The Writer’s Life: Facing the Fear of Failure

 “The Rest is Not

Our Business”

(Thoughts on Facing the Fear of Failure

by Guest Blogger, Jerry Tapp)

     One of the many things I admire about my friend, Jim Magruder, is his commitment. When he is committed to something, he is all in—his faith, his job, friendships, writing this blog to inspire writers each week and writing novels.

I admire Jim because he was committed (and remains committed) to writing novels and seeing them through to the end; even when rejection and frustration would have gotten the better of most of us.

I would love to write a novel. I’ve pondered about a dozen book ideas and I’ve even started a novel on three different occasions. The furthest I got was about two or three pages. The desire to write “the great American novel” still burns inside me. There’s probably not a week that goes by that I don’t think about a storyline or characters for a potential book, or I come up with a great book title.

So, you might be asking, what’s your problem, you big dork? Why don’t you just start writing? (Thanks for asking, but the dork comment seems a little excessive!)

I think the reason that I’ve not made much headway in becoming the next great author is that I’m afraid of failing. I’m serious—I think I’m afraid that I won’t write a very good book—or, it’ll be boring and no one will read it, not even my family—or it’ll never be made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Kevin Costner. I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s much easier to make excuses for never starting it than finishing it and having it be a dud.

Several years ago, I read an article about Robert Redford. I’m a big Redford fan. “The Natural,” “The Sting,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “Sneakers” are just four of my all-time favorite movies, all directed or starring Redford. The article talked about how Redford, then 66, was involved in many projects. His purpose for being so active really opened my eyes.

“It’s the idea of doing something,” Redford said. “There’s a great line from T.S. Eliot that says, ‘There’s only the trying, the rest is not our business.’ I think success or achievement or the award or the peak is somehow as good as it feels in the moment. It doesn’t quite match the journey towards it. And so you’re just trying. You’re constantly trying.”

Did you get his point? It’s not about the end result; it’s about the effort. It’s not about success or failure; it’s the journey. It’s the reason a lot of us don’t try; we can’t stand the thought of what the end result might be, especially if it’s a loss or failure. Eliot said it clearly:  “… the rest is not our business.”

I think I have a greater appreciation for what trying really means thanks to Redford and Eliot (I wish I learned it earlier in life). And I’m becoming better at trying new things—enjoying the experience—and worrying less about the result. Do you know what I’ve discovered? Trying is more important than the final result.

Perhaps now is the time to start that novel…

It’s a story about three generations of men in one family. Grandpa has a secret: He really didn’t catch that ball that was ruled a touchdown to win the 1954 State High School Championship game. The referee never saw that the ball had touched the ground in the end zone. Fifty years after the fact, his legacy in his small community is tied to being a football hero and how he won the game that gave his town their only title. But now he wants to tell the truth. How will that truth affect his family, his life, his legacy and the town?

I hope to take the journey of telling this story someday. And I guess with each passing day it doesn’t seem to bother me as much if I’m the only person who will ever read it. I just gotta try!

You know, Redford would be great as Grandpa when my novel is made into a movie…


Today’s guest blogger, Jerry Tapp, spent nearly a decade as an associate editor with a national sports publication, Referee Magazine, and wrote a nationally syndicated sports statistics column, “Stats on Tapp” for Universal Press Syndicate. As a freelance sportswriter his work has appeared in Baseball Digest, Inside Sports and the Washington Post. He was also a Scoreboard Statistician for the Milwaukee Brewers for 20 years and wrote the script for two year-end highlight videos and a drug prevention video produced by the major league team.

Jerry blogs about the “stats behind the story” at:

Published in: on November 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Jerry, I love your story idea! That’s something I’d like to see produced as a novel.

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