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?


  1. I tried NaNo for the first time this year after a few years of fear of failure kept me from it. And, you know what? It was going well until life happened. Things beyond my control to the point I had to let something go and NaNo was it. Life is still beyond crazy at the moment but the story is still in the back of my mind. It's comforting to hear real authors find life getting in the way and still find a way to get the story done. I seriously cannot wait for your next book! Have a great day!

  2. I've faced a lot of disappointment and failure in my personal life recently, so my work life is where I'm succeeding. I should be picking myself up personally, but it's become easy to throw myself into my work, where I'm earning praise and moving up.

  3. Jody, I so, SO appreciate this post. I've had more "OH MY WORD, I'm failing like it's going out of style!" moments than I care to admit in the past both writing and other areas of life. And I think once we start to sink into that place of frustration and discouragement, it can paralyze us. Case in point: It's taken me forever to start my next book.

    But you're so right. Successful authors keep going. They claw their way out mental pits. They eventually find joy in the journey once again.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. We need to keep reminding ourselves this valuable lesson. Thanks!!

  5. I wrote exactly two words for nano this year and they were (drum roll please) "Chapter One" yup, that's it...
    You are a mom of five, a wife, researcher and author extraordinaire... Compelling speaker and encourager, one whom the Lord loves... I'm going to stop now... May the Lord bless you with every blessing--you and your whole family!
    Thank you for sharing... Looking forward to your next book!!!

  6. Jody, you will always inspire me! I see nothing about failure here.

  7. A great reminder, Jody. I, too, "failed" at NaNo this year . . . but my goal was to finish the first draft of my manuscript, and I accomplished that during NaNo, so I'm counting it as a win! I've pushed so much on the book lately that this morning, I just stared at the screen for a while, feeling utterly uninspired to continue edits. Your post reminded me to work through the lack of inspiration to become disciplined in my writing schedule. Thanks!

  8. Jody, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. Even failures aren't failures if we learn something from it.

    Your new site looks beautiful!

  9. Jody, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. That's such a unique and tremendous loss. I pray for God's comfort for you and your family, especially during the holiday season.

  10. This past November was my first attempt at Nano, and I "won", but now I have 20k more in my first draft and I'm stuck. So in a sense, I don't feel victorious. Failure and success are complicated threads that always get tied up in knots in my life. Ultimately, Jesus' grace usurps all my failures and transcends any feelings otherwise. And I have to agree with Caroline, you're living out your calling and I see no failure here! Blessings on your first Christmas without your grandmother. I'm about to loose my 98 year old grandma, and though I know she's ready to be with Jesus, it's hard to let go.

  11. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I often feel my best judge of success is how fast it takes me to get back up. Falling is inevitable. Getting back up takes courage. Thanks for reminding us that getting up one more time than fall IS success!

  12. This post was very uplifting, and I thank you for writing about failure from a very optimistic and realistic point of view. The fact that so many writers feel like failing one goal is comparable to failing in a writing career is one that should be debunked immediately. Writing takes perseverance, dedication, and a decent amount of failure for someone to realize it's what they want to do more than anything.

  13. I've been resolving for several New Years to finish my first novel, but haven't done it yet. Reading this today is timely encouragement.


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