How Real Writers Deal with Failure
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” - Thomas A. Edison
It is common knowledge that the writing life is hard, but it takes a dedicated writer to know why. Good writing is not about coming up with ideas or waiting for inspiration. It’s about failure. Cold, hard failure – the kind that comes from having your work rejected a thousand times or realizing the greatest idea you had for a story is actually terrible. The act of writing is like any other public display of your personal views. It leaves you totally exposed to personal rejection. If this sounds hard it’s because it is, especially when that rejection is attached to the manuscript you’ve worked so hard on.
Ultimately, the successful writers come to learn that failure is really a precursor of success. If you or your writing are on the brink of success – or just a step or two away from the finish line – it might be time to rethink your concept of failure. For most writers, failure occurs in two ways, over and over again. Failure happens from bad writing and from getting rejected. Both types of failure are a natural consequence of trying to become a successful writer, and both can take the starch right out of your collar.
But the fact is that both types of failure are milestones on the path to success. Thinking this way forces writers to develop a perverted concept of failure, thinking about it as something that must happen before achieving success. Many of the great stories of our times followed some really crappy writing, during which the author ironed out the story and worked to translate great ideas to the written page. Many of these great stories also followed countless rejection letters, receiving them one at a time and eating at the writer’s soul before success finally arrived.
The fact is that the great writers are not the most talented or the smartest. They have the mental and emotional make-up for the writing life, which involves building up a resistance to failure. If you’re struggling to find the audience your work deserves, it may be time to reconsider the way you think about failure as a writer.