How to Fail Well
During an interesting recent discussion, I had a wonderful dialogue with a friend over the following statement:
Success is our duty.
I immediately took issue with the idea. Why? Because I am a consistent failure. No, that’s not begging for disagreement, that’s just empirical fact. I fail all the time. And I do so with gusto, at times.
The idea that there is a demand upon me to succeed puts a bad taste in my mouth. But I realize this is a deep issue for me. This is a place of hurt and wonder and beauty and horror. My life has been struggle and striving for success with a glimmer, a moment or two of brightness in an otherwise dark sky of failure. So what did I say to my friend?
Success should be our desire.
And that may sound like semantics, but I assure you, it’s the world of difference for me. Going on eighteen months, I have been renewing my push to become a successfully published writer. For eighteen months I’ve been doing everything I know to do. In those eighteen months I have written five books. Two of those books? The single best things I have ever written. I have queried them all. All of them. And I have seen the queries go out and come back with little success. In fact, I have only received a little pinch of response here or there from a few agents.
This post marks the end.
This post is where it all grinds to a halt with a slow whine and the hiss of air brakes. Why? Why would I do something like this?
Because I finally feel like I’m ready to embrace this failure. I feel like I’m able to walk away now and do so with grace, with thanksgiving in my heart. I feel like I’m able to let it all go, finally. That hasn’t been true before. Does it mean I will stop writing? Hardly. I’ll probably write what I want to write, now, instead of writing what I think will sell. Does it mean I’ll self-publish? No. At least not at this point. That’s just a different game I don’t want to play either.
No, my hope is that I’ll keep writing books that my friends might ask to read. My kids. My family. Maybe one day, when I’m long gone, my kids might use this library I will build to provide for their kids. I want to write because I believe stories are important. I believe books are important. But I don’t believe publishers or the self-publishing industry is. I believe that stories are bigger than our world allows them to be, right now. I believe, in fact, that stories are going to grow in importance even as they grow less and less popular. I believe that stories are going to be a fundamental exercise of truth in our culture, that they will tell the world what it doesn’t want to hear.
And I believe that there will be a part for me to play in that. But it’s just not the part I imagined when I began this journey.
My part? My next place? Is something else now. In fact, I think I have a new glimmer of it. I think I can see it and maybe see my way forward. I will set my eyes on things that still my soul.
My hope is still to continue to tell writers’ stories, the stories that I’m hoping to capture on film in my documentary. My hope is to maybe make more documentaries. But times will tell what dreams may come.
So in closing, the gospel is true, Jesus is better, stories matter, and I will continue on. Those of you I have built such lovely relationships with? Those who have supported and encouraged my writing? You guys are amazing. You always will be. And I hope you will not even consider using this as a reason to determine your own dreams, your own future. This is mine. This road is mine. The end of it is mine. And it’s not with weeping that I end it, but with joy.