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Even When We Fail, We Can Still Win


By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

This year I failed at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I took up the challenge to write 50,000 words in November, hoping to complete a new novel. Over the past couple of years that I've participated in NaNo, I've "won" which means I've met the goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. So I thought I'd have no trouble this year too.

But in spite of my best intentions and my very best efforts, I fell short by 3,000 words. Even burning the midnight oil on both ends, I just couldn't do it.

At first I felt like a failure for not finishing and made all kinds of excuses for myself. I'd had to stop writing for several days earlier in the month because I had to finish line edits and return them to my publisher. That kind of editing is time and energy consuming.

Then in the later part of the month, the unexpected happened. My grandmother died. I had a busy week of making travel arrangements, driving eight hours to the funeral, staying with family, and then turning around and driving home through precarious weather conditions. Needless to say, after I got home, I was incapacitated for a day from grief and a stress-migraine.

During the midst of all of that, I was attempting to get my website ready for its December 2 showcase. And obviously I had a great deal to do to get ready for my newest book, Love Unexpected, to launch on December 2 as well.

Yes, excuses, excuses, excuses. Sometime they're legitimate and sometimes they're not. The simple truth is that there will be plenty of times when we fail.

We fail to meet a writing goals, word counts, weekly totals.

We fail to meet a publishing deadline.

We fail to get the positive reviews we hoped for.

We fail to final in a contest.

We fail to get the attention of the publishers we wanted to work with.

We fail to make as much money as we wanted.

We fail to increase our social media platform, even though we've worked hard to gain exposure.

We fail to make the story or book turn out the way that we anticipated.

Over the years, I've learned that there are lots of ways we writers fail. Disappointments, melt downs, and moments of falling flat on our faces. Those times are inevitable. For all of us.

Of course social media can have a candy-coating effect, making it seem like everything for everyone else is always SO wonderful. But if we take the time to look past the sugary-sweet facade, we'll see that even the best authors have rough days.

Everyone fails from time to time. We have no control over that. But we do have control with how we deal with the failure. The difference between those who go on to have successful writing careers and those who peter out and eventually fall away has to do with how we handle our failures.

Successful authors DO fall down. They feel hurts, disappointment, frustration, and even feel like giving up from time to time. I have.

But once successful authors fall down, they don't stay down. They pick themselves back up, brush off the dirt and dust, and then begin to creep forward once more. Maybe they barely crawl along. But they don't stop. They inch forward, until little by little they're walking, running, and perhaps even soaring again.

Yes, I failed NaNo this year. I had a mini-pity party for a few hours (and drowned my sorrows in a chocolate brownie sundae). But then the following week, I plunked myself back in my chair, opened up the story, and pushed myself until I reached the end. I completed my 19th full length novel. 14 of those are either published or slated for publication.

If I'd given up every time I felt like a failure, I would never have reached the point I'm at today. So, dear friend, if you're feeling discouraged or feeling like giving up, remember you're not alone.

Remember that even when you fail, you can still win.

What disappointments have you faced recently? Have you felt like giving up? Are you picking yourself back up and continuing onward in the midst of the failure?


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