Friday, July 17, 2015

'5 Ways To Make Peace With Failure'

Brooklyn Sidewalk 2010
I decided this week to self-publish my next book. It's a tough decision, but I think it's the one I was meant to make. All my life I've had this dream of the big New York book deal - like many of us do. And I had that experience twice.

But both times, I was left with such mixed emotions, it's time to rethink this lifelong dream of mine.  This lunch-with-your-editor-in-Manhattan 'Big Publisher' thing (fun but done).

In a way, that makes me feel as if I'm 'giving up.' As if I've failed.
So I've been trying to learn to make peace with the past. And to embrace the opportunity that writers have now to self-publish their own work. Even five or ten years ago, this wasn't possible. It's an incredible opportunity for everyone who wants to write.  Maybe it's time for us to stop relying on the big guys to do everything for us. Because it doesn't always work.

Even if you do succeed and get a book deal, the average book only sells 250 copies a year. (Self-publishers are actually doing much better than that!)

I know this kind of news stops people in their tracks. They're terrified of failing or making a fool of themselves or this - omg - getting a bad review on Amazon. Are you kidding me?

I'm here to tell you: I FAILED. A couple of times now. I've had bad reviews. I've had good reviews. It hurts, yes. Not just the reviews, but the whole process. I remember when I saw my Amazon.com ranking for Devil May Care for the first time. Wow ... It was #800,069. (I think it's quite a bit lower than that now. Higher?)

I'd never even seen a ranking that low (high?) before. I actually called my husband at work, threatened suicide, and he had to come home and carry me kicking and screaming to the bed where I could thrash around without hurting anyone or breaking anything.

God, it was depressing. Especially because everyone had been so hopeful about the book. It had such great buzz. Great reviews. They printed of a big ol' whack of em because the big booksellers loved it.

The last time I heard, maybe a year later, it sold 5000 copies. Which is actually pretty good. But not enough to get me into the stratosphere. The problem was, I was so depressed about this 'failure' that I got writer's block on my second book.

I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to work on. I'd write sample chapters, submit them to my (very busy editor), then a week later, I'd change my mind, recall that book, and send in new chapters. I was going insane. And everyone knew it. So they lost confidence in me.

It was humiliating. Heartbreaking. Oh so depressing. I think I was in a depression for years. I even gave up writing my own fiction.

But then I had this dream. The one that's inspired my new book. I didn't want to be fueled by this dream. I didn't want to write another book. Especially one about Witches! There are so many of them. But ... I couldn't help myself. These crazy bitches have stolen my soul and I'm now putting myself out there again. This time, by self-publishing.

I may fail at that too.

There's a lot to learn. I'm not technically inclined. I don't have thousands of bucks to throw at other people to do it all for me. But you know what? I trusted everyone to do it all for me before, and that didn't work anyway. So I might as well try myself.

But making peace with failure has taken me years. Don't let your fear of failure - or maybe a stumbling block you've encountered - take you so long to recover. Life is too short. I found a great article in Fortune about 5 Ways To Make Peace With Failure by Susan Tardanico. Here's the synopsis:

1. It's not personal. Separate yourself as a person from what happened. Failure is not who you are. You just haven't found success yet.

2. Take stock, learn, adapt. Don't be angry, frustrated or too emotional. Look at what happened analytically and see what you can learn from the experience.

3. Stop dwelling. Obsessing over a failure is only going to trap you into what Tardancio calls a 'doom loop' that will prevent you from moving on.

4. Release the need for approval from others. Don't worry too much about what other people think of you. It's not your 'truth.' You can't get everyone to approve of you, anyway. And their opinions can always change.

5. Try a new point of view. Don't look at failure as meaning you're weak or stupid or destined to fail forever. Look at it as being one step closer to success.

Maybe you've heard that Edison failed 10,000 times before inventing the light bulb. Or that Lincoln had a decades of failure before becoming president. Dan Brown anyone? The DaVinci Code was his fourth book! Nobody had heard of him before that.

So don't let your fear of failure prevent you from writing - or anything else. It doesn't hurt that much!

If you want to read more of Tardanico's great article in Forbes here it is.