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  • Writer's pictureDouglas James Troxell

Learning to Fail: Creating Realistic Writing Goals

January is the time when everyone creates unrealistic goals for themselves that they'll utterly fail at in February.

Writers are no different. Every writing career is in full bloom in January. Novels are destined to be written, short stories destined for publication, hour upon hours of time in front of the laptop waiting to be logged. It's all going to get done and it's all going to be perfect.

And then it's not.

Novels are left unfinished, short stories rejected, laptops abandoned for...well, ANYTHING besides writing. Probably funny cat videos on YouTube or endless Facebook stalking. After all, that kid who sat behind you in 8th grade bio isn't going to stalk himself.

Now there's not much I can suggest about finishing that novel because that's just a matter of will power and logging writing hours comes down to creating a writing schedule and sacrificing pretty much everything else in your life (or at least everything that isn't breathing), but earning writing credits through publication is another matter.

If you want to get published, there's one simple lesson you must learn: You must learn to fail. Failing is a highly underrated skill. Everyone can do it, but not everyone can do it well. The bottom line is that, as a writer seeking publication (literary magazine, novel publication, whatever), you're going to fail. You're going to be rejected. You have to be strong enough to absorb the blow and keep fighting. If you're going to be an expert failure, however, you have to learn not to only accept failure but CELEBRATE it!

Every year I make a goal to earn a certain number of rejections. Usually my minimum is 50. That way each time I'm rejected, I'm actually succeeding because I'm moving closer to my goal. The funny thing is that usually my tsunami of rejections is interrupted occasionally by an acceptance here and there. Pesky things, these damn acceptances. Don't they know I'm trying to FAIL!

That's the trick then. Setting goals for a certain number of acceptances is a lot of pressure. Failure, though? That's something we can all do. So get out there and fail your ass off!

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