The 5 Stages of Failure – A Writer’s Journey

Hey guys! I’ve been taking some time lately to make sure I keep up with my writing. Holidays are always a tough time because I get really excited about family. I love my family and spending time with them is important to me. It’s great to be passionate about the things I love, but the people I love matter even more.

When my daily routines get interrupted I fall back onto the one thing that has always kept me going. It’s worked for me in every area of my life and brought me success and happiness, and I know it’ll continue to do so.

Before I tell you my secret, let’s identify what I’ve seen stop other writers who had amazing potential to become great. Take a look and see if you recognize any of this in yourself.

1. Failing to meet unrealistic, self-imposed expectations.

The biggest thing I see when talking with other writers is they are too hard on themselves. They put the bar so unbelievably high that no one, and I mean no one, could ever possibly achieve success. As my mother has always said, be your own best friend.

2. Dead on Arrival

One of the writer-critique groups I joined at my local Barnes & Noble is where I met “that” writer, and I’ll never forget her. She was so passionate, and it was so obvious how much she adored literature. She loved to talk about everyone else’s work, and would really have some great insights. But when it came to sharing her own, she had this paralyzing fear of sharing her work with others. Eventually, she did share, but she was so sensitive about her work that she took any criticism personally. It became so emotional for her and she just had to stop before she’d even begun. I hate to see that, and I think writers need to have some distance from their work.

3. Knock Out

Another stage of “dead on arrival” is when a writer first begins to officially submit to agents or publishers. That first rejection is so tense. The writer is probably convinced that if their work is rejected, then it’s just not good enough. Although, usually work is rejected for a myriad of reasons that possibly has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Perhaps the agent is looking for something very specific, or has already chosen to represent something similar. Maybe the quality of the prose was distracting or more proofreading needed to be done, which are doable, fixable things that come with practice and time. But phew, that first rejection? Any writer is going to take it as a hit straight to the gut. Some are down for the count, and I grieve when I see that happen.

4. Unrealistic marketing expectations

When publishing a book, either traditionally or on one’s own, marketing expectations need to be in a realistic place. I’ve seen writers who release their first book, pour their heart and soul into it, and then don’t understand why it’s not flying off the shelves. I mean, a new writer is new territory, and without spending thousands of dollars on advertising and incentives, it’s definitely going to be difficult to get the momentum rolling. Some might take this as a personal hit, and give up because they believe the world doesn’t recognize their talent. Others, the ones who are the sharks, won’t look at the sales. They’ll already be head-first into their next project.

5. Fading out

Writing is a lifestyle, not a trendy thing one does over a summer. At least, that’s my personal belief on the topic. I’ve seen writers who were starry-eyed and glamoured by the idea of writing a book. So they wrote one, maybe got it edited and polished, and then published it. But once that box was ticked on their bucket list, they had no motivation to keep going. Others might not have realized the level of dedication and passion it takes to write every day. It’s not always fun. Sometimes you hit a wall or you’re frustrated with yourself. But writing is unlike anything else in the world. It’s a massive undertaking of creating something merely by the power of your mind. And then you have to do a lot of really non-writerly stuff to make a published book and sell it. If writers underestimate what they’re getting into, or didn’t truly love it in the first place, they’ll likely give up before the going gets good.


If you’ve read some of these stages of failure and recognized elements in yourself, don’t panic. Take it as a red flag and acknowledge that this is your weakness. It just so happens that there’s an amazing cure to this weakness, and that’s perseverance. Not just perseverance in the generic sense of the word, but a gritty, stubborn determination like you’d see on a three-year-old who is determined to have birthday cake for breakfast.

Bone-headed stubbornness has gotten me through some very tough times in my life. It’s helped me get through an engineering degree even when I was told I’d fail because I was a woman and I was trying to enter a man’s industry. I was told to quit, to give up and become a secretary. I didn’t listen. Now I have a completed co-op at NASA, personally seen the space shuttle launch from 5 miles away, and a mechanical engineering degree.

Bone-headed stubbornness has gotten me through a 10-year long distance relationship, even when I was laughed at and told first-loves never last. I’d hear endless stories of heartbreaks, broken marriages, and convincing tales of why I shouldn’t even attempt to pursue the love of my life due to distance and cultural difficulties. I didn’t listen. Now I’m happily married.

Bone-headed stubbornness has gotten me through a tough job where I was told I didn’t have the ambition to learn what I needed to learn to succeed. People would complain how they hated their job and I should hate it too. They told me I should run away and never look back. They put me down for leaving a tropical climate to pursue my career ambitions and I should go back to Florida. I didn’t listen. Now I work at Toyota’s R&D HQ in Michigan. (But I have developed a fondness for hot cocoa and cozy fires.)

And now bone-headed stubbornness has gotten me through the criticism and difficulties to publish my first novel, and I have no doubt will continue to push me along to the fruition of a successful writing career. If the past is an indication of the future, I have no doubt of what’s to come if I refuse to give up. Nothing in my past happened overnight. Most of it took nearly a decade before reaching the conclusion. But, another tidbit my mother told me is that “the time passes anyway. Might as well do something with it.”

Don’t even allow yourself to consider giving up. It doesn’t matter if you fail, if the odds are against you, or if you have a long way to go. I want to assure you right now, no matter what stage of writing you’re on, the only way you will fail is if you give up.


7 thoughts on “The 5 Stages of Failure – A Writer’s Journey

    1. Glad you agree! You’re one of the more positive vibes on my social media feeds. My next post needs to be how to be stubborn AND still be in a positive place even when getting through the tough bits


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