Don’t Be Discouraged

Roary Naps Next to Part of the Manuscript of SK4

Last week, after I wandered on about adapting my garden to the heat, I received a very humorous e-mail from a local friend who, like many people this year, decided to dive into gardening for the first time.

For weeks she had posted about buying “grow kits,” germinating seeds, sprouting plants, cutting herbs.  Then she started posting about how things were going wrong.  She’d misread the instructions as to how much room her plants would need.  The heat hit.  Everything wilted, and most of what she planted died.

She called herself a failure.  I call her a success.  Why?  Because she learned a whole bunch of things that, if she decides to try gardening again next year, will serve her well.

Learning to accept that failure is a form of success, if you choose to learn from it, applies to writing—or to any creative endeavor.  Success isn’t something that should be measured in word count or finished projects or sales or sales figures or awards.

If you measure success that way, the one thing you’re always going to be is a failure.  Why?  Because there’s always a higher bar to jump.  One day you’re going to find the bar you can’t jump—or maybe you will jump it, but only after a lot of falls.

As with gardening, success in a creative endeavor should be measured by what you learned and whether you want to try again.  Even deciding you don’t want to try again doesn’t make you a failure.  You’ve learned something about yourself, where you want to put your energies, and what excites you enough to be willing to fail again.

This week I’m immersed in proofing the rough draft of SK4, the still-untitled new Star Kingdom novel I’m writing in collaboration with David Weber.  Some people would see the many, many little red marks scattered on every single page as marks of failure, because these are all things I didn’t get right the first time.

I see them as marks of success, because they show how much I’ve learned over the years about all the aspects of telling a story, as well as that I love telling stories enough to keep learning about my chosen craft.

6 Responses to “Don’t Be Discouraged”

  1. Harried Harry Says:

    “Failure” is a very poor term our society uses to denigrate some people. Thomas Edison, I’ve read, tried over 1,000 times to develop a light bulb which would work. As you’ve said, he learned something every time until he finally succeeded in developing a product which worked every time.

    It took me many decades to learn the lesson of learning. I had bought into the bromide of failure, which meant I always “knew” I could not succeed. Now I know different, but I was less “successful” in my professional career than I might have been due to this feeling.

    I listened to the ABC special on Tuesday about Regis Philbin’s life. One thing he told people was to try. You never know what you will be able to do until you try to do it. Even if less successful than the first time, you must continue your efforts until you decide to do something different. Never give up on your dreams; you don’t know what will happen till you try.

    I agree, gardening is a challenge. This year I planted a garden but only one plant out of the two packets I planted sprouted. However, plants which I had put into the garden area from several years back have sprouted and are growing. They would do better if I watered them more, but I get easily distracted. As Congressman John Lewis said “never forget the Prize”. Great words we should all remember.

    Have an enjoyable day, but stay out of the rain.

  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    Life is a journey from first breath to last. I plan to keep falling down and getting up and learning Every. Single. Day!

  3. greywolf Says:

    Something I read recently (can’t remember where. ebook of some sort.) said a couple of relevant things here: 1. You either win or you learn. There’s no such thing as losing. 2. Failure is an event, not a form of being. It is something that happens to you, it is not who you are. Therefore, it’s not possible for someone to be a failure.

  4. A. L. Kaplan Says:

    I like your way of thinking.

  5. Harried Harry Says:

    Greywolf, very well stated. If more people would consider this, the world would be a better place for all of us. Thanks!

    Enjoy the rest of this week so you may enjoy your weekend.

  6. janelindskold Says:

    Thanks folks for understanding and expanding. You’re terrific!

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