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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Get Ready to Fail!

lightbulb value of failure canstockphoto20582474 (2)Are you ready to fail as a writer?

I’m getting there.

Earlier this week, I posted this on Facebook:

“Wish me luck! I just send the first 100 pages of my novel, Essential Path, to Laura Zats at Red Sofa Literary (as she requested). I’m a little surprised at how vulnerable I feel right now. Probably time to go back to polishing the rest of the pages.”

Several people reminded me to celebrate, including Jean Cook, one of my beta readers, member of my writing group, outstanding editor and superb poet and essayist. Jean wrote:

“Rosanne, be sure to take a moment to congratulate and reward yourself for meeting that goal (hmm, which creativity coach teaches that?) before you return to polishing.”

greatness (2)My go-to strategy when I feel scared or vulnerable is to do something. It’s not always the right thing to do, but it’s always something. As in, “Well, that’s something.”

I have a new appreciation of how risky it feels to stop doing something long enough to celebrate or reward myself. Getting back to work on polishing the rest of my novel is easier than pausing to feel all the emotions that come with taking a big step toward a dream.

The biggest fear is that after all the work and passion I’ve put into my novel, Laura Zats won’t like it. My old solution to that fear was to stay busy. As long as I was working on the novel, it couldn’t be rejected.

failure saul bassOf course, it couldn’t be accepted either, but the brain responds faster and more powerfully to threat than to opportunity. We have to consciously work to override the ‘avoid risk’ instinct so we can take creative risks.

We need to learn how to tolerate vulnerability. Perhaps we need to cultivate, not just tolerance, but actual desire to fail because it’s only through failure that we grow as writers.

In “The Power of Failure,” an essay in The Soul of Creativity, Eric Maisel observes:

“…failure comes more often than success does. It is not easy to build new worlds. It is the opposite of easy.”

We’ll talk more about failure in the next post and I welcome your experience and perspective.

When and how have you “failed” in your writing? How have you grown as a writer/artist through failure or mistakes? Have you avoided long-range success by avoiding present moment failure?

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3 Comments on “Get Ready to Fail!”

  1. Joel D Canfield February 19, 2016 at 8:46 am #

    “the brain responds faster and more powerfully to threat than to opportunitY”

    Somehow this magnificent bit has eluded me until now.

    My latest first draft is in the hands of a story master who offered to read it. After years of performing music in front of people, and after writing 4 books with multiple 5-star reviews by people I respect, I’m less nervous, but I’m nervous.


    • rosannebane February 19, 2016 at 8:55 am #

      Yup! Less nervous is good. Not nervous at all means we’re sleeping on the job. 😉



  1. Big Significant Next Steps Make Writing Harder | Bane of Your Resistance - June 2, 2016

    […] If you’re a regular reader, you know that I sent the first 100 pages of my novel to Laura Zats last February. (Laura requested them when I pitched to her at the Loft Pitch Conference in November.) I wrote a post about how vulnerable I felt and how writers need to develop our tolerance for failure. […]


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