Failure Is an Option

6:00 AM Elizabeth Seckman 73 Comments


                               
One of the toughest things I had to accept as a writer was that I rarely get it right the first time. The first manuscript I ever finished, I typed "The End", and thought I was done. I separated each chapter (single-spaced with a fancy font to make it unique) into tidy piles, stapled them, and then mailed them off to an address I found in the front of whatever book I was reading at the time.
Cute, right?
I didn't have a clue.
When I got rejected, I was shocked.
Looking back on it, I'm shocked anyone answered my letter at all.
Whoever opened that package had to think I was a complete and total moron.
Such a pathetic moron that someone actually took a moment to scrawl on the form rejection letter (it was old-school snail mail) that I needed to study the profession and try again.
I was crushed.
I thought good writers got everything right the first time.
If you didn't, you must lack the magic...the je nai sais quo...and were doomed to failure.

Then I found this:


I decided this writing thing might be a little more work than I thought, and I wouldn't ever succeed without accepting that failure is an acceptable option. It's just not a reason to give up.
You simply have to accept that when Plan A fails you move on through Z.

         
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This was an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. We meet the first Wednesday of each month.
Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and his awesome co-hosts for this month: Megan Morgan, Chris Votey, Viola Fury, Christine Rains, Madeline Mora-Summonte, L.G. Keltner, Rachna Chhabria, and Patricia Lynne!

73 comments:

  1. That you got a reply was a miracle. Someone took pity on you. Hey, you invoked a feeling - that was a good start!

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    1. I often evoke pity from people. It's like my gift. LOL

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  2. This writing thing is LOT more work than we thought. :) All we can do is try and learn from our failures. X

    shahwharton.com

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    1. It is so much more work. There was a time when I thought writing was just about telling stories.

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  3. There's no fail when you are creating something. (Just don't bank on it to buy the evening's grub)

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    1. Perfectly said! I suppose you can bank on it buying grub from the dollar menu. :)

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  4. Loved both post,you had a reply that in itself was wonderful.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Now that I understand the industry, I realize someone was feeling very generous that day!

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  5. Too true. I think EVERY writer has their giddy, naive submission that brings them to reality. It's a rite of passage, eh?

    Crystal Collier

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  6. Love love love that quote about Plans B thru Z! I'd never heard it before - thanks for sharing it. :)

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    1. Wandering the net for memes is never time poorly spent!

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  7. Yep, way way way more work than most people think. I laugh now when you get the people who say "I've got a millionaire book idea, I just have to write it." They haven't got a clue.

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    1. Yep. I can't help but think, "Good luck with that!"

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  8. Maybe a little naivety isn't such a bad thing in the beginning. To be honest, if I'd known how hard this writing thing is when I started, I would have become an accountant or something instead. But by the time I realized what I'd gotten myself into, I was hooked on writing.

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    1. I think you're totally right. And sometimes, it's good to get back in touch with that dreamer. It energizes the muse.

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  9. Isn't it funny how we think we're going to be the exception to the rule that every author gets rejected a billion times before she succeeds? And we're always surprised when get that rejection. But for most of us, we'll be rejected SO many times that by the time we do get a "yes," we're actually surprised!

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    1. You're so right! I think so much news is made of the fantasy rags to riches tale that we start the think that in the only success story. I prefer the stories of people who never surrendered and stuck it out better any day.

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  10. I think we're all a little naive when we finish that first book. I mean, who wouldn't want to read my brilliant masterpiece. Lol. I remember having those thoughts. I was sure I was the next Nicholas Sparks. Hahaha!! And I love that quote by Oscar Wilde.

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    1. I was going to make Sparks look like a kindergartner. LOL. Next lesson to learn, respect and appreciate the hard work and tenacity of those masters of the craft we think we can topple with fresh from the printer prose.

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  11. I was a fun loving teenager when I finished my first book. So naturally I knew I would never publish that little novella and relished in my one fan who always waited for me to finish a chapter to borrow it. Yes, my only fan was a super fan. Really strange looking back but still rather satisfying. We were not even in the same year in High School so we had a meeting place and she always made it before me. No one gets it right the first time but the key is not to give up. Also try to make it on time to any event for fans. Even if it is just one on a High School campus. :)

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    1. One fan is all you need to keep at it! And yours is a special fan. She must have really loved the books to exert energy to get it. Nothing beats a loyal fan.

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  12. Yep. I hear you. Writing's easy for people who don't care about it. It's blood, sweat and tears for those who do. And about that comma. . . I so understand those kinds of days.

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    1. I spend a lot of time on commas. They're a whole lot harder than people think.

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  13. What's crushing is when you read that first draft once you're all done. I know I thought mine was amazing until I got to about page 2. That was shocking!

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    1. I've read your drafts, Robin. You don't give yourself enough credit.

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  14. Great post, Elizabeth. I think we've all been a bit of an idiot with regards to our writing but to quote Einstein: Failure is one step closer to success :) I do love that. Have a great week.

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    1. People who truly love what they do are not stopped by failure. I think that is a great reminder. Thank you!

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  15. Isn't that how it happens? I really thought that was the way it was more or less done until I got to know so many authors. Now I find I don't know why any of you go through all that angst and anxiety. I'm glad you do so I can read what you write, but.... Love the Oscar Wilde quote.

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    1. I had myself convinced that unless it happened by magic, I must not have the gift. Then I sent a fan letter to Judy Blume and she sent a nice letter back saying the book I was praising so much took her years to write because the magic was eluding her. I'd have never guessed she had a bit of trouble it was so well put together. (Summer Sisters was the book. I was hesitant to pick it up because I loved her children' books and worried I'd hate her adult stuff and lose respect for her, LOL)

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  16. Thanks goodness for all them letters. I mean those letters. Yup, I have a few things to learn too. Happy IWSG Day.

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  17. If I had known how much I had to learn about writing to be any good at it, I probably never would have started in the first place.

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    1. I still have days when I wish I could go back to writing for the sheer joy of it. I imagine being one pf those writing recluses who just writes stories and stacks them in my closet. Then when I die, my kids sell them and get rich. Oh yeah, I am insane.

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  18. We never get things right the first time and it always seems like there's something new to learn. We just have to keep trying and learning.

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    1. There is always something to learn. As soon as you master something, the rules will shift and you have to start learning again.

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  19. Great post! Failure is as much a part of success as hard work is, and it's the toughest to stomach for all of us.

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    1. I think we are so defeated by failure because we don't fully appreciate what we learn from failure. All the greats fail, they just use it to learn and keep going.

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  20. LOOOOVE this! And we grow more through failures vs. successes :-)

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  21. WELL SAID, ELIZABETH! Love the Oscar Wilde quote!

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    1. It is a great quote. It is probably the most inspiring one I've ever found.

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  22. I think we're all a bit naive when we first start out - it's only after a handful of rejection letters that we start to get a thicker skin and really start learning! It's hard tough... much harder than I'd ever have thought!
    Suzy x
    www.suzyturner.com

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    1. There is a nugget of knowledge in every fail, they're like the gold you have to dig for.

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  23. Don't worry, we've all been there, done that! I was devastated the first time I got a manuscript rejected! But you keep going :-)

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    1. It's like the first time you remember skinning your knees- you're pretty sure it will kill you, but it doesn't.

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  24. Hi Elizabeth,

    It's never failure because you had the courage to try. Take it easy, my kind friend.

    Gary :)

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    1. So good to see you stopped by, Gary. I miss you when you're not around.

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  25. Yep, we've been there. Plenty. As a great MMA fighter once said, "They'll tell you 'failure is not an option'. That is ridiculous, failure is always an option. Failure is the most readily available option at all times; but it's a choice. You can choose to fail by giving up or you can choose to succeed by persevering."

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    1. That is the perfect quote. I suppose some people are too cocky to admit they had to work for anything.

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  26. So true. I like to think that failure only really happens when I give up. Otherwise, it's really just a lesson in the making.

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    1. That's it exactly!! If you read someone's success story, you never say they are failures as long as they stick with it and don't quit.

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  27. Yes, failure is an option. Just not the means to the end of your writing career. Bravo to you, Elizabeth, to realize you could do this if you studied and worked hard and continued.

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    1. I also had to admit that the learning and the working never stops. I've seen writer friends receive different levels of success and almost always, the successful are the tenacious.

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  28. I felt that way in the beginning, too. But I learned that just because you don't succeed the first time, that doesn't make it a failure. The failure comes in not getting up and trying again. Love the Oscar Wilde quote.

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    1. We need to get tattoos to remind ourselves- we're only failures if we quit.

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  29. Thinking back on it, I'm surprised publishers replied back to me in my early writing years. I'll never forget how a major publisher sent my full manuscript back at their own expense since I didn't know about SASE's.

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    1. Amazing, right? We must have guardian publishing angels or something.

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  30. I've been through rejection hell many times. The worst thing is even acceptances entail hard work and lots of self-doubt. In fact, with every step up the ladder it's like you add a new weight to the load you have to carry -- so many new things to worry about like marketing and trying to think up an idea to surpass your last one. Yes, lucky there are a lot more letters in the alphabet and plans to try 'coz I've sure done my share of failing! lol Great post!

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    1. That's an excellent point. You think climbing over one hurdle will get you to the Promised Land, but there's just more and more hurdles. May as well stay in practice!

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  31. How nice of that person to comment on the rejection! I subscribed to a writing magazine and read copious books before I sent off my submissions. I was brilliant at submitting, although I wasn't so good at the book-writing at the time.

    And there's more than 26 letters to use. Be like Excel and do the AA, AB thing too - endless start-overs! :-)

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    1. I can't claim to be good at either of the skills. LOL.

      Love your thinking. Yes, I will go with AA and such. I'll even add numbers to the mix ;)

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  32. I remember when I found out writing took multiple drafts before it was good. Ugh, I too thought writers did things right the first time. How wrong I was...

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    1. I was kind of glad to hear others take many rewrites. I'd have been highly disappointed if that first draft was my only chance because it sucked.

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  33. Hey, you stapled it, I put holes in it and added a cover. LOL And yes, I got the same response. LOL

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    1. I got the best laugh when I read that. Great minds think outside the box.

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  34. Wonderful post! I hardly write something correctly the first time. Or the seventh time. Ha!

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  35. Wonderful post! I hardly write something correctly the first time. Or the seventh time. Ha!

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  36. Great post! I'd say failure is a necessity! You wont get anywhere if you don't try and when you try you fail a lot. It's all part of the game:)

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  37. Yep, Elizabeth, been there done that! And my first sub ever was so bad I wouldn't even consider reading it myself now!

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  38. I love your story of your first sub! I haven't actually subbed a novel anywhere - I heard too many horror stories so I researched self-pubbing and went that route. However, I have subbed short stories and poems so I know how fatal the first (second, third, etc) rejection letter can feel.
    Let's just keep getting back up again and trying over and over. :)

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  40. Heh, I was always one of those people who succeeded...until 8th grade English when I received an F on my midterm report. After that, I realized whole writing thing wasn't as easy as I'd thought. :)

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