Friday, July 27, 2018

What are your thoughts on failure? What does that look like to you? How about success? (With Nadine Brandes!)

It's been a delight to have Nadine Brandes with us this week. I hope you've all learned lots from her. And if you haven't read her books, be sure to put A Time to Die and Fawkes on your TBR lists.

You can learn more about Nadine on website at You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. In case you weren't aware of her Instagram following, it's pretty massive. She has a good time over there. You should check it out.

And now for our final question with Nadine:

What are your thoughts on failure? What does that look like to you? How about success?

Nadine: Honestly, I believe failure is what you allow it to be. My idea of failure is not doing my best. We often confuse the idea of “my best” with “the best that can be done”. We think that because we didn’t do the best that’s ever been done that we failed. But really, all I can do is my best. And sometimes that doesn’t have really exciting results, but that is where I can find peace about “success”. My success is in writing the best book I can write in the time I’ve been given. And it’s in my heart behind writing it. Since I can’t control sales or anything beyond my own process, I can’t let those things control my feelings of success and failure.

Sounds easy when I say it like that, right? I still have moments where I feel like I’ve failed—like when a book just seems to come out terribly in its first draft, or when I miss a deadline, or when I organize my time poorly, or when I get negative reviews. But I can always come back to the assurance that I am doing my best and I will always do my best, and that is enough.

Stephanie: I’m really not a fan of failure. I don’t like how it makes me feel, and I would never choose it. BUT I also think it’s a very efficient and effective teacher, if you allow it to be. So I try to lean into it as best I can.

Success is a tricky beast because there’s such a temptation to compare. And comparison never really leads to happy, content places. As I’ve advanced in my writing journey, I have gotten better about identifying, “Here is what success looks like to me,” rather than waiting for others to tell me, “You did it! You’re successful now!”

Shan: Oooo! Not long ago I wrote an entire post on Why Failure is Necessary. It’s probably the best post I’ve ever written and you should go read it. BUT! If you’d like me to sum up, it’s simple: I think failure is necessary. It’s painful but it’s also universal. We all fail. Unfortunately most of us do not fail well. We don’t learn from our failures. We begrudge them but the irony is that, as writers, we understand the usefulness of failure in a story. We must learn to apply that thinking to the failure in our own lives. You will fail. So will I. Let’s not be surprised when it happens.

Jill: I'm a productive person. A hard worker. Those aren't bad things, but not too long ago I learned that I grew up with some bad habits that formed due to some mistaken beliefs, one of which is that I don't matter unless I'm proving it with my works. I hustle for my worth. I work hard to matter. So, for a very long time, if I wasn't succeeding by the world's standards, that meant I was a failure, which also meant I had no worth. I didn't matter. And writing wise, that meant if my book was rejected, lost an award, or had poor sales, that meant I was a failure. And that's just not true.

If you relate to that, it's a lie. Isn't that wonderful?

The truth is, I matter because of who I am, not what I do or achieve. If I never publish another book, I still matter. I still have worth and value.

That said, I'm an author. (Not the best career for someone who struggles with self-worth issues.) So I've had to learn to define success in my own terms, then remind myself continually what those terms are. So I make goals (goals I have control over), I set aside time to work on those goals, and I try my best. And my best has to be success enough. Because there is only one Jill, and who knows what life will bring? Plus, Jill can't do all the the things she comes up with because she comes up with a lot. ;-)

But if I "fail" to achieve my goal, that will be okay. Because I will still matter. I will still have worth and value as a human being. Not finishing a books won't be the end of the world. There are other stories to write. And if I can't write, there will be places to go. Things to see. People to spend time with. Writing is one part of who I am, but it doesn't define me.

What about you, writers? What are your thoughts on failure and success?


  1. Its been the third time I completely scraped chapter one and rewrote it. It felt like a serious failure to me because I wasn't getting anywhere. But I realized (getting advice from your blog) that my first chapter was lacking action on the first page, and thats why I kept boring myself reading it.( you know where you go on epic monologues explaining your story world) But in truth that failure was a success because I learned how to write chapter one a WHOLE lot better. ( even though it toke me a month to learn it :) Thanks for the great advice on go teen writers!

    By the way, I just finished reading Fawkes! I LOVED it! (I'm in the current process of rereading my favorite scenes. Does anyone else do that?) Thanks for the awesome book Nadine! Best book EVER!! *does awkward happy dance*

    Thanks for the awesome post!

    1. I'm so glad you were able to pinpoint the problem, Kate. That's so exciting. Congrats on the progress you've made!

  2. Wow, I've never thought of failure the way that Nadine put it. It really puts things into perspective, and makes me feel less of a failure since I know I'm doing my best. Thanks for this!

    Micaiah @ Notebooks and Novels

  3. Great answers, everyone! I relate most to Jill's. I grew up feeling like productivity was everything, and since I was a child and not strong or experienced enough to do good work, I was worthless. Now I'm learning to realize that I have worth outside of what I create, but it's not easy, and I have a tendency to shirk work sometimes because I wore myself out trying to be useful.

    1. Hugs to you, Olivia! Remember that it's okay to give yourself rest when you're feeling worn out. That usually gives you the energy you need to work hard when you come back. :-)

  4. For me, failure is not meeting a deadline I've set for myself, or a goal. That annoys me so much. And success? When someone comes up to me and tells me I'm their favorite author. I hope I never get over how that makes me feel!

    1. Totally understand how both feel, Ryana Lynn. And I'm with you on both!