If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.
Most people hate the thought of looking foolish, of having friends and loved ones think less of them. One sure way to make yourself feel foolish is to take a chance and fail. To do something out of the norm, and not have anything to show for it.
Our society is obsessed with “normal” anything outside of that parameter is often viewed as a failure- and creative people simply ain’t normal (a teacher I once had said normal was nothing more than a setting on a washing machine- I think he was right ;)). Now the exception to writer as failure are the ones who have obtained some sort of accepted validation- aka a published book. Other writers know there are many levels of validation and even the wherewithal to just stick with a project long enough to complete it is in itself a huge validator. But non- writers don’t quite get that (ok some do, and if they are in your lives- hang on to them!). So if you’re not published, or under published, there’s a very good chance that you’re wandering about with a bit of a feeling of failure hanging over your head.
But the very reason you are feeling that is because you are taking risks. You are following your dream to have your books out there being read by total strangers. It hurts because you care, and instead of staying at home in a nice risk free existence, you are putting yourself out there. Against really heavy odds might I add. Take a moment now to pat yourself on the back- go on- I’ll wait ;).
The second risk we take as writers is within our books themselves. You can’t write to formula. You can’t write so that “everybody likes it”. First off, there isn’t a formula. Some folks claim there is, but there isn’t. Trust me, as someone who comes from a field obsessed with being able to quantify everything (Psychology), if it could be done- I’d be doing it. But you can’t. And trying will just leave you with a very quantifiable pile of poo. The second part is having everyone like your stuff. Think about it, everyone has different tastes, even within the same genre it’s going to vary widely. If I walk into a mystery bookstore and ask five people what they love in their mysteries, I’ll most likely get five different answers. They all love the same genre, but they have different likes within that genre. If everyone likes something, it’s probably too weak, people may not hate it, but they don’t love it. It’s worth having some haters in order to have some folks who LOVE it.
Taking risks is going to lead to some failures- if not, you’re not taking big enough risks. The trick is to keep getting back up after each one, dusting yourself off- and charging back into the fray. Don’t play it safe with your books- take chances.