How Failure Helps Writers Succeed

Success 1No one likes to fail, especially writers, yet I have always been impressed by the eventual outcome of failure. Operative word; eventual. Perhaps one of my favorite quotes is, “Failure has made a success of many men.”

There is something that rings true in this quote. But how does failure breed success? And why is this so hard to believe when we, as writers, are mired in failure/rejection?

Failure is nothing if not a great teacher. And by having my fair share of it (and then some), I’ve learned a few things from it in this business of writing.

1)     Failure cuts your convictions to the core. Nothing like failure to test the depth of your commitment to the craft. Just the other day a non-writer friend flippantly said, “You know, someday I’d really love to write a book, you could help me with that, right?”

I just smiled and under my breath said, “No, I can’t help you with that because you don’t really want to write a book. You simply like the idea of writing a book, or saying you wrote a book. You don’t fathom the obligation of that casual comment.”

I’m sure this well-meaning friend doesn’t know the first thing about outlining a book, writing it, drafting a synopsis, crafting a compelling query letter, compiling a book proposal, investing a few years of blood, sweat and tears in the effort to birth a book, and coping with the rejection of an agent or two (make that 22) after delivering their baby.

If you’ve been through this a few times, then failure has tested your mettle. And if you’re still writing, well, then you’ve not only passed the test, you’re meant to write.

2)     Failure sharpens your writing skills. I’m a much better writer now than I was a few years ago and I’ve been in this game many years. A string of failures challenged me to dig deep within myself and reevaluate my love of writing. Failure forced me to learn the intricacies of the publishing industry, how it has changed, what agents expect, what the market wants, how to edit my manuscripts, work with freelance editors, and most importantly, how a thick skin is essential to survival.

3)     Failure defines who you are yet to become as a writer. This truth is best witnessed during the Olympic Games. Many “up-close and personal stories” describe athletes who are going for gold after having failed in a prior Olympics. These athletes have subjected themselves to four more years of torture. Four more years of intense training and pressure. Four more years of second-guessing themselves. Yet, if they eventually win gold, their former failure suddenly shifts from “failed attempt” to “overcoming adversity.” Former failure is now the melodrama of their success story.

Michael Jordan, arguably the finest basketball player of all time said it best: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over. And that is why I succeed.”

4)     Failure makes success sweeter. Michael Jordan may have missed the game-winning shot twenty-six times but he also made it several times with six NBA Championships to his credit. His reaction in the locker room to winning the first one is captured on YouTube. This film clip is classic. Speechless. In tears. Overcome. Head leaning on the trophy in humility. Arms draped around the ultimate prize. A man alone on his personal mountaintop. Success never tasted so sweet.

Failure is a bitter a pill but it is part of the writing game. Yet, the secret to success in the writing game is to understand the subtle difference between failing to succeed and failing, to succeed.


CSS_Readers_Choice_20th_Anniversary_EditionChicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Reader’s Choice Edition will soon be released. This special anniversary collection features new stories from readers paired with the Chicken Soup for the Soul story that changed their lives!

I was fortunate enough to contribute to this book with a story entitled, “Lawn Chair Living.”  This story is about the value of building “pauses” into your life so you can appreciate it more fully.

This fine collection will be available on June 25 at most bookstores, Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and online at and


CSS Inspiration for Writers (2)

Chicken Soup for the Soul, Inspiration for Writers was released on May 21st and is currently available in bookstores, Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and online at and

This book features 101 inspirational stories on the writer’s life written by your fellow writers. Want to pick up your writing, pick up this book.

Published in: on June 5, 2013 at 8:51 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Exceptional post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on
    this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Thank you!

    • Judy,

      I’m so happy this post was helpful to you. That’s why I write them. I have read much of your blog. It is compelling reading and great writing. I’m sure along the way you are helping many others. And that’s what it is all about.

  2. Thank you! This is exactly what I needed right now. I’m fighting with a book deadline, and a couple of proposals, wondering what I was thinking when I chose to do this to myself. The failures were stepping stones.

  3. I think this was a wonderful post. Thanks for the words of wisdom.

    • Thanks for your kind comment. This blog is all about encouragement for writers. We ALL take a lot of rejection so victory is indeed sweet. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for taking a minute to comment. I’ll look for you again.

  4. There is no achievement without failure.
    Make each failure a step to success.
    All roads to achievement lead through the land of failure.
    Failure is simply the price we pay to achieve success.
    When achievers fail, they see it as a momentary event not a lifelong epidemic.
    Failure is an inside job. So is success.
    Excuses, no matter how strong, never lead to achievement.
    The only way you can get ahead is to fail early, fail often and fail forward. – all quotes from “Failing Forward” by John Maxwell

What's Your Opinion On This Topic?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: