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What I Learned From Failure

Writing. I’ve been at it for seven years now. Five as a published author and two trying to become a published author.

            During this wonderful and often eye-opening journey, I have learned that there are many painful things an author must go through along the way.

  There is the pain of rejection. From agents. From publishers. From readers who didn’t like what you’ve written. From fellow authors. So much rejection. It’s almost like a curse word you’re not supposed to say.

            Then there is the pain of self-doubt. Am I doing the right thing? Am I making the right decision? Is my writing good enough? So many crippling and debilitation questions. Fill in the blank and add a question mark at the end.

            Through the years, I thought getting bad reviews was painful, so I stopped reading reviews all together until I was secure enough that reading a bad one hurts less. Then I thought parting ways with my agent was painful, but I soon learned that I needed to be more patient. Smarter with my words. Stronger with my convictions.

            There is also the pain that comes from losing a home. For a book that is. I will get into this more in another post because I believe it deserves one. But not right now. This post is for something else entirely.

            Most recently, I have come to realize that the most painful thing of all is failure. When you’ve spent close to three years working on a book and it falls flat. So many copies are returned that you don’t even get any royalties for it anymore. That was the most painful thing. I had never experienced anything like it before.

            With that one book I had failed.

            It bothered me so much that I couldn’t even bring myself to write the sequel. I thought to myself, what was the point? The first book didn’t sell, and continues not to sell. Who would be crazy enough to spend money on the next one? I got it stuck in my head that writing the next book would be a waste of time. Precious time I could use writing something else. Something that might stand a chance.

            To make matters worse, because I’m a masochist that way, I kept comparing myself to others. Worst mistake. Instead of being happy about the success of others, I found myself resenting them, which is so bad, I can’t even tell you. Might as well punch myself in the face.

            So…

I had failed.

            That sentence kept replaying in my head over and over again like a broken record. Like a bad song on repeat. I found myself at a loss. Unable to trust myself. Unable to see the story anymore. It was so traumatic, I couldn’t even look at a blank piece of paper.

            Then one day I woke up and realized: I failed but I’m still alive.

            It hurt like hell, but I’m still breathing.

            Good lord, I made it through to the other side.

            And then I remembered J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech. You should watch the entire thing, but my favorite part is when she starts talking about the benefits of failure. Here is that specific part. It’s only about two minutes, but it makes so much life changing sense:


            I finally realized: so what?

            So what if that book didn’t sell?

            So what if I am not getting any royalties for it?

            So what if editing it was one of the worst experiences in my life that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy?

            So what?

            It doesn’t diminish me as a writer. In fact, it makes me stronger. I have experienced the most painful thing and I survived. There are more people who have gone through worse and walked out through the other side better than ever.

            After I had finished wallowing in self-pity, I had dusted myself off, wiped away the tears, breathed away the hurt, and picked myself up. I’m almost done writing the second book. I’ve actually rekindled my love for the story again. And I’ve returned to my roots. I love to write. Period. Exclamation mark! Failing did not take that away from me.

            I may have lost my perspective along the way. Thought about things the wrong way. Blamed others when I should really have been looking inward instead of lashing outward. From here on out, there’s no other way but up. Each new book is a brand new chance, and damn if I wouldn’t take each and every single one of them. 

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