It doesn't matter how many times you fall down, you don't fail until you stop getting back up.
In life as in writing, when goals aren't reached it can hurt. You feel irritated with yourself, you wish you were smarter, better, stronger or just other than that which you are. Maybe a particular goal turned out to be harder than you expected. Maybe you didn't give yourself enough time or you overestimated your skills. It happens. So you didn't quite make it this time around. You know what, that's life.
Failure not only gives us the impetus to succeed, it gives us context for that success so that we can appreciate it all the more when it does arrive. Just recently, I received a rejection letter from a literary magazine who loved my story but felt it wasn't for them and wished me luck placing it elsewhere. I get so many of these letters, it's hard to say exactly what it was about this one the pushed me over the edge. None the less, over I went. What follows in an excerpt of the week long (I kid you not) internal narrative that took up residence in my brain. Note the anxious tone, the rampant insecurity and, my personal favourite, the snowball effect.
What do they mean? Is it not for them or is it just not for them right now? Is it not for anyone? Is it bad writing? It is. It’s very bad writing. Why did I send it? I knew it wasn't ready-nothing’s ever ready. I didn't edit enough. Why didn't I spend more time on it? Maybe the structure’s wrong. Perhaps it's the narrative. There’s no real plot either-who writes a story with no discernible plot? Stupid people, that's who. Clearly I'm stupid. Very stupid. Am I completely talentless? Oh God I am, aren't I? I'm completely devoid of talent and everyone's been sniggering behind my back waiting for me to figure out just how bad I am. I'm not a writer, I'm a joke. I'm a total idiot and everyone I love is going to be so disappointed because I got rejected again and no one will want to be my friend and I'm totally going to die alone…
That's almost verbatim. I left out the swearing. Sometimes the reaches of my vocabulary manage to alarm even me.
I know I'm not a bad writer. I also know I'm not a brilliant one. That's the point of the process, it's a learning curve and if I apply myself properly, I should be learning every step of the way. There are days when I feel like I'm drowning in rejection slips but I take comfort in the fact that every letter is a metaphor for victory. Those letters are solid evidence that I picked myself up off the floor after the last tumble.
It can be tempting to hurl yourself to the ground after a minor setback and cry into the mud. It feels like the world is ending every single time, but these blips don't have to affect everything. They don't make you a bad person or a waste of space and they certainly don't make you a disappointment. They make you human and whilst it's hard to accept that we do fall down every once in a while, the day you don’t fall is going to make it all worth it.
So I'll say it again; you can fall down as much as you like. You don't fail until you make your bed in the dirt.