Failure or Success—Writers Get to Choose How to Look at Circumstances

Recently, I received a rejection from an agent. One of those non-specific rejections. You know, the ones that say something like “not a good fit for me.” Something about my writing did not strike the agent as worthy of representation or publication. And it added to a string of rejections. 

I allowed myself a brief pity party. And then I went to the Lord, asking for direction and strength to continue writing.

I entered a time of prayerful reassessment of who I am and how he bests wants me to serve him. Then I found a blog post from a former pastor in the stewardship ministry at my church.

And I discovered a few things. 

One is—it’s unreasonable to think I can achieve success without some failures along the way. Remember learning to ride bike? Or driving a stick shift? Striking out with a cute girl?

Failure can either stop me completely or it can teach me something about who I am and what I’m trying to do. 

Failure doesn’t determine my future. Unless I let it. What determines my future is what I do after I fail.

I am not a failure unless I decide to quit and let the failure define me. Before I make this decision, I need to make sure I’m hearing from God and not my self-pity.

4 Things Writers Need to Know About Failure

  • 1. Embrace the fact that failure is part of the journey. When something doesn’t work there are often other ways to achieve my goal. Including learning to be better at what I do. The cliché is “back to the drawing board.” 
  • 2. Failure is not about me as a person. Failure is the result of an action I took or did not take. 
  • 3. Don’t quit. Failure is not a reflection of who I am. Failure is part of life, of growing. We’re all in good company. The only one on this earth who got it right the first time is Jesus.
  • 4. I can’t change the past. So move on. Assess, learn, make corrections, and get back to work. Don’t play the role of victim.

Final Thoughts

C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “I can’t go back and change the beginning, but I can start where I am and change the ending.”

Failure and rejection do not paralyze us or condemn us. They are tools to teach us to learn and grow and improve. Look at failure as another step forward on the ladder to success. If we let failure stop us, we’re doomed. Learn all you can from the experience. Seek the counsel and wisdom of other writers who will encourage you on your journey. Keep learning and improving. 

Start where you are and change the ending.

How do you handle failure?


Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest.

Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers.


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