How to Analyze Your Failures

It does not feel good, to know you have failed.

It does not feel good, to know you have failed.

However, you can feel better by taking an analytical approach to the goals you were not able to achieve. It sounds scary, but it’s not. We spend too much time running as far away from our failures as we can. They have things to teach us. Learn from them, before you walk away.

Look closely at all the things you wanted to do, but did not end up doing, this year. Not to bring yourself down or remind yourself how much of a failure you think you are, but instead to figure out why you didn’t get that thing done. How can you prevent a similar thing from happening again next year?

I’ll use my 2016 reading goal as an example here. I wanted to read 50 books. Currently I have finished reading 25 – and there is zero hope of reading 25 more books in three weeks. So what went wrong? Reading, on average, a book a week for an entire year isn’t THAT hard, is it?

Ask yourself these questions when looking at your unachieved writing, reading or creative goals:

  • Did you set a goal you could actually accomplish?
  • What was your initial reason for setting this goal in the first place?
  • Did you dedicate enough time every day to making that goal happen?
  • Did you set smaller goals to help make your big goal seem more realistic?
  • Did you put off starting? Why?
  • Did things, either in or outside of your control, get in your way?
  • Do you still want to work toward achieving this goal? If yes, how do you plan to do so? If no, what made you lose interest in working toward your goal?

Looking at this list of questions, I can already point to time as a major factor in my “failure.” There were days I barely squeezed in a few pages of reading before moving on to a different activity. A few pages a day, even for a few days in a row, set me far enough behind that I could not catch up.

It’s just a reading goal – it’s not the end of the world. But you may have wanted to do something HUGE this year – write a book or start a blog or submit an article somewhere. So why didn’t you? What stopped you? Most importantly – what are you going to do differently, now, to make sure this goal finally gets accomplished (if you’re still interested)?

This is different than dwelling on your failures. Yes, it is still important to look ahead and not let your past drag you down. But you have to learn from your mistakes, if you do not want to repeat them. It’s not enough to assume ‘not wanting to feel bad about yourself again like you did after this failure’ will be enough to motivate you to do better. No – you need to look closely at what did not work, so you can change your behavior next time.

There are so many great things coming your way – as long as you prepare for them. Action is the only way to accomplish anything, writing-wise or otherwise. Not just as you’re working, but before you even start. Look back – but only to remind yourself that there is a different, hopefully better way to make X happen. Try again. Maybe set the bar a little lower. I’m not going to try aiming for 50 books again in 2017, I don’t think. But that’s OK. Sometimes smaller goals are the best kinds.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

This Year’s Failures; Next Year’s Successes

You are not always going to be able to do it all.


Hey! As you may or may not know, Project for Awesome 2016 is going on RIGHT NOW. Go vote for all these great NaNoWriMo videos so they can get some money to have a TOTALLY AWESOME year!

I had a plan.

After P4A last year, I was inspired to do something different – and, looking back, probably far too ambitious – to raise money for charity. I had this idea in my head that I would have time to write 12 novellas (20,000+ words) in 12 months, self-publish them and donate all the earnings from sales of those novellas to 12 different charities.

There were three things I did not realize when I announced that I would be doing this on January 1.

1 – I did not realize I would get a job. Or two. Or 10.

2 – I did not realize how difficult it was to convince people to purchase things, even for charity.

3 – I did not realize I would not be able to do it.

I had to put The Novella Concept on hold about halfway through the year, and am at this moment officially announcing that it is over, despite having failed to reach its many goals.

So, technically, I failed. But I’m not sad about it. I mean, I’m sad I couldn’t raise money for awesome causes. But I’m not sorry I stopped. I just couldn’t do it. It took me a little too long to realize that. But it’s okay.

I don’t feel as guilty about having to put the project on hold as I thought I would. I would have felt worse – and perhaps would not have stopped after all – if the project had been raising money as it was originally intended to do. But what I was doing wasn’t working, and I no longer had the extra time, as I had at the start, to shift my strategy in order to facilitate that kind of change.

Sometimes, even when you’re trying to do something good for all the right reasons, you have to make the decision to stop – whether forever or just for now. I wish I’d had more time. I wish I’d planned things out better. But there’s no going back.

Will I try something like this again someday? Most likely, though it likely won’t be anything like trying to write 20,000 words of fiction every month for twelve months straight. If something like that were ever to work again, I would need to have (1) fewer jobs and (2) a much larger audience. Both are extremely unlikely to happen anytime soon.

So for now, I’ll do what I’ve been doing instead – supporting charities in other ways, without destroying my sanity in the process. I want to work hard so that I have the time and money to donate to nonprofits I love. It’s one of my major life goals. I’m a long way away from being able to set aside a portion of my income to charity. Patience. Things happen, with hard work and consistency, in time.

Never let a failure cause you to believe you’re not doing a good job. Your have a lot of things to take care of – including yourself. If you’ve had a long, hard year, give yourself some time in the next few weeks to rest. 2017 is going to be great. Go into it feeling fresh, and hopeful, and determined to succeed. I believe you can do it. Believe you can do it, too.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

This Is What Failure Will Teach You

Failure hurts, but it’s worth it.


Have you ever tried something and failed miserably? It’s not fun. Sometimes you do whatever you can to avoid it, but it still hits you hard. And it hurts. A lot.

Everyone fails, or will fail, or is afraid of failing. Myself included.

To be completely honest (I will go more in-depth about this in this week’s newsletter, going out later today – subscribe so you don’t miss it!), there are a handful of projects I’m working on right now that I’m terrified to admit might not succeed. I am a completist. The idea of not being able to finish something scares me. But here’s the thing about failure: if you never fail, you’ll never really succeed, either.

Failure will teach you to be vulnerable

My sophomore year of college, I applied for a position on my school’s newspaper. I didn’t get the job. That  rejection probably wouldn’t have upset me so much if about five other failed attempts at broadening my extracurricular horizons hadn’t shown up in my inbox all in the same week. I remember feeling, to put it simply, like I was failing. I wanted to write, but no one wanted me to write for them. Yet I let stubbornness slowly morph into anger, because I refused to let myself be upset over something I felt was somehow my own fault.

The more I started pitching to magazines and pursuing other writing opportunities, the more I realized it’s okay to feel down about not being successful. So many themes in my stories revolve around this common idea of not getting what you want and not knowing how to feel about it. When you let yourself be more vulnerable, you can channel that otherwise negative energy into something productive. My first attempt at a sci-fi novel wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t dealt with failure and disappointment. I literally created a fictional character out of it. Sometimes, failing means another chance to write something deep and relatable, not just for you, but for other people to resonate with, too.

Failure will show you what it means to chase a dream

I come from that generation everyone assumes is entitled and doesn’t know how to do real work (you know the one). I don’t know of anyone my age who doesn’t seem to understand that if you want something, you have to put in the effort to earn it. Many writers try to break into the field, though, thinking they’ll be able to find success and income and experience easily. That’s why, personally, my past failures don’t bother me. They keep me in check. I have reminders that if I don’t do the work, I don’t get the outcome I hoped for. I hope everyone experiences failure … really. At least once.

There are about a thousand cliches about how success wouldn’t exist without failure. But even more than that, the relentless drive to beat the odds and make something happen might never show up unless you get knocked down because you failed. All writers, in their own way, have dreams. They want to write something and they want people to see it. Pursuing a desired outcome is hard. Even the fear of failing is enough to motivate many writers to keep trying, even when the process of sitting down and trying to create something worthwhile feels more like a nightmare.

Most importantly, your past failures will change the way you value your successes

When I look back at everything I’ve failed at – and yeah, it’s a lot, and it’s embarrassing – I really do appreciate my accomplishments in a way I don’t think I could if I didn’t have my past shortcomings. I’m proud of my successes because I know how it feels to fail. Embracing failure sounds a little silly, but trust me, it’s worth learning. Honestly, sometimes, I just shrug my shoulders and say, “Oops.” The only thing you should do in response to failure is teach yourself to learn from it.

The biggest lessons you will probably ever learn from failing is that success is so much sweeter after previously watching it slip away from you, likely more than once. My first freelance writing contract immediately made months of failed proposals worth it. If it were always easy, you would take it all for granted. If you succeeded at everything you did, you would stop appreciating it. Failure, or the possibility of it, keeps you working hard and aiming to improve. That is why it isn’t anything to be ashamed of. No regrets.

Nobody enjoys failure. But it’s important enough to the writing process that, honestly, you just have to get over it. You’ll be much happier and more productive once you get better at accepting your failures and let them drive you forward.

What is your biggest writing failure? What have you learned, or what do you hope to learn, from it?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

How to Bounce Back from Failure

You don’t truly fail until you walk away simply because you think you’ve failed.


To put it bluntly, failure sucks. It sucks whether we’ve actually legitimately failed or not. Disappointment and self-doubt, when it comes to writing, are dangerous yet common feelings. With hard work comes failure – but that’s not a bad thing. And it IS possible to bounce back form it, in time. Here’s how.

Ask yourself: Have I really failed?

We’re a lot harder on ourselves than we realize, especially when it comes to evaluating our own performance in a specific activity. It’s pretty much impossible to look at your own writing and judge whether it’s good or not. However, when something like rejection, lower-than-expected sales or poor engagement comes along, our first instinct is often to label the experience as a failure. But have you really, technically, failed?

It’s quite possible you just fell short of a goal you set for yourself. That doesn’t necessarily mean you failed. It just means, at least at the moment, you’re not seeing your small accomplishment as an accomplishment. But you’ve still accomplished something. You wrote something or submitted something or published something. You took a step. Success has many metrics, even small ones.

Figure out what you could have done differently

Whether you’ve technically failed or not, a great way to deal with any associated feelings of discouragement and doubt is to look at what you’ve done and decide if there is something you can change or do differently.

Perhaps there was something you didn’t do the first time around that you might be able to do during a second try. Maybe this was the first time you tried something, and you can count your first attempt as a “practice run.” There is something to be learned from every experience, both success and failure. Never forget to allow yourself to learn from your mistakes.

Set a new goal and try again

You don’t truly fail until you walk away simply because you think you’ve failed. There is deciding to put something to bed because it’s not working right now and you need to focus on something else, and there is giving up because things didn’t go your way and not trying is easier.

Setting a new goal is essential, and it’s possible. You might trip and lie on the ground for awhile, and that’s okay, take your time to figure things out. Then stand back up, figure out where you’re going to go from here and try again. That’s what makes a person successful: knowing the difference between when it’s reasonable to keep trying and when it’s okay to say goodbye. If you know you can do better, you can do better. And you will.

Don’t be so quick to label your shortcomings as failures. Decide if there was something you could have done differently the first time. And if it’s feasible, try again. You can do this.

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