I LOVE Top Chef, probably to an obsessive degree. My children know it as "Mommy's Show." But, due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn't get to see the finale until yesterday (thank you, DVR). I won't give anything away, but one thing Richard Blais, one of the final competitors, said toward the beginning of the show stuck with me. He said, "My failures have served me well."
Let me give a quick history, so you can understand where I'm going with this. You see, he competed on the show once before. This season was an Allstars show, and the competitors were all the great contestants who didn't win the title of Top Chef during their seasons. Hands down, Richard was the favorite to win during his season, but, in his words, "choked."
But, rather than go in with the attitude that he had to redeem himself (although there was a little bit of that), he really tried to focus on cooking his food, his way, and admitted losing the first time had given him an insight that his other competitors didn't have. He'd had an "epic fail" the others hadn't, and his drive and focus were unwavering this time around.
So, have your failures served you well? Mine have, and they still do. I wrote a manuscript that nobody but my mom liked. I've entered contests where I didn't even come close to finaling. I've been rejected quite a few times, by agents and editors. But from each of these experiences, I learned something and grew as a writer. I know my failures aren't over. There will be many more, but my attitude toward them has changed.
In this month's RWR, J. R. Ward discusses something similar. She is open and honest about how devastating it was when her publisher dropped her years ago. It felt like the end of the world, and she tells about crying in the parking lot of Whole Foods. But she didn't stay down. She started writing The Black Dagger Brotherhood series to do something new and different--to reinvent herself. It was perfect timing and great writing. Without a doubt, you probably know the rest of the story. She is now Bestselling Author J. R. Ward.
So what does this mean for you and me? How can we learn from our failures? Start small. Find someone you trust to read your work. Let them give an honest criticism, and get ready for the feeling of failure. But don't let it discourage. Let it encourage. Sure, there will be things to fix, but if you really are trying for a writing career, now you're one step closer because you've learned something about the craft of writing. Rather than shut yourself off from failure, embrace it. Find the kernal of goodness in what didn't work with your writing, and make it better.
Agents and editors want to see your best work, but in the end, it's all subjective, so the more eyes that see your writing before you send it out, the better you'll be able to weather a few problems along the way and make your story the best it can possibly be.
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