Kay: Take that Failure and Shove It

Here I am, not a failure, at the indie author signing, RWA 2016.

Here I am, not a failure, at the indie author signing, RWA 2016. My hair, though, is another story.

As writers, we’re probably all aware of disappointments and failures. An editor’s or agent’s rejection. A one-star review on Amazon. No sales—or even a contract—of any kind. No progress on the WIP.

I’ve been feeling a bit like a failure lately. Life intervened, so I haven’t written much in the past year. My WIP is going poorly. I got a two-star review on Amazon. Sales, contracts, and future prospects seem shrouded in the mists of Never-Never Land.

The RWA national conference, while it’s inspiring and uplifting and all that, has a subtle way of feeding into your sense of failure. Everybody has a book—no, a trilogy; no, a 30-book series. Everyone has a mailing list. These writers do Goodreads giveaways monthly. They have street teams and review bloggers on speed dial. They do swag and Facebook parties. They rock.

I do none of this. I’m lucky if I can sit down to write every day. And how does this make me feel, you might ask? Like a failure, I might reply. Depressed.

Just today, though, when I sat down to write and managed 500 words, I didn’t feel that inadequate. Those 500 words weren’t terrible. And I’ll be able to save more than I’d originally thought of the section that I’d earmarked for deletion. That stuff I wrote way back when isn’t so bad after all.

Pretty good for a down spell.

So why do I feel like a failure? Whose fault is that? Not the nice and friendly agent and editor at RWA, who asked for pages. Not the Amazon reviewers, three of whom gave me five stars right before that two-star review showed up.

It’s my fault alone. I’ve been looking at the big picture in a self-defeating way. Instead of looking at what I’m not doing and calling that a failure, I should be looking at what I have been doing. Which, given the circumstances, is a success.

I’ve completed a novella and half of a novel during a time of upheaval. I got a cover designed and met my obligations to my critique group. I’m posting to my sites and responding to mail.

Best of all, I have time to write my books. And if I can’t bring my A game to my writing life every single day, well, Babe Ruth didn’t hit a homer out of the ballpark every day, either. And nobody—and certainly not the Babe himself—thought he was anything but a pro.

How about you? How are you all doing?






11 thoughts on “Kay: Take that Failure and Shove It

  1. Comparing your progress to other writers’ is a recipe for feeling miserable. I think you’re wise to celebrate your successes. IWe don’t do better by focusing on our weaknesses, but by captializing on our strengths.

  2. It’s good you figured out your self-defeating behavior. Remember life (and writing) is a journey. It’s more about the journey than the final destination and what works for one person might not work for you. We are all going through different things in our lives and we all handle those things differently. I’ll tell you this, to me an unpublished writer, your novella and you being at that Indie signing looks great to me! It’s all about prospective. Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back. It doesn’t seem like we get anywhere, but eventually we do. I know there are bunches of cliches in what I said, but this info has helped me greatly in life. Keep writing!!!!

    • Thanks, Janice. You’re right—as a teacher of mine once said, there are many roads to Oz, and each person’s journey is his or her own. It’s easy to slide into a bad space when the world turns sideways, but calling that “failure” is the wrong way to look at it. I think my particular ship is slowly but surely righting itself, so please excuse me while I get back to the story I’m working on.😀

  3. I love that picture, Kay. You look like the cat who swallowed the canary. It could be a writing prompt (what is that is that writer hiding?? I think it’s bodies in the backyard, but I’ve reading a lot of Nordic noir lately, so maybe it’s just me).

    Setbacks can come in strange and unexpected ways. My most recent one came last week when I went for a minor surgery (lipoma removal from my abdomen) that turned into a still minor but much longer recovery time surgery (turns out it was actually a hernia). So I came out of anesthesia to learn that instead of a two-week recovery, I was looking at more like six weeks. Between that disappointment and the recovery from being ‘put under’, my brain didn’t really click back into writing mode until today.

    As of Monday I’ve been allowed to walk as much as I feel comfortable, and can do it on the treadmill as long as I don’t set an incline, so I’m taking periodic breaks throughout the day for half-hour ‘walk and thinks’. It’s a different way for me to approach my writing, but it’s working! Today I feel energized and enthusiastic about so many stories, it’s almost hard to focus on the one I’m revising. So please excuse me as well while I get back to my WIP :-)!

    • Nancy, I’m so sorry to hear about the surgical complication! However, it’s great that you’re on the mend and that you can actually think and plan when you’re on the treadmill. Sometimes I think a shakeup like that can unleash creativity, as it seems to have done for you. I hope I can look forward to that happening to me eventually, too!

    • Oh, Nancy! Hope you are further along on the road to recovery than you were when you posted this! What a startling surprise! You deserved some down time, but what a way to get it — universe-enforced, as it were.

      Glad it’s sparking your creativity, though!

  4. I know exactly what you’re feeling, Kay! When I wrote my first book, all I wanted was to get it published. Once it was published, I wanted it to be a success. When it wasn’t a success, I said, that’s okay, the next one…and the next one. But I was okay with the lack of success because I was still writing. But I finished my last manuscript months ago and the fates have conspired to keep me from starting a new one. I know it’s not my “fault”, but I feel bad about it nonetheless. And that sense feeds into the “why should I bother at all” that I always have to battle anyway.

    I also really relate to your 500 words. When I am writing, that’s my daily quota. It’s small enough that I rarely can’t meet it, so I end the day with a sense of accomplishment, no matter what else I didn’t do. It’s time for me to get back into that – 500 words at a time!!

    • Brenda, you have exactly nailed it on the head. It’s not my fault, but I feel bad anyway. And that is indeed a cascading spiral.

      500 words is a good goal for me, too—I can almost always meet it, and the days that I go over are days that I can feel especially good about my accomplishments. And hey—if I do that every day, I have a book in six months. And that’s pretty awesome.

      In the meantime, congratulations on all your success! How many books is it that you’ve written and published? There’s not many people who can say they did that. Nice work.

      • I have 3 books available, one more close to being self-published and am editing the fifth manuscript. Some days I really have to remind myself that for YEARS my only goal was to finish JUST. ONE. DAMN. BOOK. Instead of getting bogged down around Page 70. So even to have finished is a success that I shouldn’t take away from myself!

        It’s nice to have blogs and groups like these, though, where we can all commiserate with and support each other!

  5. Depression is such a crazy critter. People can be actually on top of the world, producing and creative, and still feel like total and complete crap. I hope you treat yourself extra nicely, because you really are doing great!

    The other thing your post reminded me was that people in public only tend to show the Best Ten Percent — the rest of the iceberg might be misery and failure. We don’t tend to know, especially with acquaintances, what the private side has hidden in its closets. Sometimes I find it inspiring to see successful people, and other times it just feeds my insecurity, so I have just have to roll with it.

    (-: I love your covers. Your best ten percent is looking really fine!

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