November 23, 2015

All About Perspective: Failure's Role in Success

Last week, Suzanne van Rooyen wrote a post about why not winning NaNoWriMo doesn't really count as failing, which just so happens to tie in perfectly with the post I had planned for today. Great minds?

Failure is such a dirty word for most of us. We're taught from childhood that success is binary: either you succeed (e.g., get an A) or you fail (e.g. get an F). But like many ideas to which we're exposed in basic form as children, the adult reality is much more complicated. And as we move beyond a child-like, simple view of the world, it is the people who start to see the bigger picture who have the greater chance of ultimately succeeding.

Let's be clear: it is absolutely possible to fail. If your goal is to write every day for thirty days, and you only write for twenty of them, you failed in that goal. The question is, does the road stop there? Was that goal the be-all and end-all, or were you actually aiming to do something more? For instance: making time for your writing. If you did that 20 out of 30 days (an arbitrary number, since we're in the midst of NaNo!), then have you really failed?

It's easy to be discouraged by the small failures when we're only considering the small picture, like on the left side of the image above. But as that graphic has simplified on the right side, keeping your eye on the real prize can help shift those failures into perspective. Consider someone training for a marathon. On any given day, maybe s/he runs a mile less than the day's training goal. The goal set for that day was not achieved, so therefore that is a "failure." But if the runner still completes the marathon a month later, do those occasional failures matter?

Any time we stretch ourselves, any time we aim for something and set a real, big-picture goal, small failures become inevitable. The trick is zooming out and evaluating each step in light of the real goal, rather than getting discouraged by the interim road blocks. Failing today does not have to mean Failing (with a capital F in case you missed that). Nor do the small failures make you a failure. More likely, they mean you're trying something difficult. Making a couple wrong turns along the way is simply inevitable.


And speaking of wrong turns, my first novel, Mending Heartstrings, took a meandering detour that could easily be considered disastrous. In the perspective of the industry as a whole, and of many professionals in that industry, currently that book is a failure. This is heartbreaking.

But what it really means is that it needs to find a different path. And the first step on that new path has led to a breathtaking sight—the gorgeous new cover! Christa over at Paper & Sage did a fantastic job transforming a wonderful photo by my friend Jillian into a cover I absolutely love. I can't put into words (yes, I see the irony) how excited I am for the reveal!

Want to be among the first to see the new cover? Use the form below to sign up for the reveal on January 11, 2016!

And please consider sharing the signup link: http://goo.gl/forms/QkFoS8CZTP. (Click here to tweet!)

Thank you for your continued support as I wind my way on this publishing journey!

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