How to Succeed at Failure
As I’ve written in the ‘About’ section, this blog is a documentation of my journey towards my dream: to be a successful, published writer. I never imagined it would be easy. In the past, I’ve written about comparison, losing and gaining inspiration, originality and getting my writing to more people.
Now, the more I get involved with the publishing industry, the more I realise that it’s not an understatement to say it’s competitive. So inevitably, failure has become a part of my journey, as has a question I frequently ask myself:
How am I supposed to stand out if I’m average?
True, I have a list of work placements and extracurricular activities on my CV; so does everyone else. I have good grades; so do many people. And I love books and writing, as does everyone in the industry. So how can I be anyone’s first choice if I’m not extraordinary in any way?
In school, it was easier to stand out because there were fewer people to stand against. It was like a small sample size of the world, and I easily found something to distinguish myself by (I was the bookish nerd — are you surprised?). In the ‘real’ world, I’ve been told more than once that the competition was really tough, that I was strong but not strong enough, that I might have succeeded had fewer people tried for the same thing. That there’s no place for me this time around.
My initial reaction to this is that I’m not enough.
Not creative enough, not hardworking enough, not good enough. I don’t excel at anything anymore. At that point, it becomes very easy to convince myself that I’m a failure…
…before I’ve even really started. | Photo by Florian van Duyn on Unsplash
But then I remind myself what my main goal is: to be a successful, published writer.
Yes, I’m average. But what’s wrong with that? That’s not a failure in itself. While I might not be the strongest this or the best that, I am the only person who has lived my life, who has seen, done and thought things the exact way I have.
No one leads the same life; no one has the same experiences. So even though you might be average at one thing or another, you’re the first one living your life the way you are; you’re the only one seeing and working with things the way you are. And what if there were a way to carry this into the work you like to do?
In that case, I need to focus on channelling my thoughts and experiences through pen and paper.
If I can do that, I will have succeeded in one of the things that truly matter to me.
Yes, getting a win or two along the way won’t hurt. But a succession of failures left and right doesn’t equal an ultimate failure, as long as you keep moving forward somehow.
Until then, I don’t know how else to deal with the peripheral failures except to keep trying. Someone once told me that if I try 10 times, one might work out. So every time I fail, I try and see myself as one opportunity closer to success.
Of course, success doesn’t inevitably follow failure. If I keep making the same mistakes, I won’t get any further. So the second thing I need to do, in addition to keep trying, is figuring out how to get my voice across better. If I’m lucky, these failures will ultimately end up being stepping stones to my main goal.
Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash
In the meantime, there are some words of advice I try to remember, which give me motivation:
The first is one I heard when I was working at my old university’s graduation. Something the honorary graduate said stuck with me. Paraphrased, his advice was: If something doesn’t work out, it’s because a better opportunity on the way. The missed opportunity wasn’t the right fit for you, and a better one is out there somewhere.
The second is something one of my creative writing tutors said: You’re the first one writing your novel. You’re the first one telling that exact story, no one has done it before you. So there’s no way through it but to just keep writing and figure out exactly how your story needs to be told.
And finally, I always remind myself of something J. K. Rowling said:
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
What are your thoughts on failure and being average? Do you ever feel the same way as me, and do you have any ways of dealing with it yourself? Let me know!
Thank you so much for reading, and until next time.
Header photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash, licensed under Creative Commons Zero