The Road to Success...

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The road to success... Is it inevitably lined with failures?

On CBS Sunday Morning I recently saw a story on Tanya Tucker. She made a comment that struck me. Here it is:

"I feel like … those mistakes are part of my success. To be able to go through those things and come out on the other side, I think, is success. I don't think you could be successful unless you've had a lot of failures, and I've had some."

Her comment made me reflect on my own failures, along with reflecting on what lessons those failures have taught me.

image courtesy of Pixabay

Lesson # 1: Making things public makes a difference.
I had been floundering with a picture book. It was a project I was incredibly committed to, due to its subject matter (a stray dog). I sat on it and sat on it, but wasn't submitting it anywhere... until a writing friend, Donna Volkenannt, nudged me. I made it public, and declared a date when I would submit it.

Because it was out there for all the world my 3.5 readers to see, I made the deadline. The manuscript was sent... It was verbally gushed over and "accepted" by the publisher, only to be later rejected by a lesser editor. It's remained dusty ever since.

Lesson # 2: Having a thick skin is needed if you want to be a writer.
A few years ago I wrote a middle-grades manuscript that sang. It was shiny and perfect... or so I thought.

Then I sent it to be professionally edited by Margo Dill. I knew she would sing my praises, because my novel-wannabe was ready for immediate publication. It really was.

Margo did give me specific praise. However, she also gave me specific suggestions. Her detailed and thorough critique made me completely rewrite (mostly from scratch) my story... and now, it's being considered by three different presses.

(If I had sent out my original hot mess, there would be no nibbles. Publishers and editors would take a cursory glance, curse, and reject it hurl.)

Lesson # 3: Being held "accountable" makes an impact.
This is similar to lesson # 1. I had written a manuscript (the one from lesson # 2) and wasn't doing anything with it. I'd written a draft, had gotten to "the end," and took it out occassionally to dust it off and make it shiny again. Submit it anywhere? Fuhgeddabotit.

Then a group of writers and I started a writing accountability group--thanks to J Glenn. She suggested it, and two years later, it's still going strong. The other writers (not always me) post their short-term goals every week, along with reporting on their successes, their rejections and their struggles. Because it's an amazing group of writers, their encouragement, feedback and suggestions are priceless. We do it via Dropbox, so it's free and user-friendly.

Because of the Butt-Kickers (what we call ourselves), I've rewritten, revised and submitted my manuscript... and have gotten a few preliminary nibbles.

So. What failures have you experienced that taught you a lesson? Do you think we must face some failures in our pathway to success--if it ever comes when it comes? Stumbling minds want to know...

Last summer, Sioux Roslawski took a trip around Iceland. One day, she spent part of the morning at some mudpots--bubbling "creeks" of stinky, hot mud (thankfully this image is not a scratch and sniff one). She thinks of those mudpots when her writing smells... and when her WIP is a hot mess. You can check out Sioux's writing by checking out her blog.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux, I love this post, and yes, "failures" (or setbacks) are a huge part of the road to success, especially for writers! I agree with all your lessons. I recently grew thick skin last year when pelted by several rejections, and it's a great characteristic to have. I used to worry about submitting because of rejection, and now I brush it off. Making things public and accountability are also great lessons.

I'll add one to your list I've learned the hard way: Take a leap of faith. The timing is never going to be right, nothing is going to be perfect, so you might as well do it now. Go all in while you still have it in you. I can't tell you how many times I waited and missed an opportunity. I won't get into examples, but believe me, there are plenty!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Excellent post!

Angela calls them "leaps of faith." I tell people to "say yes." Take a chance. You aren't going to go anywhere in this business unless you say yes.

And don't forget to "try, try again."


Margo Dill said...

I love that you are getting some nibbles on your manusript! That is so exciting. :) I completely think the road to success is lined with Failure--there's a poster that has all of Abe Lincoln's failures before he was president. I think that people who learn from their failures are the ones who have ultimate success!

Nicole Pyles said...

What a great list! And I definitely think failures are inevitable. Isn't there a Michael Jordan quote that says "I have failed over a thousand times and that is why I succeed."? Another lesson I'd add to the list is to not compare your writing journey to others. Accepting where I'm at and not bumming out about where I'm not (while still striving forward) has made such a huge difference.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--Yep, taking a leap is important. Maybe you could do a post sometime on all those unleaped leaps... ;)

Sue--It sounds like you're doing a duet with ABBA with your "take a chance." Yes, not trying ensures you are going to fail.

Margo--I've seen that poster before. I think he's amazing because some of those obstacles/failures were heartbreaking ones. A wife who was mentally ill. Deaths. Being rejected by a girlfriend. He had a rough row to hoe...

Nicole--You are sooo right. I have a friend in my writing group who is published in a zillion publications. I cannot compare myself to her because if I did, I'd be forever depressed. Acceptance is so important.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Oh, Sioux! You wicked woman. Now I have Abba stuck in my head.
"Take a chance on me..."

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Have you ever seen the movie "Muriel's Wedding"? It's a fun one, and full of nothing but ABBA music...

Fireblossom said...

Mistakes are part of it, like it or not, and I don't know any who do. We have to suck before we can be average and average before we can excel. Along the way, with most things, we find out we will never excel. But that helps us separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff and find the thing we really are good at. My father told me that it's long attention to one thing that pays off in the end. Well, I have been writing since I was a child and seem to be slowly improving, though I can hardly bear to read much that I wrote prior to 2011 or so. As for Tanya Tucker, I never liked her voice very much. Back in the day I was more into Loretta Lynn or even the Kendalls.

Sioux said...

Shay--Or Emmylou Harris... ;)

Cathy C. Hall said...

I don't know a single published writer whose failures don't outnumber their successes. By A LOT.

I think whatever your goals, it takes a lot of tries before success (whatever your picture of success is) comes along. That's why it's so sweet!

(You know that poem by Dickinson, right? Success is counted sweetest by those who n'er succeed. Gets me every time!)

Also, Glen Campbell. Loved Glen. And Tanya, she's true to herself.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I do NOT know that poem. I'll have to check it out. And that IS why it's so sweet. Sometimes it's so long in coming...

Linda O'Connell said...

If I collected rejections I would be bale to paper the walls of our study, but I do not hang on to negativity. Rejection sting; lack of acknowledgement is worse. When others are receiving acceptances or the book is published and they still haven't acknowledged your submission. Such is the freelancing life.

I say yes, because my mom told me, "Worse they can say is NO."

Persistence is my curse. LOL

Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--Your mom was a wise woman. And persistence has gotten you very far as a writer.

Pat Wahler said...

Some say roadblocks are what give you more story material. I think they may be right!

Lynn said...

How can I learn but from my failures.

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