Link to Hompage
The Author Button - Main Navigation The Books Button - Main Navigation Video Button - Main Navigation Contact Button - Main Nagivation

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fall Forward

My husband and I were in Philly this past weekend for his graduation from his Penn masters program, and Denzel Washington was the speaker. Mr. Washington was very charming, self-deprecating and funny...but he also gave some great advice.

Rather than focusing on the nice, but somewhat unrealistic, rah-rah-you'll-take-the-world-by-storm attitude of most commencement speakers, Mr. Washington came right out with the truth: You will fail. Especially if you take risks, which you should, you will fail sometimes. In his words, if you never fail, you're not really trying. And in his wife's words, to get something you've never had, you've got to do something you've never done. So risk is good--but it doesn't guarantee success.

Accept that failure will occur. And accept that failure doesn't mean you quit.

I loved the sincerity of his speech, and his theme of persistence in the face of failure really resonated with me. Getting published can feel like that, getting shot down over and over, but as Mr. Washington also said (he was very quotable!) if you hang around the barbershop long enough, you're bound to get a haircut.

Keep at it. Be determined. Try new angles and push the limits of your own comfort and accept that it won't be easy.

The truth is, from where I started, getting published looked like the finished line. Having my books in print! And an agent and an editor and reviewers and real actual people who aren't my mom reading them. After that, what more could there be?

A lot, it turns out. As grateful as I am for every person whose hands and mind touch my books before they go to press, and every single reader who takes a chance and picks my book up, hoping to be moved and entertained, there's always more just over the horizon.

For instance, that next book. I was sure writing them would get easier as I figured out my process and refined my storytelling skills--but no. Not true. If anything, it feels harder now, six books in. Do you know how many times I've rewritten the first fifty pages of HOT UNDER PRESSURE, the third book in my upcoming Rising Star Chef trilogy? Well, I'm currently on the seventh version of the manuscript. And it's not over yet; I know there will be at least one more revision after my editor looks at it.

And that's ok. Those earlier versions were failures, in one sense of the word--but they weren't wasted effort. I learned something about my characters and their conflict with every iteration of the first few chapters. And that brought me to Mr. Washington's last big point: when you fail, don't fall back on anything--fall forward.

That's what revising is--falling forward into the next version of your book, knowing that it will be tighter, cleaner, more intense than the last version.

So thank you, Mr. Washington, for renewing my energy and getting me excited about what's ahead! And all of you out there, writers, readers, moms, students--don't be afraid to fail.

In the words of one of my favorite playwrights, Samuel Beckett:

Fail. Fail again. Fail better.


Wise words my dear.

Great advice and very true for us writers :)

Great post and awesome advice to heed.

Wow! GREAT post and so needed right now. Thanks!

Enjoyed the post and the reminder to risk failure. Thanks!

Glad it resonated with you all like it did with me! Hearing Denzel say it was like having someone ring a gong right next to my ear.

Great advice, certainly helps put those rejections into perspective. I'm trying! Woo hoo!

Very inspirational! And I love that Beckett quote. "Fail better." How many of us have tried to explain to non-writers how we got a rejection, but "no, no, this was a GOOD rejection"

Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home


Home | The Author | The Books | News | Blog | Video | Contact

Copyright 2009 - All rights reserved.