Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why Failing Is Good For Us

Okay, so my husband always forwards me things that he thinks I'll like that pertain to writing. Over the weekend, he sent me a link to an interview that Will Smith did. In the interview (which is pretty fascinating, actually), he talks about how the failure of his movie, After Earth, changed him.

In the interview, he says he got the numbers for the movie's first weekend, and was upset--until he got a phone call saying his father had cancer.

"That Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole,” Smith said. “You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep and beautiful relationships I could possibly have."

I think sometimes I do this. I think my personal worth, or how valuable I am to my family (or others) comes from how successful I am in my writing. If my sales are high enough, then they'll like me.

But over the past couple of years, I've learned the same thing as Will Smith. Having "friends" who only want to be my friend if I'm getting major deals isn't going to fill the hole. I can't win people that way. No amount of money will buy them. As he says, there is not enough.

I've shifted my attitudes, perceptions, and expectations about five thousand times on this publishing journey. I'm sure I'm not done yet. But really, I've realized that writing is not my life. It is something I do. Something I enjoy. But if I didn't do it, I would still be me. I would still be valuable. I would still have my family, my personal worth, and be happy.

I don't think I would've learned that without some of the failures I've experienced in publishing. So I am grateful for them, and hopefully I can continue to learn from them.

What have you learned on your publishing journey?

(There's a recap of just that part of the interview here. The full interview is here. I recommend reading the whole thing, because it has a lot of other great stuff in it.)


LG O'Connor said...

Great sentiments in this post, Elana. It's so easy in this business to get caught up in what you should or shouldn't be doing, measuring your success against others, how well (or poorly) your book sales are doing, etc. The moment that all becomes more important than "I write because I love it," that's the moment we open ourselves to disappointment and perceived failure. If there's one thing publishing has taught me: as long as I find my tribe, I can't be obessed with how long it takes me to get there. Chances are that I will never see enough book sales to become the next , but that's okay with me :-)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Great post with such valuable insights. Good that you keep the focus on what really matters. What a wonderful insight into Will Smith, too. I've always liked him and his movies, but now even more so.

Stephsco said...

Good food for thought. I recall the media attitude when this movie came out. Given Will and his son are both in it, so much of the criticism felt personal, like the film's failure was because of their egos, having the nerve to want to do a movie together. I didn't see this, but my hubz did because he sees every sci fi movie made (seriously). He liked it. He compared the issues to this film to current criticism with Tom Cruise; Cruise has made a few good movies over the past half decade, or however long it's been since his detrimental couch jump. He just doesn't get the credit as much b/c his personal life raises questions.

Anyhoo... I'm glad I'm not famous. The money would be nice, but not the public scrutiny or the expectations. My grandmother--the most humble person I've ever known--was thankful for every little thing, so I try to channel that when I feel down.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

The very fact that Will Smith could be upset that ONE of his MANY movies didn't make enough money proves that if you get into that mindset, no measure of success will ever be enough to satisfy you.

Very eye-opening.

Rosalyn said...

I think this is such a healthy attitude! I'm not even published yet, so I can't do sales or anything like that, but I did realize when signing my agent only provided a temporary high that milestones aren't really going to make me happy. Writing does--so I need to focus on that.

DL Hammons said...

I'm still in my formative years in this publishing I'll withhold saying what I've learned so far. I can say this amount of money -- or friends -- will determine my worth. :)

Stasia said...

As always, so glad I stopped by your blog, Elana.

K. L. Hallam said...

ooh, thanks for sharing the article. So true to hold on to love, and love everything we do and are. I'll be sure to remember this And keep remembering.

Nichole Giles said...

This is why we're friends. Because you know exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it. Hugs!

Natalie said...

Amen. :)

Lindsey Hodder said...

There's such a great message in this post, particularly for those still stuck in the creative vacuum that are the trenches of the 'aspiring writer.' While we can certainly learn from our successes, it's almost universally acknowledged that people learn best from their mistakes - it's almost impossible to get better without failing! That said, it's still hard to cope with a lot of the time.

Lindsey Hodder - Adventures in Young Adult Publishing

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