I’m going to name drop here, so watch out: Alan Shapiro once said in a sprint course I took with him at Miami of Ohio that you have to accept failure as a part of being a writer. You can’t be afraid to fail because you will. It’s just going to happen.
This is great advice but I’m not going to stop at that. I’m about to one-up that one-of-the-greatest-poets-and-writers-who-ever-lived and say, “Forget failure.”
Tell yourself that failure doesn’t exist. This brings me to another name-drop, actor and director, John Neville Andrews, from whom I took Acting as a Profession course at the University of Michigan. John said once, and this is one of my favorite quotes of all time, “You will not fail on stage. You might f*ck up, but you will not fail.” Now read that again in a British accent.
He might have said “make a mistake” instead of fail. The point is this: you are an artist. If you’re making stuff, you have already won. (Have a beer! AFTER you’ve clocked in your writing time…) When you’ve made a mistake, you have not failed, but you have had a revelation. You’ve taken a step. You are one step closer to the finish line because you know something you didn’t know before.
You can’t give up every time you make a mistake, no matter how much you feel like you’ve failed. You haven’t failed, so just keep running the marathon, baby. Your novel is a marathon.
With that, I leave you with two U2 references. I understand that there is a chance that you hate U2, but bear with me here. The first is another one of the greatest quotes of all time (in one of my least favorite of their songs): “There’s no failure here, sweetheart, only when you quit.”
I love it when Bono calls me sweetheart. I also love it when he proves, like he does here, that he is one of the smartest fellas who ever lived.
The second is an entire song. I listen to it every time I feel like I failed. I haven’t failed. I’m one step closer.