How to Overcome Failure

Every morning, I tell myself that failure is a necessary part of life. “It is how we use failure that matters,” is what I say into the mirror, several times, before adding, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts - Winston Churchill.”

You see, I have experienced failure. A couple of years back, I left a stable, prestigious job (and an excellent salary) to pursue my passion: writing the great literary novel. I sold my home, pets and high-maintenance plants so that I could dedicate myself to the task. Four years later, the manuscript was rejected by everyone who saw it, and criticised for everything from my decision to kill off the third-person omniscient narrator and leave the last ten pages blank, to my use of only one adjective: “yellow”.

It took time, but I have come to terms with this disappointment. Here’s how.

Practice Positive Reframing

When a close friend called Yellow Desire of Fragrance “disturbingly incoherent”, I took it badly. But I later realised what their comment meant: that my manuscript was too complex for the average reader. Turning negatives into positives is called “positive reframing”. Here are some more examples, using actual criticisms of my literary novel:

Original Criticism Positively Reframed
"So dull I felt it must be an elaborate practical joke." "Brimming with potential subtext."
"It would have been hilariously bad, if it weren't essentially a million words of hateful, misogynistic raving." "Amusing and passionate."
"This is what you've been doing?" "You did this? Way to go."

Don’t Dwell On It

You need to move on with your life. When Yellow Desire of Fragrance was rejected by publishers, I questioned my talent. When self-publishing websites refused to help me because they did not want to be associated with my work, I contemplated returning to the workforce. But the advice I needed was right there all along, on page 1022 of my manuscript:

Their liberty, their freedom, their autonomy, was conditioned upon the non-discovery of their position, lest they be as the carpenter who at one moment was venerated, and later not so, without the fortune or favour to find even a mattress upon which to sleep his head for crying “is a woman a man, that she should opine or speak?”; society (being mankind) had forgotten its yellow history, without which there was not that for which there ever was: being not, having not, and not ever having or having been.

Good advice, right?

Set Realistic Goals

It wasn’t realistic to think that I could complete Yellow Desire of Fragrance in a single year, or four single years. Whatever you are trying to achieve, be realistic. Don’t expect to get that promotion overnight. Don’t expect to quit smoking on your first attempt. Don’t expect to change the conventions of literature in a single work. That is why I am re-crafting Yellow Desire of Fragrance as a trilogy.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start overcoming your failures, just like I did! Or, in the eventual words of the New York Times when they announce Yellow Desire of Fragrance Part 3 as the triumphant climax to the most important conglomeration of printed words of the 21st Century, “Charlie Wolf was not deterred by his early failure, and for that, we are truly in his debt.”