Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you haven’t seen one of these in action, then hop on over to the Ninja Captain and his Co-hosts Tyrean and Jamie then hop onto Mr. Linky and read up.
I know that it’s a brand new year and all, but I’m not going to talk about the normal beginning of the year thing. I’m going to talk about failure: it’s not what you think. It’s been one full year since I joined the ISWG bloghop. My first post was about putting myself out there and trying as hard as I could. I did. I followed through, and you know what? It wasn’t enough. Feel free to go read those posts so you know what I’m talking about, but sometimes even your A+ game doesn’t cut it, and something happens: you fail.
People don’t talk about failure the same way they talk about success. When you talk about success you’re either talking about it from the standpoint of one who has just succeeded or someone who hopes to succeed. When you talk about failure, you either talk about it as one who has failed or someone who’s afraid of it. Bitterness and fear overshadow the truth: failure can be a gift. No really, hear me out.
When I failed—and I mean grade A, standing on a pile of smoking ash that had once been my dreams failure—the world became clear. I don’t know if there’s something magical in the smoke of burning dreams, but it made me fearless. It’s hard to be scared of anything when the thing you feared the most has just happened. Then it felt like every door in the universe opened up. Without the fear, I could try anything, so everything suddenly became an option, every path. That's ridiculous; my failure didn’t create new opportunities, it only let me see the ones I’d already had. But I would have never even considered those other futures if I hadn’t failed. I’d focused so hard on that one thing that I couldn’t even see all the other possibilities of the world.
Sure, this is that strange afterglow of a break up, and maybe it’ll wear off after years and years of piled on failure, but I doubt it. It was like that dying dream was an anchor, and I was swimming across the ocean of my life. When that dream died, I was cut free. I’d always feared it, thought I’d drown without it. All that time I’d been clinging to the thing that was drowning me. Failure gave me freedom.
I was too scared to see past this one thing. And I think so many writers find themselves in this place. We fall in love with a manuscript. It becomes our dreams. We put these manuscripts out into the world, and then we find ourselves having to make a decision: to trunk or not to trunk.
There’s a lot of conflicting advice on this one. Accept the failure and move on to the next project, or fight for the novel in your hands. I have no answers to this conundrum, but Miss Snark had a great set of guidelines. She said to query 100 agents before giving up on a manuscript. Which is great, but I saw someone get an offer after 127 queries for a single manuscript. Yikes! How to decide?
When a book doesn’t get you an agent, or worse, gets you an agent but doesn’t get you published it is NOT the end of the world. There are other books. Other ideas. Some of those ideas are going to be better than the one you’ve just spent the last 18 months/18 years slaving over. So if you’re on the verge of trunking a novel, it is not the end.
I know this sounds sappy, but it's 100% true: Failure is not the end. It is the beginning of a journey you couldn’t see. All you have to do is decide what to write next.