I stole that title from Matthew Wright. Yes, while I was working from home this morning, I had the TV on for company. Nobody believes me when I say that, but I find working in a quiet house is very creepy and get much more done if the telly’s on in the background.
At one point today, Matthew Wright grabbed handfuls of his own moobs to demonstrate how big they were. Not pretty. I had to stop working for a full ten minutes and have some chocolate to get over the shock. But don't worry, that's not what I'm going to talk about here.
On the Wright Stuff, Matthew and guests discuss news stories. Topics today included a newspaper headline where an Oxford girls’ school is setting impossible tests to show 11-year-old pupils that it’s OK to fail. Read the story here (it’s the Daily Mail). It’s my personal feeling that this is bonkers and if my daughter went to this school I’d be asking for a refund of fees. But this is supposed to be a writing post not a ranty mama post, so I'm not going to talk about that story, either.
However, ‘failure as a key to success’, now that’s something I can relate to – particularly in terms of my writing. And I didn’t need anyone to teach me how to fail. I found out all by myself.
Only writers don’t call it failure – we call it rejection.
And rejection is part of writing. Or at least it is for most of us. I know there will be the odd superstar who will have sold everything they’ve ever written, but they will be exceptional. The rest of us will have had to deal with the dreaded R. Some of us on more than one occasion.
Success from failure is possible as many writer have found out, but it requires a few things. And I have prepared one of my beloved lists:
1. Firstly, tenacity: Don’t give up. Keep writing, keep submitting.
2. Secondly, flexibility: If one kind of writing isn’t working, try another for a while. A different publisher. A different genre. A different type of writing.
3. An ability to learn from mistakes: This can be a hard one and most of us need help with it. Which leads me neatly onto...
4. Luck: I’ve been very lucky – I have Minxes to rely on for feedback for novels. And I have short story writing friends for (surprisingly) short stories. I’ve also been extra lucky with editors – particularly the very lovely Shirley Blair at The People’s Friend, because not everyone finds an editor who is prepared to guide them through rewrites so that rejected stories are turned into something suitable for the magazine.
5. Finally, stubbornness: This is linked to tenacity. Do not give up. On a story or on yourself. Rewrite as though your life depends on it. My greatest day with short stories was seeing one published five years to the day after it had first been rejected by the same magazine. And with novels it has to be Trust In Me – this went through several rewrites to the extent that it was no longer the same story by the time I eventually sold it. The first version had a different title, a different hero, a different heroine and a different setting – and there weren’t even any donkeys.
Do you have any ideas for using failure as a key to success?
PS for British blog visitors: Brendan from Coach Trip is one of Matthew's guests tomorrow, but I won't get to see it because I'll be working in a proper office and my colleagues would frown on anyone watching TV. Really not happy. Someone watch it for me, please, and tell me if it's good? I love Brendan.