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.
- All failed initially.
- 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."