Failure

I’ve had a strange writing week this week. One of my income streams comes from writing on the platform Medium. This month Medium changed how they pay writers and for me, this has meant a significant drop in income. Perhaps it wasn’t the changes at all. Maybe my articles just aren’t that good this week. As it likes to do in writing, doubt creeps in.

We get a lot of rejection, setbacks, and perceived failures as writers, including our own striving for a perfection which is never reached. We experience these perhaps more than any other career. To survive in writing we need to learn to deal with the doubt. We need to reframe the idea of failure. My inspiration for you this week, then, is from author Anthony Doerr’s Sun Valley Writer’s conference speech: The Beautiful Art of Failure.

Inspiration

Anthony Dooer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

“One November day I spent a whole afternoon reworking a three-sentence paragraph that had given me fits for years,” he says. “That November day, when I went back and reread the rubbish language I used to evoke that moment I didn’t particularly approve of any of it.”

He had spent many years considering his character, months thinking about this particular scene—looking at photographs, imagining each element. Now, he was doubting himself. What if he had it all wrong? He started to cut sentences. Writing this book was his dream, but would it ever be perfect enough to finish?

He came to a conclusion. Perhaps his measuring stick for success was wrong. “Why not measure success simply by asking ourselves if we dreamed our dreams with as much care as we could—no matter how few people bought it at the airport, or clicked “like” on it, or re-tweeted it, or even bought it into the realm of their attention at all.”

He had measured his successes by positive reviews, royalty checks, or fan mail, and his failures by the stories he abandoned. Now he could see that this kind of view of success and failure was fleeting and hollow.

“The only kind of lasting success I’ve found is work,” says Dooer. “To dream as well as we can for the joy of the dreaming. That’s the only kind of success you can control anyway.”

“A strange and unpredictable breech will always exist between what we can imagine and what we can execute, between what we want to make and what we are able to make. The important thing, I’ve come to believe, is that we embrace that breech.”

If you’d like ways to rethink your failures, read my latest article What if Only Three People Read it: How to rethink your writing flops here for Medium subscribers.

And here for non-subscribers What if Only Three People Read it.