Monday, March 1, 2010

Motivational Monday—Embracing Failure

This post was inspired by this article by Rebecca Brown. Some of you have probably already seen it. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and take the time to read it. It’s worth every second.

And along the same lines is this post from Rebecca Knight. Very inspiring!

A writer’s life is filled with what can be construed as failures. Sometimes it feels like no matter what we do, nothing will ever be good enough—for our crit buddies, for an agent, for an editor, for ourselves.

As many of you know, I’ve been seriously devoted to this writing thing for the last year and a half. And when I started, I thought I was pretty good. Boy, was I delusional. I’m so glad I didn’t get published then.

Sure, the seemingly instant success of authors like Stephenie Meyer is appealing, but I don’t think I would be happy if I’d gotten published that way. Okay, the money would’ve been nice, but it would make me insane to know my work that was out there for the whole world to see was not the best I could’ve produced.

I cringe now just thinking about my first draft. Even after revising it a gazillion times, I can’t believe I actually thought it was good enough to query. Having said that, I don’t think I ever would’ve gotten to this point without those rejections. Every rejection—even the form rejections—led me to look at my manuscript with a more critical eye, eventually leading to my acceptance that it needed to be rewritten.

So even though they seemed devastating at the time, those failures have helped me become a better writer. A year from now, I’ll most likely look back at what I think is so much better now, and it won’t be good enough, but I’m sure there will be more failures along the way to get me there.

What about you? Do you embrace your failures?


  1. I totally embrace them. Funny, I posted about my downer of a weekend today about how I thought I was not good enough. I don't like when I first embark on a failure but in the end it what I need to make me stronger to prove to myself that I can get better and I am good enough.

  2. Rejections take me a few days to get over, depending on how bad they are and how much I had my hopes up. But after I have time to let it sink in, they do make me better. You're right!

  3. I'm thankful for the time and opportunity to grow and learn. I thought, at one time, that my all-important goal was to snare the notice of an agent and get published. What I really want is for people to read my work and understand, and hopefully appreciate, what I'm trying to express. I don't really need an agent to accomplish that. I can always self-publish if I'm never officially discovered. That realization has taken a huge amount of pressure off my shoulders. I'll keep writing and improving for art and story's sake, and if others enjoy what I've done along the way, so much the better.

  4. I think failures are a great way to gain perspective. As you said, even the form rejections have forced me to be more critical of my wip.

    Thanks for a really great Monday post :)

  5. If we don't learn from our mistakes, we're doomed to repeat them. That's one useful thing studying history has taught me! It definitely applies to the querying process.

    I've learned to stop thinking of rejections as failures and started to think of them as learning experiences. Great post!

  6. We have to embrace them to some degree if we want to grow and learn. We need to listen to what is being said and remember that it is a journey -- a path -- and that it will take time.

    You know, I just pulled out my ms that sold over Thanksgiving to start edits and man-oh-man does it need a lot of work. I haven't looked at it in months and these fresh eyes are showing me all the errors

    that and the massive red slashes from my editor. those help me see the mistakes, too ;)

  7. Failure sucks, but if I didn't embrace mine, I'd still be writing lifeless characters with no voice, who told everything instead of showing it.

    Failure makes us better. That doesn't make it hurt any less.

  8. Failures are steps in the right direction. I feel prepared to embrace mine, knowing that I'll be smarter and stronger next time!

  9. Oh yes. I would be hiding under the bed covering my head in shame if my first book had been published. My writing is so much stronger now. Thank goodness for rejection!

  10. You are so right about writing being a series of failures. I loved that!

    Just this past week I brought chapter to my crit group. It really wasn't stellar. As they critiqued it, I could feel myself teetering on that ledge we, as writers, walk all the time: Do I get upset? Or do I embrace the failure and accept I could have done better.

    I embraced it.

    And this weekend I wrote some of the best stuff I have EVER written all because I accepted there was room for improvement and then I REALLY TRULY applied myself.

    If I hadn't "embraced the suck" I wouldn't have known just how much harder I could push myself.

    Great post Abby! ♥

  11. I once was terrified of failing. Now not so much. Don't get me wrong, self doubt is something I deal with just like everyone else (I recently did a post on it Our Extra Character: Self Doubt )
    but I realized that failure is much like true self-doubt. If we use it as something to build on, or apply to our work it can be used to our advantage. Life is supposed to be difficult, it should have trying times - if it weren't, our characters would be supremely boring. The key is to use failure as a positive. When it comes, assess what we know about it, maybe embellish it and throw it into each new draft, attempt, query, and synopsis. We may not understand (even when told) exactly why failure chose us on this day, and that confusion can lead to learning something about ourself or our work.

    Roxy is right when she says above that getting the agent & published is AWESOME, but I like how she says that really our goal is for people to read our work, understand it and appreciate it. I have always said that if one person reads just one of my stories or scenes and are affected by it, then I have done my job as a writer.

    So failure will just have to be a stepping stone. I cannot let it be an obstacle.

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  12. I totally embrace my failures. What choice do we have. We can either wallow in them, or embrace them, get up and try again. I'd much rather be moving forward, trying, than sitting there like a rock watching others have all the fun.

  13. Definitely! They're not very much fun while you're experiencing them, but looking back you can see how much you've grown. Great post!

  14. Thanks for this wonderful post....

    Do I embrace my failures? I think of each and everyone one of my failures as a stepping stone to success. Not just the writing ones.

    I think my writing failures are easier than my other failures. My other failures had brought me to dangerous situations that could have seen me dead to what's dear to my heart.

    As for my writing failures... They are a wonderful thing. A writer's best friend. How else are we to know what areas we can improve upon, hence become our best? :)

  15. I eventually embrace them as learning opportunities... but I have to be depressed about it for a little while first. ;o)

  16. The rejection always stings. "Why don't they think I am a freaking mastermind?" might flash through my brain before I calm myself down. (HA! Just kidding!!)

    Embracing failure is a must in this business. If you can't do it, then writing's not for you! :)

  17. I hate getting them, but it doesn't hurt like it did. Now I know that it either needs work or just wasn't for them, and keep on keepin' on. But boy, that first one hurt. I had put it out there, and now everyone knew I was a poseur, just like I thought. Then I read how many rejections Stephen King or JK Rowling received and I thought "actually, these rejections mean I'm a writer, because I submitted." Perspective!

  18. If we're not failing, it means we're not trying! :) I try to remember to welcome failure because a) it's an amazing learning opportunity (like you pointed out), and b) it lets me know I'm putting myself out there and making it happen.

    We can't succeed without failing, growing, and becoming better than we were :).

    Thanks for this, Abby!

  19. It's definitely hard to learn from successes, so yes, I accept my failures. Since I want to be be the best I can be, I have to embrace them. (Though first I eat every M&M in the house.) Then I lay out the reasons for the failure, analyze them, and try to learn everything I can from them. At least in theory. :)

  20. I needed this today - thank you!

  21. I totally agree with you. The same exact thing happened to me. I was definitely delusional to think what I wrote a year ago was ready to query. The failures I've had since then have been the motivation for me to work that much harder.

  22. I embrace my failures after allowing myself some good wallowing time. But it's true, I've learned a great deal from failures--especially from those lovely agents who make suggestions.

  23. I'm with you 100%! I recently looked at some of my early stuff and felt that same gratitude for growth, knowledge, and perception. Cheers to you! Great attitude!

  24. I have to agree with you and everyone else. It is how we learn. Sooo, I should be really smart by now. Alas, as I am still unpublished, I'm apparently not smart enough.

    Come on failure, hit me. Make me better.