Thursday, September 19, 2013

Don't Be Afraid to Bomb

Right now, among the fiction I'm reading (ENDER'S GAME, which I love, plus a Baby-sitters Club prequel called THE SUMMER BEFORE), I'm also reading a great nonfiction book by Teri Hatcher (of Desperate Housewives fame) called BURNT TOAST. The title comes from how her mother always ate burnt toast instead of throwing it away, and it offers a metaphor for how so many women settle for leftovers.

I eat "burnt toast" all the time, and have for most of my life. But I'm learning that not only does it hold me back, it gives me a paralyzing fear of failing. I anticipate failure, sometimes before I even begin.

As writers, we know this all too well. Especially when rejections come in. But later on in Hatcher's book, a surprising revelation: failure is a good thing. Probably the best of things. Because it leads us toward greatness.

Recently, Billy Crystal was interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He told a beautiful story that illustrates the importance of not being afraid to bomb.

I love what Jon Stewart says. "Enjoy the silence." (I guess Depeche Mode was onto something.) Because here's the secret. Sometimes, when I think I've bombed, it's all in my head--an interpretation of what I think happened, based solely on my past experiences.

So the next time you "bomb," ask yourself if the consequences are really as bad as you think they are. Some of the rejections I've gotten have given me the best feedback. They offer stepping stones toward where I want to be.

Don't let burnt toast charr your path. Acknowledge its presence and don't let it intimidate you. As Hatcher says, "It's about weathering the small challenges that we encounter every day." See it as a way to somewhere else rather than a measurement of your perceived limitations.


Anonymous said...

Yes! Someone is reading Burnt Toast! A gem of personal empowerment too long over-looked just because it was written by Superman's girlfriend. I couldn't agree more with your comments. Yes, failure is painful, but it's far less horrible than looking back and realizing you never tried. Babies learn to walk by falling down. It's sad we forget how our first big milestone was accomplished. Personal failure is only part of it. Many are cowed into inaction by the failures of others. Never let other people's failure stand in the way of your success. In fact, IBM's driving force, Tom Watson, always gave this advice when asked what was the key to success--"Double your rate of failure." Keep up the good work, Miss Karen!

The Writer Librarian said...

Very wise, Anonymous! If you're who I think you are, you're the reason I read the book in the first place. :)

Thanks for the excellent comment. You are one of the wisest people I know.