Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are You Open to Failure?

Many writers (and people in general really) spend a good deal of time trying to find success. Everyone has a different idea of what success means--in fact, some aren't even sure what success means. And many writers have varying views on how to achieve success. The most successful writers seem to have one trait in common--a willingness to fail.

Are you open to failure?

Every writer finds rejection; not all find success.

Prevent Defense
In football, there's a type of defense that many teams employ near the end of the game if they're winning. It's called prevent defense, and the joke about prevent defense is that it prevents the team with the lead from winning.

How the defense works is that it sends a lot of defensive players downfield to prevent the big play. The problem that usually occurs is that an offense will then just throw shorter passes to get downfield in smaller plays. By trying to "play it safe," a defense actually puts itself in a dangerous position.

Are you open to failure? Or are you working so hard to PREVENT mistakes that you're also preventing success?

Finding success in writing can be a bit like playing poker. There is a certain level of luck that factors into finding success, but the most seasoned poker players seem to win more than they lose despite the fact that everyone gets the same 52 cards to play.

Then one day I heard one of those all-star poker players--I wish I could remember which one--say something profound. I'm paraphrasing, but it was something along the lines of, "You can't win if you're afraid to lose." His point was that you have to be willing to take risks to find success in poker. The same can be said of the writing life.

Are you open to failure? Or are you waiting for the perfect hand before you lay down your cards?

Pays to Play
While I don't often have a lot of time to follow specific updates from people on Facebook and Twitter, I do jump in and out of the stream daily. My favorite status updates are the ones in which people share their successes. It's easy to "like" someone else's success.

Recently, the poet/editor/teacher Jessie Carty shared this status update on Facebook: Sent all my pending poems out and one was accepted for publication! Pays to play ;)

Emoticons and exclammation points aside, this was a super status update. Not only did Jessie share her success, but she gave a little inspiration for other writers by reminding them an important lesson: It pays to play.

Are you open to failure? Are you willing to play?

Two Writers
Finally, I just want to tell the story of two writers. Both writers loved writing and were the same age, been writing the same amount of time and with the same dedication. One submitted her work everywhere and found a lot of rejection over the years but a few successes. The other spent his time perfecting his craft over the years and never submitted his work. He wanted it to be just perfect before it went out the door.

Eventually, the two writers meet at a grocery store or laundromat or something. Definitely not the post office, because the other writer never submits his work. Anyway, they get to talking and realize they're both writers.

The other writer asks the one writer what she's accomplished, and she says, "Well, I was published in X journal and Y magazine, and I have a book coming out next fall. How about you?"

The other writer looks down at his feet and answers, "Nothing."

It's impossible to find success if you aren't open to failure. Are you open to failure?


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Cortney Pearson said...

I love those last two lines! This has been a common topic of discussion among my friends and me lately and I think you're absolutely right. If you never try, you'll never learn anything, you'll never get anywhere. Thank you so much for sharing this!! :)

Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

Great post, Robert. When it comes to my writing, I look at it this way: I have more to gain than to lose. We just have to keep at it.

Thanks for the perspective when I need it! Andrea

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thanks for the comment, Cortney!

Andrea, I imagine in most phases of life that people have more to gain than to lose from trying. Thanks for chiming in!

Jessie Carty said...

This is really a great post (and I'm not saying that cause I'm included!) but the wealth of metaphors is awesome :) (I do like my emoticons). When I posted that status it was after a month of not submitting and little writing. Speaking of which perhaps I should go write something!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thanks, Jessie! I'm partial to emoticons too. It's funny; I don't get too any acceptances when I don't send my work out. And yes, you totally need to go write something!