Investing in Failure

How to Serve the Church as a WriterHere’s a concept that helps keep me going through discouragement: Invest in Failure. Josh Waitzkin, in The Art of Learning, uses the phrase to describe his attitude toward mastering new skills. The image of him, beaten and exhausted, going back in for round after round of brutal martial arts practice actually helped me keep going through less bloody trials like finishing a book and figuring out how to format it. Failure, it turns out, is as necessary to eventual success as hard work. Depending on your definition of success, you’ll need more or less of it.

Here’s an example of my recent failure. I came home from the CWG conference filled with the sense that the Guild was just hopping with writers who wanted help buzzing up their projects and were ready to pull out all the stops to buzz up each others’ work. As it turns out, everyone’s busy and not many are actually reading this blog, and communication isn’t what it used to be, and all that. So, my idea that it would be better to put out a little book of write-and-promote advice for Catholic writers as something of an infomercial for the Guild, than to make a simple donation, has fallen pretty flat. I could have done more financially for the Guild ($400 in the coffers instead of spent on Catholics Communicate Christ) and maybe for myself by investing in less failure!

But, I’m still glad I did this project, and here’s why. The economics of self-donation don’t stop at dollars and cents. I’ve spent this money (and, if Catholics Communicate Christ gets out there and generates 20 new Guild members at $30 each, it will become a financial ‘success’) not just for the Guild, but for myself. It was a great way for me to recap the whole Conference and put all the advice from my own reading together with new stimulation from speakers into a step-by-step format. It was a great education in how-to-Kindle (although I’ve made an ‘F’ in how-to-market-a-Kindle!) and writing it has already helped me to become more professional about the promotions side of writing, which I had hitherto avoided like the plague. Plus, how much is another dose of humility ‘worth’ in the vast scheme of things??

The project reinforced my growing concern with the lack of responsiveness I notice in people these days, and greatly increased my sense of awe and appreciation at the few people who actually do respond, act, help, or consider my interests their own. This is actually one of the things I’ll be addressing in my latest book, Souls at Work: An Invitation to Freedom, which Angelico Press is putting out this spring. To respond is to be free, and vice versa. I invite others to freedom by asking for a response, and each time they can act, in response, they exercise their freedom. Thus, their freedom grows – their sphere of response-ability! So, though I am sad when there is not much co-ownership (and this is the case not just in the Guild, but in other groups I belong to) of one another’s projects, I am strengthened in my resolve to address that root problem.

So far, I’m a winner in this ‘failed’ project, and there is still potential for it to multiply the blessings I hoped for for the Guild, and all the members and conference speakers I plugged, too, and for emerging Catholic writers. Two people mentioned they’ve been encouraged by it, and that’s worth a great deal to me. How many times have I counted as failure too quickly a project that needed more time to prove itself?? I tell you all this, because I know there are other writers who, like me, can be so easily discouraged by failures that feel as though God has just said a great big, “No Way!” to your projects and dreams. Though I feel it, too, I’m determined not to stay down, but to get back up for more beat-you-up-to-teach-you practice in the ring of creativity!

If you’d like to read my review of The Art of Learning, click here.
If you’d like to see the old posts on Catholics Communicate Christ, click here and here.
If you’d like to buzz up the booklet on your blogs and other networks. I’ll arrange for the Kindle version to be free to your blog readers, if you’d like to offer it, on January 14. Here’s the link to the Catholics Communicate Christ site, and to the Amazon Kindle and print versions.

Here’s a Free Pdf checklist on all the first things you should be doing to Promote You, and another for Promote Your Book. These are distillations of the info in Catholics Communicate Christ – another way this project has been a ‘win’ for me, as these checklists are helping me crawl up the steep learning curve of Promotions. Writing is a cinch compared to all this! Promote You Promote Your Book

If you have a project you wish someone would respond to, email me (charoster ‘at’ yahoo ‘dot’ com)!

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3 Responses to Investing in Failure

  1. Great post with some awesome points! When I think of learning from failure, I usually equate it to watching a baby learn to walk.
    They dont seem to mind hitting the floor over and over again. And each time they pull themselves back up, I think they do it knowing that this time it WILL happen. They dont assume they will fall again and just give up. We grown ups need to learn from hese determined little souls! None of us got it right the first few hundred tries either…but we’ve forgotten that. As Guild Members I think we hold an obligation of sorts t
    o help out one another. This can be as simple as visiting each other’s blogs or web pages reviewing books and just passing the word around. A little encouragement and cheerleading for the home team can cost so little and do so much:)

  2. Don Mulcare says:

    Hi Charlotte!

    Thanks again for sharing.

    One of my Facebook contacts set as his New Years resolution: “to fail more frequently.” In order to fail, you have to do something. This contact doesn’t mind if he fails to fail and his efforts result in success. First of all he and we have to try our best without a concern for a negative outcome.

    I’m new to the CWG, so I can’t comment on it’s history and recent changes. As a rookie, I appreciate your frequent essays. You do bring encouragement and guidance.

    My New Year’s resolution may fit into your message. I resolved to act as if I really believed in the things we all profess. If we each believe in the existence and love of God, in God’s extraordinary efforts to come to earth to redeem us, and God’s patient waiting for us to join God in God’s eternal presence, how could we not celebrate every moment of our lives, overcome every obstacle and negative outcome?

    Believe! Be of good cheer! Keep the faith! Pray and act to bring your gifts to bear.

    God Bless,

    Don

  3. Totally voluntary donations for the cause of Catholic Writers of Long Island’s participation in the SCSS 20th Anniversary Celebration in October will be collected after the screening. This money will help defray travel and registration costs for Catholic writers, publishers, artists, filmmakers, screenwriters, editors, and others who have volunteered their time and talent for the conference. For them, even though these are not rich people by any means, it is a sacrifice they are willing to make for the good of the Church, and to encourage others coming up in their fields. I hope you’ll come and support them with whatever free-will donation is comfortable for you and your families.