Successful Failures

This morning, I went downstairs to the kitchen for a bowl of yogurt and granola. I dashed down the stairs and threw open the fridge. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but everything in my refrigerator frozen solid. I had a few choice words for the infernal device and had to settle for a handful of dates as I ran out the door.

Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. But there is a silver lining. Somewhere at some time in the future, this terrible tragedy will manifest itself in my prose. It will probably be late on a hot summer night. I’ll be staring at my computer screen, a cold beverage sitting discarded on the desk beside me, a look of helplessness on my face. I will have written myself into a corner (future perfect tense and all) when suddenly, from the dusty recesses of the memory vault in my brain, I’ll remember the infamous Frozen Fridge Incident of 2012 and tragedy will give rise to creative genius.

Writers are the only people I know who benefit from their own failure. When some people would get angry or humiliated, the writer shrugs and says, “Oh, well. It’s all going in my novel.” The more we screw up, the better our source material is when he eventually sit down to pen the next Great American Novel (or play or screenplay or short story, or what have you).

In my view, you have to fail in life before you can succeed as a writer. You have to write a check for thirty-five cents before you can write about poverty; you have to get your heart broken before you can write about love. It’s those very experiences most people hate that yield the most beautiful words after the fact.

So, if you really want to be a writer, you need to be out in the world, not holed up in your room with your laptop. You’ve got to experience it all, the good and the downright crappy. Get roughed up by the world and your storytelling will be more authentic. Sometimes, you’ll hate it. Sometimes you’ll drag a recliner up a spiral staircase by yourself or throw up on the front lawn of the County Courthouse…and sometimes you’ll seriously debate eating a frozen bell pepper. But when it finally flows out onto the page, it’ll all be worth it.

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