In 2011, Be the Biggest Failure Ever


A year ago, I decided to make writing a priority. It would no longer be something I did in the margins of my time. It would come first.

I did this by giving myself permission to treat writing like a job. For example, you can’t call in sick for work because you have to get groceries, right? You have to go to work first, then get the groceries later, at a more inconvenient time. You can’t have kids over for a playdate if you have a work deadline, right? Instead, you have to schedule a time for a playdate when your work is finished. If you have to go to work, you can’t stress about the laundry piling up on the floor.

I made this decision in January, when childcare for my then 22-month old early in the year was spotty at best. What this meant, was that I had to make peace with the fact that our lives were going to fall apart a little bit. The house was going to get messy. My kids were not going to have a mother who did things for them all the time– they were going to have to get up and do it themselves.

A lot of good things changed in my life because of my shift in attitude. First, I had a lot more respect for myself and my time. Second, my family had a lot more respect for me. My older two kids have acquired more chores. My two-year old has figured out a little better how to entertain herself. But most importantly, I no longer whined about not getting stuff done– about making time for myself.

Here’s what I accomplished over the last 12 months:

* I wrote a brand new picture book.

* I significantly revised another picture book.

* I submitted the second picture book to 25 agents and at least 30 publishers.

* I attended a writers conference, several workshops, a book festival and writers club meetings throughout the year.

* I wrote a book proposal for an anthology idea, and an essay for it.

* I found an agent for my anthology and went on submission.

* I got essays accepted into two anthologies, Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women in North America Speak Out (Inanna Press) and For Daddy with Love (self-published). I submitted to a third anthology, which I have not yet heard back from.

* I had an essay accepted into a highly regarded online literary magazine. (It’s coming out in January.)

* I began revising a half-draft of a novel I started over ten years ago.

Unfortunately, there were very few successes this year. There has been a lot of major disappointments. Heartache. Sleepless nights. Despite rearranging my life to make writing a priority, most everything I set out to do resulted in rejection. For one of my picture books, I was rejected by 25 agents and at least as many publishers. My anthology has been rejected by nearly everyone. I applied to two fellowships and was rejected from both of them. I sent out essays to at least 8 other magazines, and was rejected from them all.

And yet, I’ve never felt more alive in my life.

I suppose if there is a lesson I can take away from this past year, it’s that the reason I failed so much was because I tried so hard. I made writing the center of my life. I kept at it, consistently, for twelve months straight. I rarely sat down at my dining room table, unless my fingers were typing. When I look back on 2010, I realize that I lived this year to its absolute fullest. With absolutely no regrets. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have changed a damn thing.

So for all of you, my lovely readers who have supported me over the years with your kind words and compliments, your generosity, your relentless encouragement, your trust, your confidence– what I wish most for you in 2011 is not just the ability to find and follow your passions, but also, the ability to fail trying. Wear your failures like a merit badge. Don’t get discouraged by them. Don’t feel ashamed. If you aren’t failing, you are also not really living.

Because in order to fall flat on your face, you have to stand up really tall, first.

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14 thoughts on “In 2011, Be the Biggest Failure Ever

  1. Fantastic, Anjali. I had that attitude when I was getting the MFA and for a few months afterward, but it’s been slipping a lot. I’m going to send this post to the women in my writing group and keep rereading it myself.

  2. This is both practical and inspiring. Many pieces I read that express passion for writing get me fired up but then leave me wondering how to apply them to my life. This piece has laid it out for me.

    Thank you for this, and best wishes for even more successes. You’ve had an amazing year!

  3. Not only am I immensely proud of you for that laundry list (haha, do you like the reference?) – some of which I didn’t even know you’d gotten up to – but thank you for sharing this. Much as I’m sure you needed to write it, the message at the end was something I needed to see, too, so I really appreciate it πŸ™‚

  4. You are right, Popscribblings, about making the time being half the battle. What a great mantra for every writer!

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