Failure or Success – Our Choice

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Fear/Doubt, Friends of ACFW, Rejection, writing 4 Comments

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:

  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.

How do you handle failure?

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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.



Comments 4

  1. I think of failure and success
    as the chessmen of Khayyam,
    which they their board-squares possess
    until the game’s last salaam
    and then are laid side by side
    in their dark, closed crypt,
    and there in balanced harmony abide
    till again their bonds are slipped.
    They are perhaps our teachers,
    sent by God to demonstrate
    chiaroscuro, and the features
    of light and shade and fate.
    We must decide both to embrace
    to understand and win the race.

  2. Henry, I can’t allow myself to look at rejections as a failure. If I did, I’d have to throw my hands up and walk away right now. This year marks my tenth year in the writing world and all I’ve published so far is short stories in anthologies. I’ve written four novels and have yet to be published in fiction. Hey, at least you are published. Yes, receiving rejections is like a punch in the gut, especially after working so hard and investing so much time writing. Not to mention the costs of attending conferences. I figure I’ve invested too much to stop now and I refuse to give up, at least at this point. Check out my article in the 2019 March/April issue of Southern Writers Magazine. The title of my article is Don’t Give Up!

  3. True success is made by failures. You can never achieve true success without failures. During failures or success, we must still be thankful for God, strengthen our faith in him.

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