A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Keep Going, Keep Writing – Thoughts on Failure by Rachel Ward

As writers, we judge success and failure by results, don’t we? Are you published? Did you get a new contract? How many books have you sold? Were you longlisted/shortlisted/the winner? Were you invited to this and that?  There are things we can do to tip things in our favour (e.g. write a good covering letter to an agent, network with other writers and bloggers, be prepared to travel far and wide to talk about your books), but a lot of this depends on someone else – someone else’s judgement, decision, interest or commitment. As a writer the most important thing you can do is to do the best work you can at the time.

I, like most people, am plagued by feelings of failure – like a dull, grey cloud following me around – so I’m trying to train myself to think about success and failure in a different way.

A couple of years ago I gave a talk to a gathering of fledgling writers at a Golden Egg Academy ‘do’.  I told them to consider themselves successful already, for choosing to write. Despite busy lives, they had found the time. They had a core of self-belief to apply to the Academy in the first place. They were committed to learning and were prepared to put in considerable effort to develop their manuscripts and their skills as writers and editors. As a writer, I said to them, you:

  • Challenge yourself
  • Keep learning
  • Keep trying
  • Carry on being curious, looking inside and out
  • Keep asking ‘what if’?
  • You wonder what it’s like to walk in other people’s shoes, to live other people’s lives
  • You’re not frightened of thinking about the extremes and edges of experience
  • You’re aware of all five senses
  • You haven’t closed your mind

And, rather wonderfully, in writing for children and young people, you retain your childishness (in a good way) – remembering what a child’s view of the world looks like. You keep daydreaming. You tell yourself stories.

Sometimes I need to say all this to myself too. Trying, striving is a good thing. Whatever the outcome, keeping going – persistence – is a sort of success in itself.

I’ve been writing a YA book (‘The Beacon’, a thriller set on a space station occupied by six convicted killers), on and off for three years. I’m absolutely determined to finish the latest draft, and I’m also determined to celebrate the achievement of typing that final full stop. I have no idea how things will pan out for this book, in terms of worldly success or other people’s opinions, but I know that I’m trying to write the best book I can and that I haven’t given up, and perhaps that should be enough to chase that dull, grey cloud away.

Whatever stage you are at in your writer’s journey, try to nurture that sense of self-belief. Showing up for work is the thing. Keep going. Keep writing. Be the light and heat that you need to dispel the grey clouds (or at least keep them at a healthy distance).

Rachel Ward
Rachel Ward is the writer of five YA thrillers including NUMBERS, which has been published in 26 countries and was the winner of several awards including the Flemish Children and Youth Literature Prize 2011, Angus Book Awards 2010 and the Salisbury Schools Book Award 2012.
Rachel lives in Bath, Somerset with her daughter, dog and one chicken. Her husband is currently recovering from a heart transplant and is due home for Christmas.


One comment on “Keep Going, Keep Writing – Thoughts on Failure by Rachel Ward

  1. hilarymckay
    December 9, 2016

    Just what I needed to read! Thank you and Happy Christmas!

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This entry was posted on December 9, 2016 by .

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