Friday, March 24, 2023

Constantly Failing Upwards

by Abir


Which do you find harder to cope with, success or failure? In either event do you have ways to keep the world's view of your work from affecting your work?


Interesting question today. 


Success and failure – those two imposters, but which is easier to live with?


As my colleagues have pointed out earlier in the week, success is always relative. It’s incremental. It’s getting your first agent, then your first book deal; it’s getting long-listed, then shortlisted, then winning awards; it’s your first positive review and your first press coverage; and as you go on, those successes tend to fade from memory as you pursue the next big goal, the next big challenge. The pursuit of success is a Sisyphean task (I spelled that correctly first time – technically a success!), there’s always another hill to climb beyond the summit you’ve just reached. And what’s more, in this business, success can be fickle. The world of publishing is littered with bright shiny debuts bought for princely sums, and fresh-faced authors whose pictures are splashed all across the press but who, a year later, are replaced by another crop of bright young things.


So let me make the case for failure. Failure – to me is actually the process of the pursuit of success. Failure isn’t the end. Failure is the trying; the constant striving; the getting knocked down and getting up again and pushing on. In this sense, failure is my natural state. For most of my life, I’ve tried and I’ve failed. It hasn’t stopped me trying, and it shouldn’t stop anyone else. I trust failure. I know where I am with it. Indeed, I expect it. My problem is with success. I don’t trust that bastard. I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t even know how to celebrate it when it comes along. I’m always scared that I don’t deserve success, that the minute I relax and enjoy it, the fickle gods of fortune will take it away from me. 


Don’t get me wrong – success is nice. It’s better than a kick in the groin, but still, you know where you are with a kick in the groin. Success on the other hand, is like the guy who shakes your hand and steals your watch. Just don’t trust it. Don’t be swayed by it.


But of course, success is important – assuming you recognise it and appreciate it when it comes along, yet I would urge you not to discount failure. Failure is the honest-to-goodness toil, the hard yards you put in every day. Failure is the learning process. Failure is the stout shoulders on which that flash-Harry, success is balanced on. 


So yeah, success is great. Everyone loves it. But success is nothing without failure.

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