Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Writer’s Pep Talk: Building Strength from Failure

No one likes to fail. For a child, failing a test or a grade can be devastating. As adults, failing to be accepted into a college program or getting a desired job can be a hard blow. For writers, receiving a rejection letter to a book proposal or query can feel like the end of the world.
And yet, failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Oftentimes, it makes us stronger.  
Think about failure in terms of exercising. If you’ve had a personal trainer, gone to a gym or perhaps read books about working out, one expression you might have come across is this: pushing yourself beyond muscle failure.
Now what does that mean? Basically, when you’ve pushed your body to what feels like the limit and yet you push yourself even more, that’s when you build muscle.
Physically, going beyond the end of your strength means that next time, you’ll have strength to go even further. That’s endurance.
Applying that same principle to writing isn’t much of a stretch. Someone isn’t going to like your style. Someone is going to turn you down. Someone is going to criticize you.
So what. Press on.
There are dozens of stories about now-famous authors who were turned down. Check out the Schuler Books Weblog’s article called “30 famous authors whose works were rejected (repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers.”
One of those famous authors was ee cummings whose book of poetry The Enormous Room was rejected by 15 publishers before he self-published it. (Go self-publishing!) The ironic ending is that he dedicated the book to those same 15 publishers.
So yes, failure hurts, but we can choose to learn from it and be better for it.
Remember the words of Winston Churchill: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
As C.S. Lewis said, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”


  1. Great quotes (love me some Churchill and Lewis!) and an encouraging message. Press on, indeed.

  2. Thank you, Diana, for your comment. As Churchill said, "Never, never, never, never give up." Good reminders for us writers for sure.