Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Failure: Size Medium

Today I'm going to argue that medium size failures are the ones with which writers are most intimately familiar.

We all know what it feels like when the email pops up in our inbox or you pull the small envelope in suspiciously familiar handwriting out of the pile of mail.

Both types of correspondance induce heart pounding and are almost always followed by a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. In case you still don't know what I'm talking about that type of correspondance is usually from a publisher/agent/magazine and starts "Dear Author".

And yet, as anxiety producing as they are, I still think these are failures size medium. I know many of us have spent years and years perfecting our novels, screenplays, articles, graphic novels or short stories but what does failure on this scale cost?

The first three things that came to mind when I tried to measure the cost of medium sized failures were pride, confidence and a good day gone bad. Of course, none of these are good things but none of them are devastating either. Sometimes it takes me an hour or a day or a week but I always bounce back from medium size failures.

Then there's the flip side to taking medium sized risks. The most exciting two pieces of that flip side are HOPE and ANTICIPATION.

Hope is crucial and anticipation is delicious. It's the plus side to the butterflies in your stomach and the shaking hands. Waking up every morning with the hope, the anticipation that today might be the day my novel hits the NYT best seller list, or my short story is accepted for publication by Very Tony Magazine or thousands of people love my blog post is worth the risk.

So yes, most of the time my pride takes a beating. There are days when I feel inferior and question my writing ability. There are also the days when one person's rejection feels like a thunderstorm passing over my sunny sky. But, as it turns out, I'm a bit of a hope junkie. It's one addiction I'm not interested in kicking anytime soon.

What about the rest of you? Are you hope junkies too? Or do the risks involved with Failure: Size Medium feel too big?

22 comments:

Shell Flower said...

I love the idea of a hope junkie. Hope is happiness while you have it, and even if things don't work out the way you'd hoped, you still have that time when everything seemed possible. It's finding hope again after a S,M,L,even XL failure that really can be a challenge.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Great post. :) And I totally agree all the writing stuff is size medium for me. (There are so many bigger things to worry about failing at. Motherhood, anyone?) Thanks for the post!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Yep, I'm a hope junkie, or optimist in most things.

I look at queries and rejections as part of business. They happen and sure, they sting the pride,but it isn't fatal.

Thankfully. :-)

Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

Emily R. King said...

I bounce back from medium size failures, too. Some have definitely been harder to recover from than others. But hey, I'm still writing!

Talli Roland said...

I'm definitely a hope junkie, sometimes to my own detriment. I do tend to pick myself up fairly quickly, though, if things don't turn out according to plan! I had a major blip with one of my books recently, resulting in a big disappointment. But a few days later, I'd accepted it and moved on. That's all you can do!

Kathleen Barker said...

Can't be an author ... or at least an author who continues to write after the first, second, etc. medium failure....without being a mega hope junkie. Love your book, Johanna!

Johanna Garth said...

Shell, I hadn't even given much thought to the XL failures but you're right, those are the hardest.

Rachel, yes those are the failures/conversations that keep me up at night.

Sia, part of the business, but not a fun part!

Emily, I talk a good game but some are harder to bounce back from than others.

Talli, the moving on/letting go is sometimes the hardest part.

Sabrina A. Fish said...

I think all optimists are hope junkies, because no matter how many times hope proves futile, we still try to see the bright side of things.

I have to agree that a rejection is a medium fail. Failing as a mom, wife, or friend would be much harder to bounce back from.

Great post!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post. I definitely am a hope junkie. It takes a lot for me to take the 'next step' whatever that may be, but once I do, the hope meter flashes brightly :)

T. L. Cooper said...

This is interesting. Rejection of a piece of my writing has never felt like failure to me. I'm not sure why. I may have to give that some thought.
The only thing that comes to mind is that I've been submitting my work since I was around twelve, and I've always just thought if this person didn't like it, someone else will...
I am a bit of a hope junkie, and I rarely let failure get to me. There's always a lesson to be learned even in a failed attempt...

Hart Johnson said...

You know, in psychology terms, the reinforcement rate that is most reinforcing for maximum effort is one that is RARE but happens. So even if this was all random, it would be set to be maximally motivational... but then we get better at all this as we go.

I can be a bit of a hope junkie, too.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

A hope junkie. I like that phrase!

Hope does spring back like one of those clown punching dummies. Sometimes the harder it gets knocked down, the more forcefully it comes back.

M Pax said...

Getting any answer at all means you did something right. So there is victory with the R. Be proud. I've gotten quite a few of those letters. The hope and anticipation are a rush.

Copyboy said...

I hear you. I deal with writing rejection on a daily basis....for a living.

Carol Kilgore said...

Another hope junkie here :)

I have a lot of rejections. But I also have some publications.

Size Medium isn't too big at all.

Connie J Jasperson said...

Love it! I too am a bit of a hope junkie. But I am also an escape artist, so I immediately bury myself in a new project, thus avoiding the failed attempt until I decide to revamp it.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I'm definitely a hope junkie, because hope is one of the only things that's made me keep writing and that's made me stay in grad school rather than drop out. Sometimes it's hard to keep hoping, though; I'll see one of my friends or classmates excel and succeed at his or her work, while I'm still struggling. Then it becomes a little bit more difficult for me to keep going, because I can't help wondering if I'll ever get or achieve what I'm hoping for.

JDarrollHall said...

Wow Johanna, I certainly could not have said it better. This journey we are all upon is a long one, with peaks and valleys certainly in the cards for all writers/authors. How wonderful would the high peaks feel if we had never experienced the lowlands of desperation and failure. And doesn't that very feeling allow us to express ourselves in music, the arts and yes the literature we choose to write with great passion.

If you never have a dream how can you wake up to live it....

Johanna Garth said...

Kate, so true!

Jemi, I like the idea of a hope meter.

T.L, wish I could say the same!

Hart, that is so fascinating. Makes you feel like its not randomization at all.

Dianne, feel free to use it ;)

M. Pax, so true.

Copyboy, what do you do?

Carole, it gets easier to take the rejection after a few acceptances

Connie, I've definitely taken the escapist path too.

Neurotic, that is hard but also really natural.

JD! Thanks so much for stopping by and being always in my corner!

Nicki Elson said...

Hope junkie - such a cute term for something so wise. We can greatly reduce the risk of rejection in our lives, but then we also squash the hope. I choose hope. ;)

Morgan said...

Oh Johanna... I'm such a hope junkie... <----Love that terminology!

This was so well written... you totally nailed it. There are some days why I even wonder if it's worth it to put myself through the ups and downs... because the ups are SO up and the downs are SO down...

But the hope is always there... and I think that's why I keep trying ;)

Scarlett said...

I'm pretty adept at avoiding medium risk. Fear of failure is a great motivator. Fortunately for me, my fear of mediocrity is greater. *g*

I can't say I've achieved all I ever set my mind to. Some things just take longer when you're still living with the choices you made early in life. But I have managed to find my way through the struggle, with a hardy sense of humor.

Medium risk? I'd say it's worth the battle scars, even if the odds aren't in my favor.