How To Turn Failure Into Amazing Writing Opportunities

By MJ Doyle


Imagine if writers automatically gave up after making one mistake, after receiving their first rejection, or even after having a full-on failure on their resume. Think about how many great novels, poems, short stories, and of course blogs, we would have missed out on.


All that classic literature that we have read, enjoyed, and grown up with came to us not as a first draft but as a symbol of the writer’s ability to see failure as a window to success.


Consider the following photograph:




I strongly disagree with what this picture symbolizes. Failure and success are not two different destinations in life. First of all, there are no real destinations in life as we are all constantly evolving on many levels. Secondly, it is only through rejection and failure that new doors of opportunities are opened to us.


There are 3 types of mistakes that I’d like to address:


  1. when we write something that doesn’t fit into our original outline, mold, or idea
  2. when we are being told by outside forces (i.e. an editor), or even by ourselves, that our writing is not “acceptable” as is (i.e. a rejection letter)
  3. when everything in our life seems to be going wrong and we just plain feel like a failure

Let’s start with the first one. Have you ever been writing, just letting your mind go wherever it desires, and come up with something completely unexpected? Something your internal editor may have flagged as a mistake had you not been allowing yourself to write freely?


As writers we have a tendency to over-think, overanalyze, and over-edit. Relax. Pay attention to the “mistakes” you make while writing and see if they are in fact new opportunities to expand, or perhaps even completely change, your original idea. Don’t be too quick with the delete button. Remember: We don’t write to get things right, we write to get things started, or progressing, to see where our minds take us. As uncomfortable as it may feel, let your gut be your guide.


The second type of mistake we writers often encounter is what we would consider a failure, or rejection. That is, either we don’t like what we’ve written, or someone to whom we are accountable doesn’t like it, or both (they are kind of one in the same, aren’t they?). In either case, the work seems to be dead in the water.


This is where opportunity knocks. This is how we strengthen our writing muscles. Without these failures and rejections, our writing would remain weak and drab. Imagine a body builder training for a competition and giving up after she realizes the weight is too heavy. She just can’t lift it. But what does she do? She lifts it as far as she can and then tries again. She keeps building the muscle until she can lift that weight.


And that’s what happens with writing. When you fail, it is a sign that something needs to be strengthened. Find out what it is and don’t give up. Failing builds muscle, because it enables us to become better at what we do.


Lastly, there may be failures or mistakes that you are facing in life right now. How can these possibly help your writing? Well, if everything in your life were footloose and fancy free, what would there be to write about? No one wants to read about an ordinary person who is sailing through life unscathed.


We write from within ourselves. This applies to fiction and non-fiction, including  blogging. If our lives were problem free, our proverbial pages would be blank. We’d have absolutely no material, no personal experiences from which to draw.


The best way to translate your personal failures into writing is to journal. Then, when it comes time to write something, you have some meaty material. Use the crappy things that happen to you as fodder for some amazing writing.


Now, close your eyes, and imagine yourself licking the stamp that will send your first (or next) query letter or proposal off to an editor. How will you react to the rejection that you will most likely face?


The next time you’re writing and something completely wrong flies onto the page, will you delete it right away, or will you consider that your mind is trying to tell you something?


And when your life feels like nothing is going right, will you retreat to the T.V. or fridge to dull the pain, or will you simply sit down and write?


About the Author: MJ Doyle is the author of “Beat Your Procrastination by Releasing Your Clutter.”  Her blog, S.O.S. Your Life, teaches others how to organize their way to personal development.

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