Last week, I talked about failure and what it means to your story and your characters. This week I’d like to talk about what failure means to you as a writer.
There are a lot of things out there that might look (and feel) like failure. Here are a few:
Not making your writing commitment.
Not feeling like working on your current project.
Not feeling like working at all.
And so on…
At some point we’ve all experienced the above. We’ve also experienced the hundreds of other little things that might make us wonder if we’re really cut out for this sort of thing. Does any of that make you a failure? Hell, no.
There is one thing, and one thing only, that will make you a failure in this business: Stopping.
That’s it, there’s nothing else that will do it. It doesn’t matter how many times you get rejected, how many times you finish a work, only to put it away without submitting it, how many times you get knocked down by Life and all it’s messiness that keeps you from putting your butt in the chair to write. All that matters is that you GET UP and KEEP GOING. Do that, and you’re a success.
Seems simple, right?
It’s deceptively simple, because it puts the burden of responsibility squarely on your shoulders. No one can make you stop writing. No one can make you stop telling stories…
And it happens. It happens all the time. Somewhere out there, someone can’t find it within themselves to get back up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, this is hard work. Really hard. I’ve heard more than one author state that if you can do anything else, you should go do that instead of writing. So what do these folks do that can’t get back up? They pull the plug…decide to do something else.
They make a conscious decision to kill their dream.
Now I’m not talking about folks that walk away for a bit and come back to it in a couple of weeks, months, or years–the world of writing has many prodigal sons and daughters. I’m talking about the folks that walk away and never come back–the lost ones. I say “Lost” because it’s not only they who have lost, it’s us as well. We’ll never hear the stories, never come to love (or hate) the characters that live there and that is a heavy loss indeed.
So what do you do when the tide is rising against you and, once again, you find yourself on the ground spitting out the dust of another rejection and you’re not sure if you’ve got it in you to get back up?
Remember why you started in the first place. Go back to the stories that moved you, made you laugh (or cry), and filled you with the sense of excitement that made you feel like you had to get up and do something. Visit these old friends, then go through your old stuff. Track down the first really good scene, paragraph, or line that you wrote. Look at it and remember what it was like when you first got it down, how it felt reading it, and then remember that it’s YOURS. No one else can make that claim and, if you had that in you, what else might be in there? What other stories are waiting to get out? Who might be out there, right now, waiting without realizing it for your story to come along and knock them head over, freaking heels. Just like you were.
That’s the path…the road less traveled, as it were. It’s not easy and it’s not always clearly laid out before you, but it’s worth it in so many ways.
The alternative is failure and, for me, that simply isn’t an option.
Now go write…