I was led (via Twitter) by an educator named Debbie Reese, one of the people on the forefront of “We Need Diverse Books,” to a series of workshops on failure at an annual conference for game developers. As the article says:
[At a gaming conference] there is a strong success bias – you are not going to hear a lot of companies trumpet their failures. Failure, however, can be often be more instructive than success.
The same can be said of writing conferences. The keynotes are writers with “New York Times Bestelling Author” in front of their names, with awards and movie adaptations. We don’t see the worst-sellers speaking, but they have more wisdom — they know how to brace themselves for another disappointment, how to keep writing when you can’t make a living at it, and how to soldier on through a manuscript that might never find a single reader. They’ve weathered the storms and survived and can now tell us, like the wretched old man in that poem, about the albatross of regret.
Failure can mean lots of things in writing. A book that didn’t get published, a book that published and didn’t sell, a book that sold but got lambasted by reviewers, or even a book that did well on all accounts but still makes the writer cringe. There are PR disasters, author events where nobody shows, terrible interviews, and (for my crowd) school visits that make the author want to hit every bar on the way home.
But failures, mistakes, and bad experiences are learning experiences, and here is what I want to do: I want to destigmatize failure. I want writers to talk about their failures frankly, and what they learned from them.
I am going to make this a series, but won’t put an end point on it. One thing I’ve learned from past failures (remember the Mark Twain blog?) is to take these things slow.
But I’m going to put this idea out there now and solicit future interviewees or guest bloggers who can write about failure. It doesn’t even have to be about writing. Leave a comment or send me a message.
I am going to kick things off with my own story in a day or two.