By Henry McLaughlin
I experienced two what might be called failures recently. In the space of three days. On Saturday, I received a rejection from an agent. On Monday, a publisher declined to consider my manuscript. It was the same book in both instances.
To me they were failures. Something about my writing did not strike either the agent or the publisher as worthy of representation or publication. And they 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 if he wanted me to continue writing.
I’ve entered a time of prayerful reassessment of who I am and how he bests wants me to serve him. Then I received a blog post from a former pastor in the stewardship ministry at my church.
And I’ve discovered or been reminded of 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 us completely or it can teach 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.
Here are four things I’ve discovered thus far:
- 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.”
- Failure is not about me as a person. Failure is the result of an action I took or did not take.
- 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.
- 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.
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Henry McLaughlin’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. He serves as Associate Director of Story Help Groups (formerly North Texas Christian Writers). Besides writing fiction, Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers.