Or a kick in the ass is also a step forward. That would be a sort of alternate title for this blog post.
I’m sure you know what failure means, but what you don’t know is that, whether life changing or not, every defeat carries with it enormous potential. Somewhere hidden, of course.
We often choose to deny it, but failure is an integral part of who we are as humans.
That’s why we like success stories so much. That’s why we love to believe that brilliant writers come up with wonderful first drafts. Everything they write is gold. The bitter alternative to this is that we have to work hard all our lives and still be haunted by the monster of failure.
We all want to become so good at what we love doing that it becomes effortless. We want to stroll our fingers across the keyboard and win the Pulitzer.
But it’s not like that.
In November 2010 I found out about NaNoWriMo and said to myself, “Now this is a challenge.” It took me a few days just to decide on the idea. And then a couple more days of following an idea, then scrapping it for something better. It was the first time I was writing a novel. I had never written anything close to fifty thousand words. Also, it was the first time I was writing fiction in the English language.
So I wrote. And I was pretty excited about this, because as I wrote, I was finding out more and more about self-publishing.
The thing is, I’ve always thought about the day I’ll get published as being set to this really, really vague date in the future. Sometime, somewhere. And when I found out about the possibility to self-publish, about being able to choose your own date, that inspired me.
And, probably, for the first time in my “career” as a writer, I set myself a goal. To finish, to edit, and to publish a novel before my 20th birthday. We’re talking about two months. Now, I wouldn’t try to publish a short story in that time frame.
But I was young and naive and really wanted to be a writer. And I think that I really needed a purpose, a goal, a dream back then.
Anyway, I completed a first draft by the end of November. And then I set up to learn about interior formatting and cover design and all that.
But I forgot to do one thing, which was to write a decent book.
The novel I had written sucked. Big time. There are so many bad things about the book itself, that I used to tell people that the only things I like about it were the cover and the dedication. But back then, when I was getting ready to launch my novel, I didn’t think it was crap. I thought it was brilliant and that Warner Bros. was going to adapt it into a movie.
Because there’s an entire ocean between me and the US, I received my proof on the 6th of January 2011. The same day I approved my proof and a few days later the novel went live on Amazon. A few weeks later, I published the Kindle version.
Then I proceeded to ask for reviews. And I promoted. Paid for a few ads on Goodreads and Facebook. And I made a blog.
Between January and March 2011 I wrote a grand total of 3 blog posts, did two blog interviews, got my novel featured on three sites and got a four star review on Amazon and a 2 star review on Goodreads. Oh, and I sold 2 paperbacks and 2 e-book copies. At which time I decided that my book was crap. Well, it was more like I realized it.
The book was really bad: bad editing, bad writing, bad dialogue. Too much philosophical mussing for anyone’s taste. Not enough description, not much of a plot.
So I gave up. I took my book off Amazon, deleted my blog. Gave up on writing for a few months.
I had failed. There was nothing to be proud of in what I did. It was such a failure that it didn’t even ruin my career. Because I hadn’t built one. It was such a failure that no one even knew I existed. And I had no patience. I was 20, I wanted success, I wanted to become a great writer. I wanted it all so badly that I wasn’t willing to wait. Which isn’t the most important part of building something great. The part which contains the words “hard” and “work” is.
But I didn’t know that. I couldn’t find enough motivation to write, so I gave up.
One night in September 2011 I had this idea on how to turn my novel into an at least decent story. And I began re-writing it. I think there are about two or three different occasions when I felt as inspired as I was during the first three weeks of rewriting my first novel. I didn’t rush. I enjoyed it. When I got stuck, I didn’t panic. I waited.
In November 2011 I discovered Wattpad. And I decided to upload one of the chapters I was most proud of to see if anyone liked my writing. And people did enjoy it. Really, really. And this kept me going.
And I also found out why people really write. I wanted to be read. I wanted to make people feel. I wanted to inspire. I wanted to write about people, not characters. I wanted to write about events that could trigger something inside a reader’s mind, that people would respond to. And I didn’t really want to be invisible anymore.
Maybe a victory is always preceded by one long string of failures.