Voirey Linger · writing advice

Failure: Take It Like a Scientist

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

By Voirey Linger

As writers, we deal with failure regularly in the form of the dreaded rejection. We hear regularly that it’s part of the business. But it’s more than just a facet of business, it’s part of life. No one is completely successful at everything they attempt. Everyone fails. But too often we see failure as the end of the line. If we fail, we decide that door is closed, that we need to give up. If success isn’t instant, then failure is a permanent state.

Scientists see failure differently.

If you’ve ever watched the show Mythbusters, you’ve heard them remind each other that failure is always an option. No matter how carefully the experiment has be planned, calculated and executed, it can go wrong in spectacular fashion.

The same is true for stories. We plot, we plan, we go through every beta reader we know and edit it until it’s so tight it squeaks. The stage is set and the manuscript gets launched out into the query pool, only to blow up on the ramp like the Mythbusters’ JATO 2. There is no guarantee in life, and anything can go wrong at any moment.

Another lesson from the Mythbusters is that any result is a result, and that includes failure. Scientists don’t see failure as an end. It’s simply data to plug into their information and computations.

Failure is information. Failure is experience. It enriches the depth of information and therefore contributes to the end result. It tempers us, teaches us and makes us stronger as writers, as business people and as people.

The last thing a scientist will tell you is that failure gives you a new starting point. Once you have a failure, you can identify the fail point and adapt. This last point is sometimes the hardest to accept. We often hear the advice to keep going, to never give up and try, try again. But too often, we try the same thing over and over, determined to turn our failures into successes and never taking the time to see why they didn’t succeed to begin with. Don’t keep doing the same experiment over and over.

The experience of failing is a call to adjust and start again, and success comes to those who use their failures to adopt necessary change.  The more you fail, the more you know what doesn’t work, and by process of elimination, you learn what does work. It brings change, and change begets success.

So next time you get an R, take it like a scientist. Review the data, adapt and move forward.

~ Voirey

3 thoughts on “Failure: Take It Like a Scientist

  1. That really only works if you can figure out why you failed in the first place. If things were going well and then suddenly fall apart it’s not so easy to just plug in information and figure out how to fix it.

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