It would be foolish to believe that you will never fail as an author. For that matter, it would be foolish to believe that you will never fail at some point during your life. Failure is part of the job. How you deal with failure will be what defines you both as an author and as a person.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.
Every author has their story of rejection. It’s one of our badges of honor. I won’t bore you with mine. Partly because it’s still rather fresh in my memory, partly because I still have a long way to go.
Most of you know that I revere Stephen King as a writer. It is my dream to be just as successful as an author as him.
It might surprise some of you to know that even Stephen King suffered failures when trying to get his first book, “Carrie,” published. The legend goes that 30 publishers rejected the book before it was accepted. In fact, King had thrown the book in the trash. If it hadn’t been for his wife recovering it and urging him to resubmit it, then everything would change. Think about it for a second. King’s influence has found it’s way into television, movies, and of course literature.
Husbands, take note, listen to your wives when they give you advice.
Another example of a famous author that didn’t give up was J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter franchise. I hope I don’t have to explain what the Harry Potter franchise is. She suffered multiple personal setbacks, but through it all she continued to write the first book in the franchise. After writing the first three chapters, Rowling sent the manuscript to editor after editor, each would pass on the project. After receiving 12 rejection letters, Rowling began losing confidence. Then an editor at Bloomsbury Publishing company read the manuscript and accepted the novel.
This propelled her from being a jobless single mother living off unemployment benefits to being a best selling author.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you will fail by default,” Rowling once said.
When I write my column, I sometimes listen to various YouTube videos. Mostly it’s music or Star Wars theory, but this time it was various speeches that Conan O’Brien gave. His speech to the 2011 graduating class at Dartmouth College included this pearl of wisdom.
“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique,” said O’Brien. O’Brien explains that his era of comedians aspired to be just like David Letterman.
Now, when I heard this, I had to include it in my column because it captures what I’m trying to say. It has always been my dream to become as prolific an author as Stephen King. Spoiler alert, it will never happen. I will never be like Stephen King. It’s just not possible. But, as I fail to become Stephen King, I will have developed my own voice that is unique and maybe, one day, it will be prolific in it’s own right.
As a Jedi master once said, “the greatest teacher, failure is.” Don’t be afraid to fail in whatever you do. When you do fail, and you will, you’ll be faced with a choice. Learn from your failures and strive to never repeat them.
Categories: Mastering the Craft