Fail again. Fail better.

I’ve been thinking this week about failure. When my oldest was eight he began to learn the cello. He would get angry with himself if he didn’t make the notes he wanted to make. His teacher said something very simple but very true. How will you ever learn if you don’t make mistakes? This rung a bell with me. If you want something, you have to go for it or you will never know. It’s the same with playing the cello, writing a book or falling in love.

When I was an early years teacher in inner city London in the early 90s, I was fortunate to teach in a progressive school. The sort of school my kids have never been fortunate enough to attend. This was before the literacy hour was introduced but post National Curriculum. It meant that the school still had some freedom to provide its children with opportunities to write for different purposes. To write for an audience. To write with meaning. To be creative. To tell stories.

We didn’t allow erasers in the classroom. We encouraged the kids to be brave, to be bold, to go for it. Teachers modelled writing, there were inviting writing areas and a print-rich environment. Endeavours were encouraged. Failure was a result of this. Without failure, how can you learn? How can you move forward? How can you be truly happy and fulfilled? Who wants to look back at their life with regret? If only I’d stepped out of the boat?

I’m usually pretty risk averse, fairly cautious. But a couple of years ago I was faced with a dilemma. Do I stay with my agent who hasn’t sold my first novel and doesn’t like my second? Or do I go it alone and keep trying with the two novels that I really believed in. It was scary. But I broke up with my agent and went it alone. A year or so later I had a publishing deal for The Generation Game. A year later Legend Press also took on This Holey Life. It paid off. If I’d stayed safe, stayed with my agent, I could still be chasing that elusive contract.

So if you are teetering on the edge, wondering whether to jump or not, it needn’t be a Thelma-and-Louise ending. But why not risk a bit of drama and emotion? Why not go for it?

And if you are a writer and live in the Exeter area, and if you want to up your game and see how far you can go, then maybe consider going on the Write-On course run by CreativeWritingMatters?

What have you got to lose?


Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett


4 thoughts on “Fail again. Fail better.

  1. Willing to face failiure is perhaps one of the hardest things a writer has to do. Stephen King apparently collected rejection slips for years, he siad they were a badge of his progress and he never gave up…

  2. So, so true. It’s difficult to learn anything other than confidence from your successes; but what you gain from screwing up is often worth more. There’s a quote from Shadowlands, but I’m not sure whether C.S. Lewis actually said this: “Experience may be a harsh teacher, but by God, you learn.”

  3. The Samuel Beckett is one of my favourites and stuck above my desk! You were incredibly brave to give up the agent – as most of us are begging to find one in the first place. But this shows that sometimes you have to close your eyes, step off and have faith… Nice one Sophie 🙂

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