Love and Failure

I touched on ideas of success and failure a couple of weeks ago. To recap, I would argue that many of us define success too narrowly. If you’re a writer and your definition of success is publication or unfathomable wealth, I encourage you to rethink that. For me, the act of writing is success. Just telling a story, even if it never gets published. Enjoying the time I spend writing. That’s why I do this.

But, I get it. I do, really. I mean, I can’t pay my bills with my overflowing sense of enjoyment. For that, I need cash, and to make money from writing, I gotta sell something. What if I can’t? What if the time I’ve spent pounding on the keyboard has been a complete waste? What if it was all for nothing in the practical sense?

That’s where this quote from the great George Burns comes into play. Even if I never achieve publication, I’ve done something I love doing. Even if I “fail”, I had fun.

Writing (for the unpublished writer, at least) can be a huge mind-fuck. I mean, you don’t even know if you’re any good. Your friends will tell you your stuff is great, but what do they know? Besides, they aren’t going to tell you your fiction makes James Patterson’s most recent hack job look like Shakespeare. After all, they’re your friends. They’re going to say they loved it even if they didn’t–partly to spare your feelings and partly to spare themselves a potentially uncomfortable conversation. Then you’ve got all the conversations going on exclusively in your head. Your arguments with your muse, your ego’s extreme mood swings, and a particularly pragmatic part of your brain that would like very much to know exactly when and how you’re going to monetize all this stuff. You’ll read other people’s books and feel either weirdly inspired by the sub-par (if they managed to publish this crap, surely you can find an agent) or tragically discouraged by the amazing (I’ll never write at this level). Some days will feel like “writing days”, and some days the idea of writing anything, even your own return address on an envelope (remember those?), will seem like a twisted form of torture. Sometimes when you introduce yourself as a writer, you’ll do so with pride, beaming at the notion that the title accurately describes you, and sometimes you’ll feel sure the people you just introduced yourself to can see right through you. “You’re no writer,” they’re thinking. “Delusional, maybe, but not a writer.”

And in the midst of that–your self-doubt, the hallow assurance of friends, occasional conviction and periods of intense certainly that you will not succeed–you have to do what feels impossible on some days.

Keep writing.

What a shame if you allow all the doubt and fear to rob you of the joy of writing. I mean, that’s why you’re doing it, right? Who cares if you fail? That’s not the most important thing about writing, or about life while we’re at it. The real question is this: was it fulfilling? Did it make your life better? Was it fun?

If the answer to that is yes, then you done good. Keep doing that, no matter if you succeed or not.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

3 Responses to failure

  1. Oh so many quotes come to mind…comparison is the thief of joy…time spent doing something you enjoy is not time wasted…blah, blah, blah.

    Bottom line, you’re completely right. Never let anyone or any feeling steal your happy. It’s yours. Guard it with your self-belief.


  2. Love the quote. Love your questions. YES, writing is FUN for me, and therefore fulfilling and just what I want to be doing. And I do believe that the joy of writing is what makes it all worthwhile. Thanks for a great post.


    • dex says:

      Thank you for reading, and for commenting. I write (both fiction and my posts about the writing process) because I love doing it, but it’s still nice to hear that someone read my stuff and connected with it. 🙂


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