Failing Forward

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Processing no’s and setbacks are part of a writer’s life.

I don’t know of any writer, no matter how successful, that hasn’t had to process no’s.

I don’t know of any writer, even NYT Bestsellers, who even after achieving success hasn’t had to process no’s.

The life of a creative means a life of accepting subjectivity and not allowing it to pierce your resolve.

I was talking to my husband about this very thing (though not about writing) and was sharing that it’s hard to not let no’s feel like mini-failures. That each time I miss the mark, it feels like I just failed terribly and in conclusion, am a failure.

But he said something tonight that struck a chord. He said, “Then you just fail forward.”

Failing forward… I like that.

Because isn’t that what failures do? They mold us and shape us. We learn from them what not to do and what to do better. Failures thicken our spine and deepen our resolve.

Each failure. Each no. Each closing of the door is an alignment. 

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time but it is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing. […] It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K. Rowling

Failure is inevitable, but as you feel yourself falling towards that failure, shift forward.

That way when you hit the ground, you do so in a roll where you can pop back up and continue sprinting toward your goal.

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Passion versus Priorities

I LOVED this article from Mark Manson on “Screw Finding Your Passion.”

You need to read the whole thing, but the line that jumped out at me was…

The problem isn't passion.

It’s right there in front of you, you’re just avoiding it. For whatever reason, you’re avoiding it. You’re telling yourself, “Oh well, yeah, I love comic books but that doesn’t count. You can’t make money with comic books.”

Fuck you, have you even tried?

The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance.

I love that (and pardon the language if it offends you), but most of us know what our passions are, we just don’t pursue them. Instead we keep them on the back burner and say, “if I ever have the extra time” or “when things slow down” or “if I’m ever independently wealthy.”

I call bull shit!

If you’re not pursuing it now, then you won’t pursue it when you have all the time and money in the world. Success — even if it involves something you’re passionate about — requires hard work, thick skin, and determination. Anything worth living for is never easy.

“I meet so many people like him. He doesn’t need to find his passion. His passion already found him. He’s just ignoring it. He just refuses to believe it’s viable. He is just afraid of giving it an honest-to-god try.”

Because aren’t we all? Isn’t that the scariest thing about pursuing your passions? Because once you really try, you run the risk of failing… and if you fail then you can never say, “Well ____ is what I’d really love to do.” But here’s the thing… what if you succeed?

If you’re there today, I say take a chance. Make a move. Swallow your pride. Embrace the possibility of rejection. Do the thing that scares you.

You’ll never regret it.

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Dear #Pitchwars 2015 Mentees

Hey you… yup, I’m talking to you.

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I know, weird that  you’re now a mentee (which btw is a weird word and always autocorrects to menthe when you’re typing. So annoying). If you were anything like me last year, I was specifically choosing NOT to look on Brenda’s blog because I didn’t want yet another disappointment.

Then my Twitter feed started blowing up and just like that, I found out I was chosen by the amazing Trisha Leigh!

My writing life has never been the same.

In an effort to pay it forward, here are three things I would like to pass on to you as an alumni (that sounds WAY fancier than it really is).

I ended up signing with an agent who requested from #PitchWars, but SO many of my amazing fellow PitchWarriors signed with agents who didn’t request from #PitchWars. So I guess that’s the first thing you need to know. Don’t let yourself be consumed with getting requests. The amazing thing about this contest is that it focuses on craft rather than reward… The entire point of #PitchWars is actually not to get you an agent. The entire point of #PitchWars is to give your manuscript the best shot it has in order to eventually get an agent. If you have a kick butt manuscript, then by default, you have a WAY better chance of finding an agent with it! FOCUS ON THE CRAFT, NOT THE REWARD.

Second thing… LEAN IN.

This process can be tough. If this is the first time you’ve ever revised with an edit letter, it can be REALLY overwhelming (I wrote about how I tackled it here). But the revising process doesn’t stop with your mentor. You may be asked to revise and resubmit by an agent or you may choose to revise based on similar reasons for rejections… then once you get an agent, you may go through several rounds of revision (*raises hand in solidarity*), and then when your book sells you’re going to have to revise some more! Lean in to all of it. Throw yourself into it (I always think of this scene from Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken when I say that).

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Fear of failure is going to try to weave it’s shriveled, gnarled fingers into your confidence. Drop kick that fear in the face and — Like my grandma always says — fake it till you make it. Because here’s a secret, NONE of us ever feel like we know what we’re doing. Every book scares us just as much as the last one.

Lastly… say no to competitiveness.

When a big chunk of the 2014 PitchWarriors got a private FB group, something magical happened. We all left our egos at the door and purposefully chose not to be competitive with each other. This meant that we shared stats, we shared when we got rejected and by who (so that others with materials out with that agent could know where they were on the reading list). We shared the dates of requests so we could let others know where the agents were at in the query inbox. None of us played things close to the chest because we were ALL getting rejections and victories and we ALL needed to celebrate or cry with THE ONLY OTHER PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND! We shared it all. We asked for query critiques, first pages critiques, even full manuscript reads when we made changes. We helped eachother with email wording, we bounced twitter pitches off each other, we talked each other off the ledge when we felt like we were NEVER going to get an agent or no one would EVER fall in love with our manuscripts. Then we would scream and squeal when we started getting agents and book deals. oh and laughed. We laugh a lot. It’s been almost a year, and none of us have any intention of ever leaving 🙂

None of that could have happened if we went into it thinking that the other mentees were competition. They aren’t. Even if they write in the same genre, they aren’t competition. Quite the opposite actually, they’ll be your lifeline to the reason you started writing in the first place if you’ll let them.

So welcome to the #PitchWars club! You’re going to have a blast!

Oh and one last thing, remember that finding an agent is just like making base camp on your climb up Everest. You need to make it to base camp, but you can’t stay at base camp. Celebrate when you get there, but keep your eye on the prize (aka total world domination… er I mean a lifetime of published books!)

Bonne Chance et Bisous!

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(Oh and on the day of the agent round, just take the day off work if you can because let’s be real… you’ll be checking your entry ALL DAY! #refresh #refresh #refresh)

For the other AMAZING PW2014 thoughts for the PW2015’ers, visit: 

Amanda Rawson Hill: On Doubt and Hope

Tracie L. Martin: What no one tells the PitchWarriors

Jennifer Hawkins: Last year at this time, I was you…

K. Kazul Wolf: Congrats on getting further into the insanity…

A.B. Sevan: Swimming with the Big Fishies

Tracie Martin: What No One Tells the PitchWarrior

RuthAnne Snow: 2014 Pitch Wars Mentee here, looking to offer…

Rosalyn Collings Eves: Most of you are probably sick with dread…

Peggy J. Sheridan: Welcome to the club…

Janet Walden-West: The Long Game

Destiny Cole: Yup, I’m talking to you…

Kelly DeVos: Confessions of a PitchWars Alternate

Mary Ann Marlowe: First things first…

Mara Rae: I’m going to keep it short and sweet…

Jen Vincent: Last year, on a complete whim…

Kip Wilson: Congratulations, lucky mentees…

A. Alys Vera: PitchWars is great, don’t get me wrong…

Nikki Roberti: 3 Things You Need to Know

Erin Foster Hartley: I’ve been putting this off…