January 21, 2014 4 Comments
This is not a new concept if you’ve been reading my site for long. Failure, in all its gut-wrenching forms, is just a part of the process. That’s true in writing and true in life.
Sometimes I feel like there are a certain number of words in me. Some of them are good, and some of them suck ass. The only way to get to the good ones, though, is to get all of them out. It’s like eating a bag of Skittles. You can’t just eat the red and purple ones, even though those are clearly the best. You have to push through the yellow, orange and green ones, as well.
If you want to be a writer, you’re going to write things that are…meh. Stories that don’t pop. Plots that are painfully predictable. Characters that fall flat. What’s worse, sometimes you’ll be proud of something that just doesn’t work. You’ll hand off a story to a test reader, excited to get their feedback because you’re certain they’ll do a cartwheel, squeal and promptly tell you that your story was the most kick-ass piece of fiction they’ve ever read. “And,” they’ll remind you, “I’ve read all of [insert the name of your favorite author]’s stuff!”
But instead, they come back and gingerly tell you that your story is flawed. Hopelessly so. “What else are you working on?” they ask. That’s their gentle way of saying, “Because, yeah, this steaming pile of shit is probably best forgotten.”
That awful moment of failure is a part of the process.
And the best thing you can do when you fail is learn from it. Michael Caine delivered this line from the newest incarnation of the Batman movies perfectly: “Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” But the quote is wrong. Dead wrong. Disastrously wrong.
We fall so that we can pause, reflect and discover what we stumbled over in the first place. We fall so we can learn.
Failure is a part of the process. Embrace that fact, as much as failure sucks, and you’ll be a better writer for it.