Failure Can Be Fun … In A Way

Earlier today I was researching book publishers for reasons which aren’t important. Actually, I was interested to know if there were any writing prizes or awards I could enter something for, and a website I found had links to some publishers, along with information about submitting work, likely timescales for appraisal of that work, format, as far as spacing and so on in the layout, and matters of that sort. It surprised me that some publishers accept manuscripts on disc or even on a USB drive … but they were the crappy ones. You see, I had tried to find information about competitions, as I thought it might suggest some writing ideas fro me, found information about something else, and then started to become bitchy and a little snobby, in a quite irrational way. Somehow I had divided publishers into proper ones (read “ones that I had heard of”) and crappy little ones – the former accepting only manuscripts in hard copy, and the latter accepting and publishing any old rubbish.

This was just plain silly. I, like a lot of lazy people who talk big, think that there’s at least one book in me, but I’ve never had anything published. The article that was part of a collection of the best student work for an academic year paid nothing, of course, being thought of as an honour for the writer to be included. And then there was the column from a now defunct free street mag. My time was as free as the magazine was. And now there’s talk about an essay I wrote about seven years ago being heavily edited and reproduced in a local historical society’s journal. None of these constitute gainful employment. All were a kind of amateur version of being published. So what right have I to start judging publishers? It was almost as if I were saying to myself, “Books with those logos are proper books. Books with those other ones are inferior.” Perhaps I should actually get something of my own published before I develop such opinions. Get off my posterior and start planning the novel I think I have at the back of my mind some time soon.

The fear that it won’t work, that whatever I do towards such a goal will amount to nothing and the feeling will be much like that of a blow upon a bruise (thanks Evelyn Waugh) is strong. But life’s about taking chances, isn’t it? Well, yeah, sorta. That’s one of the things it’s about.

Advertising “guru” Siimon Reynolds has recently released a book called Why People Fail, and it’s about trying, failing, learning, and improving in life. It’s an idea I quite like, even if I don’t perhaps have the intestinal fortitude (read “balls”) to properly get involved with it on a personal level. The idea appeals to me, as an idea – when I start to think about properly engaging with it a sinking feeling develops in the pit of my stomach. There’s not a lot for a chap like me to find appealing about someone like Siimon, in some ways the things he says and how he says them could even be construed as somewhat wanky, but this case seems different. A failure is someone who has failed, learned nothing from the experience, and not tried again.

Abraham Lincoln is often held up as an example of a successful historical figure whose biography is in fact littered with failure. His unsuccessful ventures in politics and reversals in his private life (if you can call your sweetheart dying and having a nervous breakdown “reversals”) would, one might think, crush the average man’s spirit. Strangely, the strength of Abe seems to be that he wasn’t remarkable, in any way, except that he always got up from the canvas and had another go. (Oh, and there was all that Civil War and Slavery stuff too.)

Perhaps it’s time for me to likewise take a chance. To risk wounding my sense of pride. To maybe even learn something from a man who deliberately misspells the name Simon. It can’t do too much damage to have a go. Think of it as a learning opportunity.

Published in: on April 12, 2010 at 7:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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