Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Fun Art of Failure

by Judith Grout

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 former writing efforts fall flat.

From where I sit, I think success in the book publishing arena needs a healthy dash 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 who went 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, most of that 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.

BIO: During my formative career years, my left brain launched me into the fun and fact-filled science of healthcare. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Laboratory Science. I wallowed in assorted body fluids using analytical methods such as chemistry, hematology, microbiology (my fav), among others in assorted locations across this great land. The paychecks were regular (although at times Spartan.) But I stuck to the professional grind for 40+ years, accumulated my nest egg, and retired.

Now I’ve started my second career using a liberated right brain, writing, running the gamut from freelancing to fiction. I published my debut novel, Chasing the Strawberry Moon, Hitchhiking (for girls) in February of 2014. Reading it will scratch that itch you’ve had yearning to know more about 1939, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and a looming World War II. Hope to see you in the pages.


Nat said...

Great post! Writing is the hardest work I've ever done in my life, and still we must move onward.

andidowning said...

I once read that all successful people have one thing in common--they took a risk! Glad you liberated your right brain.

Alice Trego said...

This post makes me think more about "letting" myself make mistakes in this business of writing, and take more risks if I want to move forward in this profession. Lots of food for thought here. Thanks for sharing!

Carmen Peone said...

Well said. I think writing is the easy part. It's fun and stretches our comfort zones. Getting published with a traditional publisher is a struggle.

judy said...

It's reassuring to read thoughts from a "sisterhood" of women writers who share the same concerns and then summon the courage to write yet another sentence, paragraph, page. It isn't magic - just hard work. Thanks for sharing.

Brigid Amos said...

Nowadays, when I submit my work somewhere, I really try to forget about it and not anticipate the outcome. That really helps insulate me from rejection, and if its acceptance, it is a pleasant surprise. The important thing is to keep writing regardless!