The Fun Art of Failure


Has anyone else noticed that only successful writers boast about failure? Once they become wealthy, famous, and on every best-seller list, they go on and on about how enriching it was to have their early writing efforts fall flat.

From where I sit, I think success in the book publishing arena needs a healthy dose of old-fashioned luck — and I don’t mean a little luck — a boatload of it. Successful writers are risky people with important connections who got lucky – so you hear about them. But the ones that flopped? They’re forgotten.

Writing should be easy – especially the fictional element. But no matter how accomplished you are, putting your personal inner thoughts, misspellings, punctuation goofs, etc., out there is a humbling experience. Messing up in full view of others causes no small amount of angst. Even the simple format of a Facebook statement is part of history once you hit that unforgiving “enter” key. After that, it’s too late to retrieve and fix.

In other professions, science and math for instance, where things should be concrete, a lot of itQuestions is guesswork too. Those guys guess about all sorts of stuff. They put a theory out there and are jubilant if they are even half right.

So let’s hear it for mistakes: they are mess-up-do-overs that are frequent, easily overlooked or forgiven, and necessary to move to the next level. They are the Rubik Cube stuck in hopeless disarray; the one step in the Rube Goldberg chain-reaction that was an “oops.” So you take another chance. You don’t find that elusive agent. You can’t convince that stubborn publisher of your talents. Still, you put your stuff out there and have your own private dance party for yourself. Persistence in writing is what gets you up in the morning, gives you a reason to dispense with the vagaries of life to get on to the creative part, and keeps what is magical inside alive.

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