The Difference Between Failure and Not Meeting Your Writing Goals

Believe it or not, they’re very different.

Every writer fears failure.

Maybe that’s because we define too many things as failures.

Saying you’re going to write a book and never writing a single word of it? Yeah, that’s failing.

Writing a first draft of a book, revising it, trying to get it published and never landing a deal? I personally don’t consider that failing at all.

To fail, you either have to stop trying or never bother trying in the first place.

Maybe you had time to write but didn’t use it. Ideas, but didn’t pursue them. Opportunities, but didn’t chance them.

That’s not the same thing as doing everything in your power and control to make success happen, only to fall short of the goals you originally set for yourself.

In this case, you made the time. Pursued the ideas. Chased opportunities. And still, what you wanted to happen just did not happen.

That is not your fault. And to say you “failed” implies that you didn’t do the best you could.

We are only human, and we only have so much time and energy and space in a day to get things done. Sometimes you do fail, and you fall on your face and it hurts and you’re too embarrassed to admit it out loud even to yourself.

Sometimes you just have terrible luck. So much of success in writing counts on a little bit of luck. Not to say that you can get lucky by doing nothing — you have to put in the work to get results. Honestly, some people find the luck, and others struggle to believe it even exists. This is the way things are, and the way they always will be.

If you failed, well, take some time this week and ask yourself why what you promised yourself you’d do didn’t end up happening. The truth is, it happens to everyone, but never for the same reasons. Maybe you were scared. Maybe your priorities got out of order and you never quite sorted them back to the way they were. Maybe life just got in the way, as it often does.

If you tried and didn’t quite make it, something may have gone wrong there too. But this is the best time to strategize. Come up with a plan. How are you going to reach a little higher, push yourself a little farther, increase your chances of Success this year in ways you didn’t before?

In both of these things, though, all you can do is move forward. Write something else. Query a different agent, find a different magazine, apply for a new job. There are so many options available to someone with the skills and drive you have when it comes to writing. But no one’s going to knock on your door and offer any of these things to you. You have to seek them out. You’re the only one who can Try.

Trying doesn’t always lead to success. But it does prevent failure, at least in my eyes.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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4 thoughts on “The Difference Between Failure and Not Meeting Your Writing Goals

  1. good advice. yes, the key is ‘trying’. it’s like entering your work in writing competitions but being resistant to enter. you think to yourself, People from all over the world will enter. what chance would i have with such strong competition. as a friend said to me, Try. if you don’t try you’ll never have a chance.

  2. Persistent! As writers, we must continue to toil at our craft. If we love and enjoy the journey, we are all winners. The love of writing is a gift. Sharing this gift with others is amazing and fulfilling!

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