Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to Write Like You Can't Fail

Scarlett tagged me with 11 questions a couple of weeks ago and one of the questions she asked resonated with me: What would you dare to do if you knew you could not fail? When I read the question, my first answer was writing. Of course, I immediately wanted to slap myself because I am writing. The problem is that I don't always approach it as if I couldn't fail. And that's a mistake. So I spent some time thinking about ways to write like I can't fail.

Believe in yourself. To stop those hesitations and second-guesses you need to believe in yourself and accept not only your calling as a writer, but accept who you are as well. Only you can write your story. The moment you stop trying to be like everyone else, your writing will shine.

Accept help. Writing isn't as solitary as many may think. You might be the only one who can write your story, but many can help you improve that story. The best writers have the best editors behind them. They also have great critique partners, fabulous beta readers, and fantastic writers' support groups.

Learn the craft. Every profession requires training of some sort, so too with writing. Sure, anyone can type out a few sentences and call themselves a writer, but to do it well you'll need to master the nuances of language.

Know you can't please everyone. Accept that not everyone will like your work. It doesn't mean it's not worthy. Rejections happen. Bad reviews happen. They don't make you a failure as a writer.

No matter what, don't give up. Writing takes time to master. In many ways it's a lot like life because you'll never stop learning, never stop improving, as long as you keep moving forward. 

When the fear of failure strikes, how do you get over it?

This post was written for the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

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I was also tagged by Nutschell with 11 questions, one of which asked what my favourite writing book is. It is The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. It's a fabulous book with lots of tips and tricks and wisdom on the art of writing. I definitely recommend it.

Thank you to Melissa Maygrove for the ABC Awesome Blog Award. Please visit her blog and say hi from me.



69 comments:

  1. You can't please everyone. Especially those who come at your work with different expectations. It helps to remember that's just your book, not you. It's not a personal rejection of you.
    And it helps to remember God doesn't reject us!

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  2. EXCELLENT tips!!!

    I generally talk with my writerly buds when I'm down. They help me keep going. :)

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  3. Really needed to hear that this week. Thanks, Lynda.

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  4. In 1100 BC, two words —Know thyself— were inscribed in stone on the Greek temple in Delphi, which was the oldest and most influential religious sanctuary in ancient Greece. The temple was a place of learning and is considered one of the birthplaces of modern knowledge. It is believed by many that these two words, because of their importance, were the first to be carved in the wall of the temple. Since that time, philosophers in every age have echoed this important piece of advice.

    The advice works for writers, too. I couldn't agree more with this post about the importance of writing like you can't fail. My debut thriller Asylum Lake was received well by readers and critics alike and it placed a great deal of pressure on me with the follow-up Grave Undertakings. I suddenly felt like I had to write to please everyone, taking each criticism and sub-par review as direction for what I should change moving forward. Eventually, I realized that the best way for me to success at writing was to "know myself" and that has made all the difference.

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    1. Yep, pressure from fans and reviewers must be huge. It's easy to get caught up into trying to please everyone but it's just not possible. Great to hear you found the trick to get past it.

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  5. I love this! I think we should approach everything in life like this.

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  6. The hardest is probably knowing you can't please everyone because everyone likes to be liked, but it definitely doesn't mean you're a failure as a writer. :)

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  7. Yep, and there's a fine balance between believing in yourself/what you write and gathering feedback for improvement. :) I think it'll be a bit hard to get negative reviews when (not if) I get them, because ideally I want everyone to like me--and my books. LOL I'm trying to get used to the idea that there won't be 100% positive reviews. It helps to know I'll be in good company. No book is 100% loved!

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  8. I am not so good at believing in myself - which is why I joined the Insecure Writers Support Group lol! You're right though. The right mindset can do wonders for your writing!

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  9. I've been beating myself up lately - so this was a great read today! Thanks Lynda!

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  10. Never give up! Never surrender! I guess I overcome self-doubt and lack of self confidence by acceptance, learning and moving on! Take care
    x

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  11. are you the one who told Stephanie Mayer never to give up??? :))))

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    1. never, that's unforgivable!

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    2. even if I put a sparkly cherry on top?

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  12. The second one is the one that took me the longest to realize. Writing well really does require getting help from trusted readers.

    And knowing you can't please everyone so why try is a rather freeing feeling. :)

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    1. It is freeing...but it's also something that requires a reminder on regular occasions.

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  13. When I'm dealing with issues I talk to my buddies and they snap me out of it. Helps a lot.

    Jai

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  14. Some great tips. Maybe half the battle is just not being afraid to fall. Fail---fall, so much alike :)

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  15. You can't please everyone... that's the key imo.

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  16. I like approaching it with the "I can't fail" attitude. I need more of that. No matter how it goes, we can all keep going, keep learning and growing.

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  17. You can't succeed without failure. You can't find courage without fear. Knowing this and you'll succeed. That's the path I'm following, even though I trip up now and then.

    Believe in yourself and everything else should fall into place.

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    1. Well said. Often we need the fear to keep us on track too and it helps to appreciate the success when we get there too.

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  18. Great pointers! It's hard to keep that "can't fail" thought process going, but it's important to remember to try.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

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  19. That "can't please everyone" thing is something I find really tough to accept. But I know logically that my best bet is to try pleasing the majority, at least. hehe

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  20. I totally think you're right. Most of the time we write thinking we will fail and that only spell doom. I try to remind me everyday that, even if this single story gets never published, I am a writer and I will go on learning from every story I pen.

    Good luck from Diary of a Writer in Progress.

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    1. I'm a firm believer that no writing is wasted writing.

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  21. Ah, the old self doubt. A great motivational post Lynda. Thank you.

    Denise

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  22. Lyn, the title of your post really drew me in. I'm curious as to where you are on your journey. Are you finished with a manuscript? Are you querying? My apologies if you've recently put this out there and I'm just not remembering but I'm thinking all these things, now.

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    1. Hi Suze, I hadn't actually announced anything officially. I'm a bit of a quiet worker, with a few short stories published in anthologies, magazines and online. I'll get louder about it once I have something concrete to get loud about. I've just started the querying process for a YA novel and am in the middle of editing a second YA novel.

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  23. I couldn't have said this any better. Great advice.

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  24. Good question. I've been struggling in graduate school, and it's because I haven't been doing as well as I should have that I've become more and more terrified of failing. That is, I'm afraid that I'll end up dropping out or not finishing my degree at all. And seeing many of my classmates succeed doesn't make it any easier for me. I guess I'm just trying to deal with all of it one day at a time. I feel like if I let failure or the fear of it control me completely, I'll never have what I've always wanted.

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    1. You also have extenuating circumstances to have to deal with whereas your classmates don't have the same pressures. It's always difficult when it comes to comparing yourself with others.

      I guess I should have added that as another point--try not to compare yourself to others.

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  25. I'm not writing to please everyone, so I keep writing. Not always an easy thing to do, but the act of writing always makes that fear go away.

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  26. thank you for posting this. It is my future dream to write....I am still in the gathering information stage...mulling things over in my mind... posts like this help!!

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  27. I think it's a matter of perspective. If you focus on the joy and freedom of writing itself, then the fear tends to melt away because you're not writing for anyone but yourself.

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  28. Hello,
    This blog is very informative , I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog .

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  29. I'm never ever scared to write. My first drafts come really easily to me. Its what comes next that I'm trying to learn not to be afraid of. I've had to do a lot of reaching out for help and advice, and a few hugs, to realise that it's okay to get it wrong.

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    1. I'm more than happy to try to answer any questions you might have.

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  30. Great post, and I think the most important tip is just to never give up.

    I keep the few magazines/anthologies I'm published in next to my desk and when I feel the anguish of self doubt I look at them and remember my successes (however small they may be).

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    1. Yes! It's great to remember past successes.

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  31. When I get overwhelmed I chant like Dory from Finding Nemo...Just keep writing, just keep writing...

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  32. Love it, Lynda!

    And LOVE this Insecure Writers Group! Still planning to hop on that train, as soon as I can get my butt in gear.

    I do struggle a wee bit with the *idea* of putting my work out there for everyone to look up and down, pace around in front of, and then Make An Assessment. I mean, how embarrassing if they were to turn their noses up at my blood, sweat and tears and reject its significance to ME. I guess that there is the rub... It has nothing to do with ME. It has everything to do with personal preference.


    My only saving grace, I think, comes from that little voice inside that says, Do IT Anyway! What do you have to lose... besides the facade we construct to hide ourselves behind.

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    1. Exactly right. Writing is so subjective, as is anything creative.

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  33. Just loved the post and the tips! It was an interesting question. I think I would have chosen writing too. But it's true, all those things are needed.

    Congrats on the award.

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  34. Such good advice, Linda...thanks for the post!

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  35. Wonderful advice! Really needed that today:) Thank you.

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  36. Outstanding tips!

    If something stings me, I might step back for a day or two, but then I get back to it...right where I left off.

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  37. I made myself write. In the beginning, I worried too much about the rules. Yes, you need to know the rules. I decided to do the rule checklist test in the revision phase.

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    1. yep, that's a smart move. The rule checklist is best to do in revisions so they don't distract you during the creative stage.

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  38. This is a wonderful post, Lynda. Great tips. I definitely worry too much about what others will think of my writing. I need to just write. CONGRATS on your cool award!

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  39. When you fear failure the only way to get over it is to keep trying until you succeed.

    Works well enough for me so far.

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  40. Poignant post, I needed it, thanks:)

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  41. Your posts are always so helpful, Lynda. Thank you! And congrats on receiving those awards.

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  42. Thanks for the useful and informative tips. Congratulations on your award. I love reading the answers to these. I especially like knowing other writer's favorite writing books.

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  43. I love these tips. It's hard not to let fear and doubt creep in while you're writing. Luckily I have some great people who tell me to buck up and to just keep writing!

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  44. I love these tips. I needed this post badly.

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  45. Great advice here Lynda. Winners never whine... and quilters make quilts, I mean quitters never quilt, I mean, win.

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  46. No matter what don't give up! Amen to that. ;-) Great advice, thanks so much for sharing these and I hope you're having a lovely weekend!

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  47. Great advice. I have trouble getting over the second one--but after reading blogs for so long, I realize that's just part of the process.

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  48. Great blog post. Have no fear. Believe in yourself. Get with a good reader or critique group (or freelance editor) and do the very best you can. Thanks for reminding us about this timely, wise advice.

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  49. I have learned that the best way to combat a fear of failure is to just focus on having fun with what you are doing. I know, it's easier said than done. Often, I become so afraid of not writing well that I just don't write at all - and in the words of Rowling, I "fail by default." But the other day, I had a sort of "literary frenzy" moment and wrote a good 1,000 words all in one day. It felt great, and failure didn't cross my mind once. Focusing on my work helped me not only enjoy writing but also work on making the piece something that I could be proud of afterwards.


    -Wendy Lu

    The Red Angel Blog

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    1. That's so great to hear. There's something invigorating about those literary frenzies. I hope you experience many more.

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  50. This is all such great advice. Advice I think all writers will & should learn for themselves.

    I think we all naturally believe in ourselves & our stories. Why else would we be doing this? But accepting help is probably the greatest thing a writer can do for herself. Writing may seem like a solitary profession, but it's actually not. The simple fact that we produce on our own makes us want to hunt down those exactly like ourselves. We need & crave the companionship of other writers. We are nothing without the kinship & expertise of other writers.

    And it's through these relationships that we learn how much we really do not know. And so we seek out knowledge on craft so we do not appear the idiot in front of our new friends. So we can offer them as much as they offer us.

    And in the end, we all huddle with our virtual arms around each other, making sure we don't give up, that we don't give in, we don't succumb. This is the greatest community I've ever been a part of.

    When fear strikes me, I turn to you, to all my writer comrades. And hold fast. I will make it. I will survive!

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    1. wow, you should put that in a blog post. After reading that I wanted to cheer.

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  51. Great tips... I need all of them right now:) Going to repeat them in my head:)

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  52. I haven't heard of that book.. I'll have to look it up. Thank you. Xxxx

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  53. The only person who decides if you are a failure or not is you. I don't let myself think that way. These are excellent reminders, however. Thanks for that! :)

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  54. Awesome reminders! Congrats on the award!

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