Mon. July 23, 2018: Dealing with Failure #UpbeatAuthors

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Image courtesy of Cleverpics via pixabay.com

Monday, July 23, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde

As usual, this will focus on how failure affects us as authors, in our work and life. Some aspects can be applied to other parts of life, but the focus is on our art.

The first way to deal with it is to define it.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “failure” as:

Definition of failure

1a omission of occurrence or performance; specifically failing to perform a duty or expected action 

  • failure to pay the rent on time
(1) a state of inability to perform a normal function 

  • kidney failure

 — compare heart failure 

(2) an abrupt cessation of normal functioning 

  • a power failure
c a fracturing or giving way under stress 

  • structural failure
2a lack of success
b a failing in business bankruptcy 

  • He was trying to rescue the company from failure.
3a a falling short deficiency 

  • a crop failure
4one that has failed 

  • He felt like a failure when he wasn’t accepted into law school.

 

But do you?

I sometimes feel I fail if I let someone else down. If it’s because I was thoughtless or disorganized, then it’s on me and I damn well better find a way to make it right. But sometimes it’s because the other person put an unfair expectation on me and I wasn’t strong enough to say no right off.

Sometimes I feel that I failed if I don’t get an acceptance from a market or a publisher or a grant to which I applied. Yes, I failed to get that particular slot. Most of the time, though, another opportunity comes up that I wouldn’t have been able to accept if I had landed the previous one. Also, because I’ve worked on the publisher side of the table, I know that acceptance is more than just a well-written book: it’s about fitting the tone of a particular publisher, and fitting into the needs of a particular list. Most traditional publishers and some of the smaller publishers have to balance their list so it appeals to a spectrum of readers. If they have too many of one kind of book and none of another in any particular season, they will lose readers that season, and might never regain them. It’s about where your piece fits into the bigger picture, not just your piece.

Many organizations that give out grants expect you to apply (and fail to get an acceptance) over a period of years before they take the application seriously. This always angered me, even when I worked for such non-profits. But many organizations want to see that an artist can sustain work over a period of years before giving that individual money. They don’t want someone who will use a day job or another excuse not to work, or to accept the grant and not meet the requirements of the work that needs to be produced.

None of that knowledge takes the sting out of those refusals, or alleviates the sense of failure.

How do you deal with it?

Acknowledge that you feel angry, sad, whatever. Don’t get on social media and rant and rave against the publisher, agent, or organization. It’s fine to admit disappointment, but don’t attack. Save the venting to do in person, privately, with people you trust. Because there IS a need to vent; there’s just no need to do so publicly. Your feelings are your feelings; they are valid. How you choose to handle them has consequences.

If there’s any feedback, step away for a few days, and then re-visit it with a more objective sensibility. What can you learn from this? How can you apply it positively moving forward?

There are certain publishers and/or organizations that are not a right fit. Just “getting published” isn’t enough. It has to be a place where you have a positive working relationship and both the writer’s and the publisher’s needs and goals are met. Sometimes what starts out as a promising relationship deteriorates. It’s not that one side is “better” or “right” — it’s simply that the needs of both parties aren’t being met, and it’s time to part ways (hopefully amicably), so you can both move on to a better situation. That’s true in any job situation.

I think it’s often harder for artists to deal with failure because what we do is so personal, so much a part of ourselves. It’s difficult not to feel that it’s a rejection of us as human beings.

If something we wrote doesn’t sell well or sell at all, we feel we failed. After a period of time, we can look back. Could it have been structured better? Used stronger language? Have you learned something in the interim that makes it work now? If it’s a sales number, what can you learn from that book’s campaign that you can apply to future promotions? We are pushed to think in terms of immediate large sales numbers, instead of a steadily growing readership. There are plenty of books I’ve read with huge opening sales numbers — and I’ve never read anything by that author again either because I didn’t like the book or because the author never managed to get anything else done, feeling the pressure.

But there are a lot of competing needs and agendas out there, and we’re not all compatible.

When it comes to finding the right agent or publisher, I often compare it to dating — it’s unlikely you’ll find your soul mate the first time out. You need to meet a lot of people and date around. Finding the soul mate for your work is similar.

There’s no need to dramatize or villainize if something doesn’t work out (although, in the first flush of hurt and disappointment, we will). Happy yippy platitudes too soon to the hurt are counterproductive. But then, take a step back, look at the positives, and apply what you learn moving forward.

As a teacher, that’s the most infuriating aspect. When a student REFUSES to apply a correction moving forward. We all start somewhere. We all have things we need to learn. When something is explained (such as the difference between a possessive and a plural) — learn it. APPLY IT MOVING FORWARD. Don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again and expect someone else to fix it.

The only true failure is REFUSING to learn from something that didn’t work and refusing to apply it moving forward.

Most other situations are disappointments or setbacks that can be overcome.

–Acknowledge

–Create objectivity

–Learn

–Apply

And then go on to create something wonderful!

Published in: on July 23, 2018 at 4:50 am  Comments Off on Mon. July 23, 2018: Dealing with Failure #UpbeatAuthors  
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny and hot

The humidity let up, thank goodness, because yesterday, it was disgusting. There were severe storms all around us, with enormous damage and possibly tornadoes, but we didn’t see a single raindrop.

Had a good day on POWER OF WORDS, finishing Chapter 15. This whole section is pretty weak, and I have to tear is apart and restructure a lot — I haven’t integrated the logistics well enough into the story, and the two are very interdependent. But at least I have something on paper with which I can wrestle.

Hung out with the cat next door quite a bit — got some reading and writing done over there. Put the air on for him for a few hours, too. He’s a big cat, and he suffers in the heat.

Elsa was in pretty bad shape yesterday. I had to haul around quite a bit to find the tasteless Pedialyte — damn them all for only having flavored varieties in the single-serving sizes. I had to buy a huge bottle. Anyway, since she wouldn’t eat, I gave her Pedialyte every couple of hours all day. She ate a tiny bit in the evening, baby food and a little cooked chicken. She still has what seems like acid reflux, so she wants to eat, but it’s physically difficult for her.

And I”m STILL waiting to hear back from the vet, which irritates me. I think he’s just hoping she’ll fade away at home and be done with it, since I can’t afford to drop tens of thousands of dollars on treatment, and I resent it.

This morning, however, Elsa is very perky and dancing around, shades of the old, funny Elsa. She was very busy all morning, making the rounds she used to make before she was so sick. She ate better than she has in about a week — it was hard work for her, but she was determined– interacted well with the other cats, and is now happily curled up in front of the fan, enjoying the breeze. Best she’s been in a few weeks. I’m hoping it’s not just a momentary rally.

I’m going to do some more research and see what else I can figure out.

I hope to have a reasonably quiet day today. I do have to fight with some scumbags (not landlords for once) who are trying to take advantage of my elderly mother, and I will not tolerate it. I’ve got some paperwork to do, a few more pitches and queries to get out, and a proposal to work on. So, provided dealing with the scumbags doesn’t totally wipe me out, it should be a reasonably productive day.

And, hopefully Elsa will continue to improve. She’s definitely happier and more cheerful than she’s been in awhile. All your good thoughts are helping — thank you!

Devon

Published in: on June 25, 2010 at 6:28 am  Comments (7)  
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