Friday, April 6, 2012

f is for failure (not)

I have been contemplating the meaning of the word FAILURE for months. This is my way of preparing for it, of defining it for myself, and attempting to take the punch out of it as I continue to collect rejection slips.

I imagine it feels the same for you if your manuscript is moldering in the back of a drawer somewhere the way mine is. If your paintings haven't sold. If you haven't engaged a recording studio or made it onto the stage yet.

But let's be realistic. I know from reading the blogs of best-selling authors that many of them started out the same way, with a sense of uncertainty, of ineptitude, of dread. Many of them collected a boatload of rejection slips before they found an agent…and again, before they attracted a publisher. So this is what I have come to expect and you should, too...

...remembering that rejection is not the same as FAILURE. 

For me, three years laboring over an unpublished novel was not wasted time. 

It takes alot of work sometimes.

It was a journey of discovery, a longing fulfilled, a dream pursued, even if I never find my way to a publisher’s doorstep. The same can be said for the hours you spend rehearsing your song or your dance, the time you devote to the canvas, the feeling you put into your solitude, unnoticed, and unappreciated.

So…instead of bracing myself for FAILURE, I tell myself that, for a beginner I did pretty well. I lined up all those words, 78,000 of them, one after another so that they told a story. I wrote it with passion, patience, and perseverance. There is truth in what I wrote. Reading over the manuscript now, I still like it. This is not what it feels like to have failed.

FAILURE would mean that I hadn’t summoned the courage to attempt this in the first place. That I hadn’t poured my soul into it and spoken the truth. That I’d allowed fear of FAILURE to defeat me. That I’d abandoned the effort altogether.

So…for me, whether I publish it or not, “The Bandaged Place” in its completed form, is a triumph, not a FAILURE. Your success may be defined by the painting you finish, the melody you compose, the dance you choreograph, or the poem you write. Simply that.

How do you define success? How do you define FAILURE?
“What would you attempt
if you knew you could not fail?"
--author unknown—
In my next post, I'll extol the gifts we share with one another just by trying.


  1. Success is getting up each day and not being afraid to look in the mirror. Failure is the opportunity to try again.

  2. Failure is giving up and not giving it another try. Interesting post. Thanks. Gotta go hit some more blogs. Come see me. Ruby

  3. You said it perfectly. Failure is giving up. It can be tempting to quit but if it was easy everyone would do it.