We like to qualify failure. “You’can’t fail if you try. If you get back up. If you persevere. If you learn something.”
The semantics police have the line between failing and not succeeding on lock down.
But I’m here to politely request that folks stop tellin’ me whether or not I’ve failed at something. I have! I have failed a lot of things! Those are my screw ups, dammit, and they were important to me.
Risks are part of growth. Sometimes the risk doesn’t work out–that’s how you know it was a risk. It can be a huge blow to our confidence, but failure is simply part of success. Ask how many things the great innovators, entertainers, and moguls have tried that didn’t really move the dial any. See, the thing is, to be a success, you don’t need everything to work out for you. You just need the one thing. You do need to learn. You need to be able to take your lumps and be flexible enough to keep from breaking when you do. It isn’t that it will stop you from failing. It will us from being failures. That’s where I draw the semantics line in the sand.
I fail a lot. Jokes won’t land. Typos abound in my first drafts. Sometimes, whole stories need to be scrapped. Does it feel good? Not really, no. But neither does progress. Progress is grueling, yucky work that is way less fun than sitting on the couch, eating ice cream and watching Netflix. Progress is work. Failing is sucky. C’est la vie.
I share this with you not because I’ve decided to turn into a motivational coach, which I think my penchant for no-no words and harping on how hard it is to get anything worth having precludes me from, but because I’m removing “The First One’s Free” from the shelves. It was the first short story I ever wrote, and it met all of my criteria for the story I was trying to tell, except what I’ve learned is a critical part: I didn’t like it. I am not proud of it. It had all the story parts I thought it should have, but it’s not enough. I don’t love my story, and I don’t think it’s having the effect I want–probably because it’s not offering the effect I want.
So, significant lessons learned about short stories and my own way of thinking, I will release “Just A Taste” which I already like much better as a story, and I will rework and re-release “The First One’s Free” when it’s up to code. I failed the first time. But I won’t let it fail again.