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Failing Your Way to Success: 6 Reasons for Writers to Make Mistakes
San Francisco Writers Conference San Francisco Writers Conference
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco , CA
Friday, June 28, 2019


I never make misteaks.


To achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail.

–Kirk Douglas

There is one simple way to avoid ever making another mistake: Do nothing. You’ll never make a mistake if you don’t do anything. But the more ambitious you are, the more mistakes you can count on making in achieving your goals. Failure is as necessary as the success it leads to is inevitable.

Here are six reasons why you should relish failure:

1. Failure is essential to your success.

The Israeli statesman Abba Eban once said that men and nations always act wisely once they’ve exhausted the alternatives. Unfortunately, people keep creating new alternatives. In writing as in life, you back into success by first doing things that don’t work. Sooner or later, you wind up with whatever’s left. The most important rule in The Elements of Style is “Omit needless words.” If you do that, the only words you have left are the ones you need.

2. Failing is the only way for you to succeed.

You will not get your book right on your first draft, but you will have something that you can keep improving until it’s ready to sell. It’s been said that “You don’t have to be good at the start, but you do have to start to be good.” The only thing you can’t fix is a blank page. First, you have to get something written, then revise it until you get it right. First comes the poetry, then comes the carpentry. If you learn from your mistakes, getting your work right is inevitable. It’s not a question of if, only a question of when.

3. The faster you fail, the faster you’ll succeed.

The actor Tallulah Bankhead once said: “If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes—only sooner.” The faster you fail, the sooner you’ll make all the mistakes you need to make to get your work right, so the faster you’ll succeed. So fail as often as you must, because the faster you fail and learn from your mistakes, the sooner you’ll achieve your literary and publishing goals.

4. You learn more from failure than success.

Success teaches you how to write well enough to sell. But it can also takes the edge off your need to learn, be creative and grow. It can tempt you to write more of the same, only different. Failure prods you to find a more effective way of expressing your ideas. You may remember the famous Thomas Edison quote about inventing the light bulb. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” You won’t have to write your  book that many times.

5. Writing is a forgiving art.

If a jazz musician screws up when taking a solo, there’s no help for it. But you can make as many mistakes in your writing as you need to before submitting it. Your critique group and early readers will help you know when you’ve written your last draft, and only the draft you submit counts. Because the process takes as long as it takes, the challenge is to have enough patience to to make the execution of your idea   as strong as the idea itself.

6. Making mistakes helps prevents them.

The faster you learn, the more adept you’ll become in avoiding mistakes in later drafts. Spotting them  in advance will enable you to save time. You’ll starting catching them before your fingertips hit the keys. You’ll increase your ability to predict the effectiveness of words and how they flow into each other; sentence structure; and story, setting, and character development.

But take heart. As you grow creatively and try new forms of writing, you’ll find new ways to make mistakes. After all, what could be more boring than perfection?

Michael Larsen Author Coaching
1029 Jones Street San Francisco, CA 94109

How to Write a Book Proposal, 5th Edition, by Jody Rein with Michael Larsen

How to Get a Literary Agent  (3rd edition)

Guerrilla Marketing for Authors: 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work (coauthor) (2nd edition)

The San Francisco Writers Conference and the San Francisco Writing for Change conference are both produced by the San Francisco Writers Conference & San Francisco Writers Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The SFWC Director is Laurie McLean.  For registration help, contact Richard Santos at registrations@sfwriters.org. For SFWC sponsorship and scholarship opportunities, contact Barbara Santos at Barbara@sfwriters.org.  The SFWC website is:  www.SFWriters.org

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