Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why you can never fail as a writer

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. ~ Ernest Hemingway

You can't fail, you can only quit- Richard Manning

Today you get two quotes for the price of one! Both of these really speak to some important facts we as writers need to remember.

1) You are NEVER going to be done learning and polishing your craft. Not gonna happen. Even writers with dozens of books are (or should be) continuing to grow and learn. Yes, there are ones who are just “calling in” their books. Their pubs know that the public will buy anything they produce, so they don’t care. But we’re ignoring them for now, because I know none of you intend to be “those types of writers”. Therefore, the learning process never ends. There’s no final. No thesis. No dissertation.

2) If you are never done learning, then you are always a work in progress. And you can’t fail. You can only fail if the process you are attempting actually has a termination point. Now, you can be ornery and create your own deadline, “if I’m not published in two years, I’m giving up!” But why would you want to do that? Is it some perverse sense of taunting the Universe? “I’ll show you! I’ll quit!” And who does that hurt? Not the Universe, it really doesn’t care. It only hurts the writer, if you love something enough to invest two years of sweat and headaches – why would you be willing to walk away? So the self-imposed deadline is a bit foolish. Either you’re a writer (aka someone who loves to write) or you’re not. If you can even think of a self-imposed deadline, you need to ask yourself why. It’s tough love, but I’ve seen many words of advice where people in this business (writers, editors, and agents) point out, if you can think of quitting, maybe this isn’t for you.

So, excluding the self-imposed deadline- we as writers have none. There is no rule that we must be published by a certain date. Or in a certain form. Our only rule is that we write.

No deadline, no termination = no failure. You can’t fail if you are still trying.

Jan 12--I just want to thank everyone who commented, or tried to- blogger is having issues and is blocking comments- including mine! But thank you all!


  1. Great post and a good reminder some of us (me) need!

  2. Thanks Nancy and Melissa :). I thought it was timely- start of the year and all.

  3. I think we learn by failing. We may not like the lesson, might not be fun or pretty, but we often learn more from our failures than our successes.

  4. Wonderful post! You are absolutely right! :-)

  5. Here, here, Marie. We are, like our books and ideas, works in progress. If I had never sold, I'd still be writing because writing in in my blood. I swear, I saw a bunch of words, written in cursive, on my last Xray.
    Writing is bliss, and I'm open to ideas at all hours of the day and night.

    Thanks for the post.


  6. Great post, Marie. #2 reminds me of Madeline L'Engle relating in her memoir "A Circle of Quiet" that she thought about quitting writing when, at 40, she had tried to sell her books and no publisher was interested. As I recall, her quitting lasted about a day (lucky for us). Writers write, they can't do anything else.

  7. I love the WIP analogy, Marie, and it's so true that the only way to fail is to give up. I do make deadlines for myself, but when I don't meet them, I make new ones. Believe it or not, I don't look at it as failure as long as I've made genuine progress toward the goal. If I wasn't trying hard enough, then I'd really let myself down.

    @Linda I'll bet the writing was in Latin or maybe more like Runes ;)

  8. Persistence and love of the craft. Thanks for the reminder. If you give up too easily maybe writing was never your first love anyway.

  9. Thanks all-and yup Lucie, if you can give up- it probably wasn't in your heart :)