The Season of Failure
The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success.
Once upon a time I was going to chuck my writing career and run off to be a folksinger.
Yes, there was a guy involved. But putting that–him–aside for a moment, the signs were auspicious. I was in a folk band that was getting a lot of attention, we were playing all the time–making good money and getting attention from R&R people everywhere from Arista to Lismore Records–yep, our crazy little star was rising. I loved the music and I loved the fact that this world, the world of music, was so very different from the world of letters. The world of letters being the world I had grown up in (I became a professional writer at sixteen) and where I was struggling to chart my course on that dark and rolling sea.
To make a long (eight years long) story short, I did not run off to the Hebrides to become a folksinger. I quit my Gaelic lessons and threw in my shaker egg (metaphorically speaking). And that, to paraphrase Robert Frost, has made all the difference. I went back to writing, had some success, and decided to make the jump to writing full time.
And I have zero regrets. For any of it. And I do mean ANY of it.
My point, and I do have one, is that it is okay to switch horses midstream. It is okay to substitute a dream from column A for a dream in column B. It is not only okay, it is recommended that you change things up from time to time–if only because it will give you more to write about.
As the publishing industry continues to morph into something none of us could foretell, I see more and more posts from frustrated newbies–and oldies–brooding over whether the time has come to “throw in the towel.”
And yes, if you have reached the point of wailing in public, it is time to give up. Deep down you already know that. If it’s so bad you’re looking for pity votes and affirmation from other authors also struggling with the question of whether they should keep going…it’s time to face reality.
But facing reality is not the same as defeat, and I wish we could all get past thinking in these non-productive and non-creative ways.
How many of you who managed to graduate from college actually went on to do whatever it was you trained to do? How many of you are still currently doing what you trained to do? I trained to be a teacher. Because really no one made a living at writing back in the day. We didn’t expect to. And in a weird way maybe that made it easier for us. With no false expectation of success, no pressure, we felt free to try and fail and try again.
Is your education a waste because you didn’t ultimately end up as an archeologist (that was my Plan B — which is funny given how much I hate camping) or a marine biologist? Or maybe you did end up an archeologist or a marine biologist, but now you’re looking for something new. New adventures, new challenges.
Really, that’s what life is about. Growth and change and forging on to the next thing. In what game do you land on the first square you come to and never advance? Not a very fun game, I’ll tell you that much. Never advancing is not a good thing.
If there is such a thing as a sign of failure, it would be in being too afraid to let go of the rope and jump into the next thing.
Oh, I know. It’s not easy to release that death grip on old dreams and former ambition. But imagine if butterflies couldn’t get over the charm of living life as a caterpillar?
As you look forward to 2016 you need to ask yourself one crucial question: does writing still bring you joy?
Because that’s the only thing that ultimately matters. Being happy. If writing still brings you joy, you should keep writing.
If your creative spirit has been sacrificed to ambition and the pressure to succeed, you need to examine what happened and why– and see if you can reclaim your joy. You should wake every morning eager and excited for the day’s work. Not afraid that you can’t make a living. Or that others, unfairly, are so much more successful. It is important to be able to earn a living. True. It is more important to enjoy your life in the here and now. Because the here and now is all we ever are guaranteed.
Please let go of this nonsensical notion that “failure” equals the end of something. That’s like saying autumn is summer’s failure. In fact, autumn is the time when seeds are sown for a rich and plentiful spring.
Farewell to 2015. And may 2016 bring you a year of unending spring.
Josh Lanyon is the author of the Adrien English series and a whole lot of other highly successful–and less successful–books. You can learn more about Josh at www.joshlanyon.com.