Saturday, July 7, 2012

Success Without Failure?

We went to our clubhouse for a 4th of July barbeque, and met some new people who happened to sit at our table with our four friends and my husband and me. In talking to them, I found that their granddaughter was a big sports fan, and a wonderful basketball player in high school. When I asked if she was playing in college, I was told, No, she quit. Being the, curious...kind, I asked why she quit if she was really good. The short version is that she quit because she failed at getting the most baskets and winning the most games, and therefore, considered herself a failure. Hmm...

That, of course, suggested a blog post for me.

As writers, we fail a LOT. Really, we do. Think about it. How many times do you write a couple of chapters in your fantastic WIP, edit them, and then send them to your critique group, fulling expecting rave reviews. Only... you are shattered when they come back to you with remarks like: Your characters are one-dimensional; you have too much telling and not enough showing; your descriptive narration about the setting is too long and too boring, enough already. Oh My.

We failed. Of course, this was only our third or fourth rough draft. It wasn't polished. But characters are one-dimensional? But I LOVE my characters! And so on.

So we start again, determined not to fail again. Well, maybe we do this 4 or 5 or 8 or 10 times, and we fail each time. In some way. Maybe our characters have become fully rounded, and now our critique partners also love them. We've cut out almost all the narration. But nothing is ever perfect, so we "fail" again. And again.

Finally, our critique group says, Okay, try submitting. We're excited beyond control! Of course we're going to get accepted the first time out of the starting gate. NOT. We get to the point where we can paper our office with rejection letters. Those we actually get, that is. What about all those agents and publishers who have rejected us, but not bothered to tell us after 6 or 8 months? Now we really are failures. Oh? Really?

Of course not. Failures Quit. Writers Don't. Therefore, it stands to reason we're NOT failures.

Seriously...I've heard that the "pathway" to success can be compared to a superhighway or better yet, one of today's freeways. What do you find on a freeway? Traffic. Roadblocks. Bumps in the road. Signs indicating "This lane is closed, merge left." All of which lead to slowdowns and frustrations. Isn't that what writing is all about? Rewrites and editing slows us down. Waiting and waiting and waiting some more for either a rejection or an acceptance is the most frustrating and disappointing event we can go through.

But we are WRITERS. And we WILL become AUTHORS. Because we know that in order for us to succeed, we have to fail. And fail. And fail some more. It's the nature of the beast, and since we can't kill the beast, we learn to live with him and we learn from him. We may have to feed him a heck of a lot more than we'd like, but eventually, he's going to get full. And THAT'S when we get that treasured and oh so precious acceptance !

Writers have to have that personality trait known as "sticktoitiveness"...and yes, that's a real word! Perserverance, intestinal fortitude, whatever you want to call it, but I call it sticktoitiveness. We keep on writing in the face of failure because we never call failure defeat. That's a whole 'nother ball game, and one we refuse to play in. We know that in order to have success, we have to accept failure. We can't have one without the other.

General George Patton said, "I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs, but by how high he bounces back when he hits obstacles." I think that's a good quote to live up to. As writers, we're always hitting obstacles, but to finally be successful, we have to bounce back... and the higher we can bounce, the better we can write, and the sooner our success will come.

Here are a few success stories...AFTER their failures:

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of NBA's Dallas Mavericks: parents wanted him to have a "normal" job so he tried carpentry, hated it; short order cook, but a terrible cook; waited tables but didn't know how to open a bottle of wine. He says: "I've learned it doesn't matter how many time you fail. You only have to be right once."

Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, made into movies: wrote the first Twilight book from a dream, and never intended to try to publish it until a friend encouraged her; nine literary agents rejected her, ONE gave her a chance, which led to EIGHT publishers auctioning for the right to publish Twilight. Today she is reported to be worth $40 million.

Stephen King: first book Carrie was rejected 30 times and he threw it into the trash...his wife retrieved it and demanded he resubmit it; he's sold more than 350 million copies of all his books.

Vincent Van Gogh: only sold one painting during his life time, yet he painted over 800; today his most valuable painting is worth $142.7 million.

John Grisham: took 3 years to write his first book, A Time To Kill, and it was rejected 28 times before he got a "yes"; he's sold over 250 million copies of his books.

If you don't try and fail, you aren't going to be able to try and succeed.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.