The thing about writing a book is it's a long process. Giving the writer (moi) a lot of time to think and divert themselves from actually writing the damn book. Which leads to ruminating on insecurities and failures. After all, I got rejected from every agent and then every publisher I queried for my first book. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. And I'll probably never even break even on the book I self published and fronted the cost for. So, why am I writing a second one? Maybe I'd be better article writer. That's probably it. I should do that. Which is how I came to obsess over writing inspirational articles for an on-line magazine. Not that I wanted to be an article writer. I just wanted a little damn success. Just a taste. And a clear direction of where I should be going wouldn't hurt either. Some kind of validation that I wasn't the epic failure that I'd convinced myself I was.
I'd had two articles published already. And with my third rejected, I decided the 4th attempt would be my last effort. (Although I tend to lie to myself...so last effort means more like "last effort for an undetermined temporary amount of time that's not yet determined until I swirl back through this entire conundrum yet again like I'm on the spin cycle in a washing machine".) What could I possibly write that would be true to the self deprecative person I am while also trying to be inspiring and give the magazine what they want? Which honestly, I'm not even sure exactly what that is. And writing is so subjective it all depends on who reads it whether is a success or a failure. That's it! Failure. I'll write about failure. Something I know all too intimately.
Here was my submission:
If there’s one thing I really excel at it’s failing. I have tons of experience. And while failing isn’t hard to do at all, because everyone fails at something at some point, becoming a successful failure is actually a lot of hard work. Which is the bad news. However, the good news is learning to become a successful failure can lead to becoming a success. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but it’s true!
Successful failures take risks even though it means they might fail. Having the courage to try something new and risk possible (sometimes even public) embarrassment in the process is often the most difficult step, but also the most important. Plus, opening up to new opportunities can be it’s own reward. In my late thirties I watched a tv program about roller derby and made a promise to myself that if I ever got the chance, I’d give it a try. The next month there was a roller derby bout in my hometown and I went to watch the action. The next week I went to the league’s open recruitment night and actually became part of the action when I signed up.
Failure is valuable experience in what doesn’t work. Successful failures consider it hard earned research in figuring out what does. Looking for patterns in past failings, assessing lessons learned and strategizing what can be done differently the next time to try to attain a goal. When I started in derby, I learned the rules, trained hard for hours on end trying to make my roller derby queen dream a reality. It was exhausting and I had bruises all over my body from getting knocked down by women who were both faster and fiercer than me. But, it was the hit that my ego took that left the biggest bruise. Why was I putting so much time and effort into a sport I was terrible at? One that was depleting and demoralizing my sense of self? That’s how I came to realize competitive sports aren’t a good fit for me.
Successful failures know when to switch gears. Sometimes failure leads to another goal that’s an even better fit. Something that wasn’t even a consideration before pursuing the original objective. And it opens new possibilities. I quit roller derby when I spontaneously moved to Africa, a world away from any roller derby leagues. I admit, even though I wasn’t good at roller derby, I felt like I lost some of my identity when I left it behind. That is, until I started a belly dance class a few days after I moved to fill the void. Non-competitive, low impact belly dance. I’d never even contemplated dancing before. And shockingly, I wasn’t completely atrocious at it.
Fear of failure can be fuel to work even harder to achieve an objective. Because once there’s a glimmer of some success and the reward for all that hard work is so close, giving up would make it become an even greater loss. Which is why I kept dancing. Although I traded my belly dance shimmy in for spins around a metal pole when I took up pole dance. I’ve been working a pole for fitness and fun for three years now. I love it and I’m really good at it. I’ve finally found something I’m successful at. Who knows, I may even give up my day job to become an instructor. Although I’m content to just dance for the sheer enjoyment of doing something I love. For now anyway.
If there’s one certainty in life, it’s that sooner or later everyone fails. Let’s face it, it’s usually both sooner and later. Because the more things one tries, the more things one fails at. It’s not a personal vendetta from the universe, it’s just statistics. Successful failures know that failure doesn’t make them a loser, giving up on trying to achieve their dreams does. And having a sense of humor about it all doesn't hurt either.
It's definitely not the best thing I've ever written, but it's also not the absolute worst. Forced inspiration is more difficult and time consuming than it appears to be. Here was the response I got:
Thanks for putting yourself out there. The term successful failure is fun and interesting, but the content of the article is pretty commonplace. Try to dig a little deeper and come up with something unique that we can be excited to share.
I FAILED AT FAILURE!
Which in a really pathetic way is really pretty freakin' hilarious. But, it doesn't definitively answer the question of where I should focus my time. Unless it's not book writing or article writing. Maybe I should quit my day job and become a pole dance instructor. Maybe that's what this means. And forget all that bullshit I wrote. Having a sense of humor about it all doesn't really help either.
Why I Don't Care If My Kids Go To College.