CAN WRITERS EVER BE FAILURES? by Art Smukler, author and psychiatrist

I just finished one more re-write of my fourth novel, The Search for Macaulay Harris. It’s a great book and it’s now ready to send out to a literary agent. Maybe…

One agent, Kristin Nelson, had some very supportive and somewhat comforting information on her site. She said that getting a first novel published and having it be a blockbuster is 99% fantasy. She implied that maybe the fourth novel might just hit the sweet spot. Four! I like that number.

As all writers know, writing a novel can be grueling. Years of spending a lot of time with our own thoughts can drive even the strongest among us to feelings of despair. And, what if the thoughts are only wonderful in our own minds?

A year or so ago I attended a lecture by Fareed Zakaria, the well-known educator and commentator. He shared some details of an interview he did with Sara Blakely, the self-made billionaire developer of Spanx, the must-have underwear for women.

Ms. Blakely attributed her success to her father. Once a week he would ask Sara, “What did you fail at this week?”

“Daddy, why do you keep asking that? I didn’t fail at anything!” Sara said, a puzzled expression on her face.

“I want you to live up to your full potential. If you only try safe things and are afraid to fail, how can you grow and improve?”

So one day, Sara told her father about something that she tried and how miserably she failed. Her father beamed with pleasure, raised his hand and hi-fived his lovely daughter. “I’m so proud of you!” he said. “So very, very proud.”

Writers are especially vulnerable to failure. Sitting alone staring at a computer screen, as wisps of ideas make their way from the darkened recesses of our pre-conscious mind, is a lonely task. There are no cheerleaders or decibel-shattering student sections to scream when we find the right word or idea. Score a touchdown and the room echoes with silence. Plus, after you re-read that wonderful idea, often it’s not so wonderful.

Since writers’ have plenty of opportunities to fail, Sara Blakely’s lesson is very applicable. The question, “What have I failed at this week?” always has a number of good answers. It’s also true that anytime we sit down to write, something new comes out of our minds.

Even though others may not find value in our work, we are winning. The process of writing is exciting, interesting and challenging. Even if we fail to sell our books, we are winning, because we have the opportunity to do something that is truly creative. What other experience taps into our unconscious minds and produces a unique verbal picture? In the end, it is the process of creating that is so valuable. If we do it long enough, someone, somewhere, may agree that what we write is worth reading and sharing. If they don’t, we still live our lives and create something new every day.

What have I failed at this week?

I wrote four terrible pages, got one rejection, and came up with a new terrible idea. “Great,” Sara’s father would say. “I am very proud of you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Blakely,” I would say. “Thank you for your support and giving us writers another reason to never give up.”

If you enjoyed reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

5 thoughts on “CAN WRITERS EVER BE FAILURES? by Art Smukler, author and psychiatrist

  1. Can’t wait to read your fourth novel. Loved the other three. Yes, it is the process of writing (as it is with anything in life) that is important, not the end result. Got to appreciate the process and have that enrich and enliven one’s life.


  2. Art,

    Good stuff. We have to be willing to push the envelope even if it results in failure if we are eventually going to learn and succeed.

    Much to be learned from Mr. Blakely.

    My best,


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s