Let's Fail Beautifully

A few of my writer friends and I are in the middle of a “Rejection Challenge.” We are trying to embrace failure and celebrate rejection—the idea that you should celebrate the rejections as much as the accolades. How many times have you told a child that trying is the most important thing? That winning doesn’t matter as much as giving it your all? And yet, as adults, we are terrified of failure when we should be celebrating it and striving for it.

The type of literary rejection doesn’t matter – Whether you are submitting to a live lit series, a literary magazine, a writer residency, MFA program or reviewers. A few writer friends are trying to get an agent or traditional publisher. (Personally, I prefer the independent-publishing route. I like my creative control and rights thank you very much.) Romantic rejections and credit rejections don’t count. Obviously, anyone can get those.

The Rejection Challenge isn’t really catching on. No one likes being rejected, and it can be terrifying. The Indie City Writers in Chicago have taken it on, but many of my writer friends are shrugging it off. The consolation prizes and the date of the awards ceremony are all up in the air. I wouldn’t call it an official contest. One participant I know (ahem, you know who you are) has yet to send anything out despite talking about it for months and has been sitting on a wonderful manuscript for years. Nothing is more tragic than a good book left in a drawer.

So getting rejected is a personal goal for me this year. I could tell you about the $300 writing award I won last year, or my latest five star review, the latest number of downloads, and whatnot, but instead I’m focusing on something else—putting myself out there and taking risks.

I’ve collected a few rejections so far from literary magazines. To be honest, I’m not sure they are worth my time. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are wonderful, but when was the last time you read a literary magazine? They don’t pay well, and I don’t like to write for free. Writers die of exposure. So that’s pretty half-hearted.

I’m waiting to hear back about a writer residency at the Mall of America. I read the rules and they suggest they might have a screen showing what you are writing to people passing by. I like a good challenge, but I’m kind of looking forward to that rejection. Can you imagine the pressure with hundreds of people walking by and reading over your shoulder? I did spend days of my youth at the mall though, it would be fun to have MOA as a muse, and I am good at writing under pressure.

In terms of reviewers, I did hear back from Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Prize folks, they gave “A Storm of Stories” a decent score, but I’m not winning that. So there’s another rejection. They did say the “author's take on familiar themes does have a refreshing originality about it.” I liked that. I strive to write the original and universal. "A Storm of Stories" actually gets rave reviews most of the time. It’s got a 4.3 star rating on Amazon right now with 39 reviews. It did recently get a 2-star review from someone who said it was lacking magic. For some reason that one really hurt. But the worst thing as an artist is to be ignored. That person read the whole book and cared enough to write a review. That’s still a compliment.

Writing, like any art, is messy. You can’t succeed without the risk of failure, and what’s perfect to one person is flawed to another. It’s like creating a painting and being afraid to ruin it with the next brush stroke, too afraid to put the brush against the canvas.

Hey fellow writers, artists and free spirits, let’s live dangerously. I dare you. I dare you to fail. Let's fail beautifully.

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