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How to Fail and Bounce Back as a Writer

Do you feel like a failure as a writer, blogger, or freelancer? You are not alone. Use these tips for failing and bouncing back to help you overcome the rejection and criticism all successful writers experience.

I’m driven to write this because I received criticism on 6 Personality Traits of Successful Writers. Criticisms aren’t necessarily failures, but they sure sting! And sometimes they take a long time to heal.

Here’s what the American President says about failure and bouncing back: “Making your mark on the world is hard,” says Barack Obama. “If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”


If you’re struggling with feelings of failure as a writer or blogger and need inspiration, read books like Great Failures of the Extremely Successful. You’ll learn that Babe Ruth spent his childhood years in an orphanage and, as a baseball player, struck out 1,330 times…on his way to the Hall of Fame. Elvis Presley was banished from the Grand Ole Opry after one performance and told: “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son.”

Oprah Winfrey was fired from her television reporter’s job and advised: “You’re not fit for TV.” Author/interviewer Steve Young relates how hardships, roadblocks, rejections and even physicial infirmities cannot stop people determined to succeed! This collection of motivational stories and anecdotes of famous and everyday “failures” shows that success rests on changing “I can’t” into “I will.”

How to Fail and Bounce Back as a Writer

Remember the dog-and-vomit analogy. I recently read There Is a Season by Patrick Lane, about his journey through addiction and recovery. He said thinking about terrible things in the past is like a dog returning to his own vomit (or something to that effect). I love this analogy, and use it when I trudge down the path of self-criticism. Instead of beating myself up, I tell myself that I’m not a dog and I refuse to go back to my own vomit…and I then think “Eeewwww…” and I move on! This is a practical, effective way to stop feeling like a writing failure.

Calculate your success-to-failure ratio. Of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of comments I’ve received on my Quips and Tips blogs, only two were critical and mean-spirited. I actually wish I received more helpful criticism and feedback – because a writer doesn’t learn much from compliments! When you feel like a failure as a writer or blogger, figure out your own success-to-failure ratio. You may be failing a lot less than you think…and if you find you’re failing too much, then you have something to work with, something you can improve on. This knowledge valuable to your career as a writer.

Go where you are loved. The beauty of the internet is that you can visit bloggers and writers at all hours of the day or night. To rebuild confidence as a writer or blogger, spend time on sites that make you feel good about yourself. If you’ve helped people on forums or blogs, go there. If you’ve connected with a certain blogger or writer, surf his or her website. Reconnect — not just online, but in person with your friends and family.

Revisit your successes. A surefire way to bounce back after criticism is to bask in the glory of the compliments you’ve received, the successes you’ve celebrated, and the progress you’ve made! Remembering what you did right and well can motivate you to keep forging ahead.

“My will shall shape the future,” says consultant and coach Elaine Maxwell. “Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.”

Have you received criticism as a blogger or felt like a failure as a writer? I welcome your stories and tips for bouncing back! You might also want to read How to Stop Feeling Like a Failed Writer.


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8 thoughts on “How to Fail and Bounce Back as a Writer”

  1. I wrote this article in 2009 – and it’s now almost the end of 2019. Not only have I been writing for TEN years, I’ve been making money blogging the whole time. I even went back to school and got my Master of Social work.

    If I were to rewrite this article, I’d say that it takes time to learn how to fail and bounce back as a writer. You can tell yourself all sorts of things to motivate and encourage yourself to deal with failure well…but the truth is that only time and experience really prepares you to succeed as a writer.

    And lots of failure, rejection and criticism. 🙂

  2. Rebuilding confidence is a big one… a lot of people give up after the first fall.

    We just had a ‘Fight Back’ podcast on how to bounce back after rejection – it might be useful if people want to peruse this topic.

    1. Wow, Michael you left this comment almost exactly 10 years ago! That is so weird; I just left the above comment, no realizing that the last person to comment on this blog post was 10 years ago – almost to the day. Freaky.

  3. Hi Laurie,

    I think the advice here is sound. Get back to a good place by surrounding yourself with your friends and your successes. Go pull an oldie out of your archives and give it a read. Tray and capture some of the enthusiasm you had when you first wrote the piece.

    Als, take a break as long as you need to in order for your muse to return. It’s ok if it takes a bit. If you try and force it, your writing will sound forced.

    George
    .-= George Angus´s last blog post ..An Exhalted New Blog of the Week =-.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Daree, Ryan, and Walter!

    Daree — I think the reader’s negative comment stung because I’m worried that it’s true. I think he struck a nerve. I don’t think he’s right, but he was definitely poking at my weak spot.

    Ryan — I’m curious about the activity you’re involved in, which you get criticised for. Sounds intriguing!

    Walter — you’re right; criticism will always be there to sting us. Especially as writers or bloggers (and especially when we encourage comments and feedback), because we’re in the public eye.

    Thanks for being here, and sharing your thoughts!

    Laurie
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..How to Get Money to Start Your Business – Suze Orman =-.

  5. It is said that failure is the mother of all success. In anything we do we must remember that people are different, and no matter how good your are, criticism will always be there to sting you.

    What you have shared here are lessons that writers and bloggers must remember. There’s no straight road to success. 🙂

  6. Hi Laurie,

    I’ve received my fair share of criticism as a writer and for the activity that I’m involved with. It can sting, but unless you get stung sometimes you’re probably doing anything worthwhile with your life.

    I’ve learned to look at everything as an opportunity. Failure is a misnomer; if you can see the take-away from each opportunity and learn from it you’ve succeeded.

    Criticism can be one of two things: a helpful critique or a hurtful bard. Helpful critiques don’t hurt, unless the person being critiqued has very low self-esteem. In the case of a hurtful barb, know that the person has some deep fear, some anxiety, some negative emotion which they want to project on you. It’s really not about you, it’s about them and their own personal hell.

    I now pity people who in past I would have wanted to sock ;)….j/k….

  7. Dwelling on the positive and building on it is definitely key. We all want to challenged with constructive criticism, but we have to temper it. It’s human nature to dwell on one or two negative comments and beat ourselves up about what we could have done better even if we have 98 exceptional comments. Online writing is subjective–it’s the nature of the beast.

    I would offer this thought (rhetorically speaking): Why does the negative comment sting? Was there any truth to the comment? For someone I don’t know, I can sometimes overlook their tactlessness if I can read into what they meant in their comment. Everyone doesn’t re-read their posts and emails before they hit “Submit.” We as writers love our blogs like our babies, but we have to have tough skin. 🙂