Failure is often seen as something to be avoided. Don’t get me wrong, you should never seek out to fail; it is, however, an integral part of the writer’s journey that is very easy to skip in this day and age.
There’s a thing that gets said around writers’ circles: you never publish your first book. The reason for that is that your first book is usually terrible. You can have the best vocabulary, understanding of grammar, character development, plot, and anything else that goes into the making of a story—but you do lack something, no matter how amazing you are.
It takes practice to be able to weave all of your skills together into a cohesive and high-quality book. You can only get said experience by trying and learning as you go. This brings me to why you need to fail.
You can go whatever route you like to get your book to the masses, but failure needs to be a part of it. Failure encourages us to look at why we failed. It will be hard, it may even be soul destroying, and not everyone will come out the other side of it, but it is necessary. When I approached a small publisher for some of my earlier work, I was told—essentially—that it wasn’t very good and should stop writing. (I’m paraphrasing a bit because that’s what it felt like when I received their email.) What happened after that was a very long and arduous path of self-discovery. Who was I as a writer? Should I keep writing? I emerged a better writer because of the failure.
That’s because there’s only so much that you can do on your own. Eventually you become as good as you can be without outside intervention. When you reach that cap, you believe that you’re as good a writer as you need to be. It isn’t until something sets you back that you realise that there are a lot of other levels beyond that just waiting to be explored.
There are different types of failure, as well. Sometimes it is approaching a publisher and being rejected, but that’s definitely not the only way to fail. That was my first; I’ve since had numerous others. I’ve had other writers tell me that my stuff wasn’t very good on many occasions. And, again, I took a look at what I was doing, realised that they were right, and moved on. Generally speaking, it does get easier the more that you fail, but it does need to happen. I’m at a stage now where I’m happy with what I’m producing. There’s room for improvement—there always will be—but, generally, failure doesn’t set me back. That’s the stage you want to be at: when you can fail and instantly bounce back and improve or try something different. That’s the point when you know that you can go the distance.
Failure isn’t something that needs to be feared or avoided. It should be embraced and welcomed. Your writing will thank you for it.
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© 2018 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.