How to Fail in Five Easy Steps by Rebecca Heflin

EPIC FAILIn my last blog post, I talked about success. Now let’s talk about failure, because if you don’t fail, how do you know when you’ve succeeded?

Failure is a fact of life. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you fail. And you know what? There’s no shame in that. At least you tried. And more importantly, you learn more from your failures than from your successes. Not that I’m advocating constant failure, mind you.

There are lots of ways to fail, some easier than others. I’m talking today about the easy ways to fail.

  1. Don’t try – If you don’t try, you’ve already failed. How sad is that? Do you really want to look back on your life and say, what if? If you tried and failed, then so be it. But at least give it, well, you know, a try.

Have you ever noticed that children appear to have an innate sense of adventure? They seem not to give the possibility of failure a second thought. Otherwise they’d never learn to crawl, walk, ride bikes, or even read. But as adults, I think we lose some of that adventurous spirit because we don’t want to fail and look like a dork to the rest of the world.

I was at this place for years. I’d always wanted to write a romance novel, but I had no idea if I could actually do it. Well, unless I tried, I’d never know. Turns out I could. And not just one, but eight, going on nine!

  1. Don’t plan – You know the adage fail to plan, plan to fail? (Thank you, Benjamin Franklin.) You can have all the great ideas in the world, but if you don’t have a plan to execute them, what good are they?

When I finally decided to go for it and write a romance novel, I needed a plan. First, I read as many craft books as I could get my hands on, devouring each and every one, gleaning as much information as I could from the experience of others who came before me. When I discovered RWA, I made plans to attend my first-ever nationals. Which of course led to more plans. Once I had a finished manuscript, I did more reading on the do’s and don’ts of getting published, and laid out my ‘plan of action’ for contacting publishers and agents.

This brings to mind another favorite adage: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

  1. Give up – Nobody says you should keep banging your head against the wall over and over again only to wind up with a concussion. But neither should you give up at the first sign of difficulty. Admittedly, there is a fine line between knowing when to throw in the towel, and knowing when to persevere, but giving up just because it’s challenging, I’d say is a sure step in the right direction . . . if failure is your goal.

Now, I’m not going to lie. There are times when it’s just so damned difficult, and I’m overwhelmed by all the things I’m doing and nothing seems to work. When I hit those bumps in the road, I take a step back and give myself a break. Even if that break means no writing. Allowing myself some free time to do whatever I want (take a nap, get a pedicure, or go shopping—who doesn’t love a little retail therapy?) reenergizes me and I wonder why I wanted to quit in the first place.

  1. Blame others – When, despite all your best efforts, it all goes off the rails, step back and ask yourself is there anything you could have done better or smarter. Blaming others for your failure or attributing it to circumstances or bad luck doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself.

You can’t blame the market. If you write vampire romance and publishers are saying that market is dead, then self-publish. There’s always a market for a good book, and readers who are addicted to vampire romance will snatch it up. And you can’t blame other authors who seem to make the bestseller lists with every book they publish. They worked hard to get where they are and they deserve every but of their success.

  1. Accept rejection – And by that, I mean curling up in a ball and letting the naysayers get the better of you. We all get rejected, whether it’s by agents, publishers, even readers in the form of a bad review. If everything you did gained immediate acceptance, you’d never appreciate the hard-won battles. Approach the rejection with an open mind. Maybe there is some merit to the criticism. If that’s the case, take it and learn from it, but don’t let it undermine your goals. Or maybe the criticism is from an embittered troll who’s jealous of your success. In that case, grab a glass of wine and don’t give the miserable old misanthrope another thought.

Failure is a given, but don’t take the easy way. If you’re going to fail, make it spectacular. Give it your all. Then learn something from it.

In other words, go big, or go home!

What are your thoughts on failure? Have any epic fails been your best learning tool?

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About Rebecca Heflin

I've dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister snuck a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to me and told me to read it. Now I write women's fiction and contemporary romance under the name Rebecca Heflin. In case you're wondering, Rebecca Heflin is an abbreviated version of my great-great grandmother's name: Sarah Anne Rebecca Heflin Apple Smith. Whew! And you wondered why I shortened it. When not passionately pursuing my dream, I am busy with my day-job at a large state university or running the non-profit cancer organization my husband and I founded. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, Savvy Authors, and Florida Writers Association. My mountain-climbing husband and I live at sea level in sunny Florida.
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