the phonograph just days after that fire.

Every great success story begins with failure.  JK Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 different publishers. Dr. Seuss's first book was rejected 27 times.  John Grisham submitted his first book, (A Time to Kill) to 12 different publishers and 16 agents, all rejected him. CS Lewis (of Narnia fame) was rejected an astounding 800 times before he sold even 1 writing.

Looking at that list there are 2 noteworthy commonalities.

  1. All failed initially.
  2. None of them gave up.

As writers, failure should be our rallying cry.. not that it's what we should aspire to of course, but with each rejection, with each suggestion from our alpha readers, with each red  mark from our CP's.. we learn more, we adjust our style, and we are 1 step closer to our goals.

Fear of failure has probably saved me from countless embarrassing situations, but it has also very likely kept me from countless incredible successes.  But if I can learn to look at failure as a necessary step.. a rite of passage that all experience, and not a condemnation of my hopes and dreams, then there is hope for you too.


"... I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed."



12 comments:

  1. Hi! I'm a new follower from BookBlogs. Your blog looks great, and I look forward to reading more. I'd love it if you'd stop by mine at http://www.VanessaKEccles.blogspot.com

    Read you later! :)

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  2. Great and helpful thoughts re: failure! thank you!

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  3. Looooove this topic.

    It took me awhile to get over rejection last year. And really, I could go off forever on my journey and how it's led me to where I am now. Long story short, I wouldn't change it. <---And as cliche as this may sound, it's the truth. Learning to swallow failure and to make it part of yourself in a good way is something a lot of people never learn to do. And I'm grateful for the strength I've gained as a person and as a writer.

    Fab post :D

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  4. I think we forget that authors, inventors, athletes...people we look up to had their trials and fails, and then found their success. We see their awesomeness they've left on the world without acknowledging their struggles...thanks for the reminder!
    Great post!

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  5. If I've not commented here yet, hello fellow campaigner.

    Love the Edison story and the Rowling quote as well. If we succeed after many "failures" then we have not failed. So the only sure way to fail is to not attempt the thing in the first place.

    I wish I could remember the name of the man who said one of my favourite quotes . . .

    How do we know we've done what it takes to get what we want? Because we get what we want.

    I heard someone say he was going to give up looking for an agent because he was rejected 8 times. I thought, what if it takes 9 times?

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  6. Great post! I think most insecurity is just the fear of failure.

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  7. Hey there! I'm finally making the rounds and getting to other campaigners' blogs.

    That is such good advice! I'll admit that I, too, am quite afraid of failing. But the idea that publishing is at the end of my epic struggle? Yeah, that keeps me going. Because I'm not ever going to give up.

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  8. Well said! It would be so easy to give up with the first rejection, but greatness never came from quiting. This actually kinda goes along with my post today. (Thanks for the follow btw. :)

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  9. Your words are an inspiration! They are also true and fear can be debilitating9I might spell this wrong but..oh well). If you try, and try....adn try...etc.... you never fail. I would rather keep trying than just give up after the 3rd time or worse yet, never even beginning. I do not count myself as a writer but I love writing things down...who is to stop me except me:)

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  10. The only caveat I'd add is that while we have to move past our failures and use them as learning experiences, we shouldn't plan on failing. I'm not going to write a book and think the whole time that I'm writing it, "Oh man, I'm going to learn so much when this book fails." Plan to succeed and accept that it's going to happen, and then every failure is just a course-correction to your final destination.

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  11. Kevin, this post is so awesome. It takes such courage to admit how afraid you are failing. But I doubt that you are failing, because it takes so much strength and courage to build and keep a blog. Always remember all the hard work you are putting into this isn't going unnoticed. Keep up the good work man.

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