I'm probably not the only writer to have Samuel Beckett's famous words propped above my desk:
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
Earlier this week (3 March 2014) I heard a wonderful R4 programme coincidentally called "The value of failure". Here is a link to the episode on writing, where Irish Man-Booker award winning novelist (The Gathering), Anne Enright "considers her experiences of a writer's life - and of having her words judged by the world". I love how she starts by sharing her desire to get a tattoo declaring "200 words a day". Now that would be a goal! Because this would save her answering the most commonly asked question.
Enright tells a wonderful story of Irish writer, Flann O'Brien (1911 - 1966), whose 2nd book 'The Third Policeman' was rejected by Longman's publishing house during WWII. He was so ashamed by this failure that he told his drinking mates that on driving to Donegal the pages of the book flew out of the car window and were lost forever. (Perhaps he didn't own a dog?) He kept the manuscript hidden in the sideboard for the rest of his life. After his death it was discovered by his wife and finally published. Enright suggested O'Brien was "saving face by getting a laugh out of his failure". We have to remember that this was in the days when one rejection was sufficient to bury a book forever ...
Throughout the programme Enright shares some gems of her own about writing. Here are a few I jotted down:
"The book you're writing is not the final book. The final book's the one you'll re-write many many times. The one you're working on any given day is the inferior version - a failed book. The perfect book, the one you have in your head, can never be approached - you'll never hold it in your hands."
"If you're at your desk then your muse knows where to find you. I don't do inspiration, just work and hope for the best."
[Thankfully, my muse seems to find me even if I'm out swimming, walking or eating teacakes with Wendy]
and finally ... "If it's a book written for the right reasons and with enough skill then it will find its home and its readers and it will be its own kind of success." Though I think her caveat in that comment is "enough skill", say no more...
Don't give up on that writing project. Keep writing what you believe in and if you do fail (get it wrong) then next time try harder and fail better.
And let me know what you would get as a 'writing' tattoo.