“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” Many of us are familiar with this quote from Samuel Beckett. Many of us feel like we live it every day – well, at least the “fail again” part.
I’ve been reading a lot of columns and blogs on success and failure recently. Perhaps because it’s a hot topic of conversation right now (hey, if Chuck Wendig is talking about it…). Or perhaps because I’m unconsciously seeking them out, trying to figure out my own definition of success. And failure.
As a writer, it’s my job to make sure failure is part of the story. Do my characters know exactly what they want, or do they have to make some mistakes first, to realize what they need? Does the detective catch the killer with his initial instinct, or does he struggle through a few wrong turns first?
For my characters, the choice is easy. They need to fail. They need to fail repeatedly, in fact, before they’re allowed to succeed. Who wants to read a story about a detective who always catches the killer as soon as he’s on the case? Not a very exciting read, if you ask me, and as James Scott Bell describes eloquently here.
We as readers are eager to read about a few failures before our hero succeeds in his goal. Perhaps because we thrive on the tension that comes with the ups and downs of the hero’s investigation. Or perhaps because seeing literary heroes fail before they succeed gives us hope for our own failures. Because we know that everyone—ourselves included—needs to fail before we can succeed.
I accept the value of failure in my endeavors, as frustrating as that can be. But I’m still left with a particularly vexing question: how do I define success? Sure, I can learn from my failures, figure out what to change to achieve a different result next time. But what qualifies as success? (Here’s a link to a post I enjoyed on achieving “success.”)
To tell the truth, I haven’t figured that one out yet. Each time I hit a milestone that I thought would define success, I realize there’s another peak ahead for me to climb. Until I figure out what Success (with a capital S) means to me, I plan simply to celebrate the small accomplishments, each baby step that brings me that much closer.
For me, my small step toward Success this week is that my first book, A Blind Eye, is now available for pre-order as an ebook on Amazon (it will be available in other formats in September). So if you’ll join me, let’s drink a toast to these, the baby steps.
How about you? Have you figured out how to define success for what you want to achieve?
6 thoughts on “A toast to success!”
I am reading James Scott Bell’s book on plot and structure for the third time. Glad you mentioned him. Those “disasters”, as he calls them, for the characters=success in keeping readers engaged.
I did love that book. I should go back and read it again!
Good post, Jane. And so true. It is the character’s failures that keep the reader reading and that makes like interesting!
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If you don’t keep trying, you’ll never get there. I wouldn’t be published if I had given up after all the rejection slips I receiver.
Too true. You definitely have to have a thick skin, though, don’t you.
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