“You are not judged by the number of times you fail, but by the number of times you succeed. And the number of times you succeed is directly related to the number of times you fail and keep on going.” Tom Hopkins, master sales trainer
“You always pass failure on the way to success.” Mickey Rooney
“Sweet are the uses of adversity.” William Shakespeare
Mickey Rooney and Willy Shakespeare on the same page — I’ve surprised even myself with this duo. And yet, Willy and Mickey both offer us the same message, don’t they? Adversity, failure — whatever you choose to call something that’s knocked you flat and is giving you a
hard time — has something positive, something sweet to offer us. It’s not a stopping place, but a steppingstone. Failure is progress. And progress however slow, is forward motion — and forward motion can carry us some place fresh and new.
Right now, I’m experiencing the “sweet” side of adversity in spades. In the midst of my children’s novel revision, I’ve come to a scene that really needs rewriting. I know what I need to do: Right now, it’s a filler scene, but it needs to be freighted with some meaning. My little heroine needs to realize something big in a small moment.
Making this happen isn’t easy. I know where I want her to discover at the end of the scene, how I want her to change, but putting the pieces together in the right order so she can arrive at an important insight, one that ups the stakes of my story, isn’t easy. I’ve rewritten this scene several times and none of my new versions are working — yet. But I’m totally determined to get my heroine where she needs to go — to push her into a new level of understanding about what’s happening in her world.
Each time I rewrite the scene, I get a little closer. I’m realizing something new myself — an insight is slowly emerging from all this — a freshly dawning connection I’ve made that I can pass on to my heroine. Sweet! How many times will I have to rewrite this passage until I get there? No idea. But I do know this: I’m “failing forward” and that’s progress. Each attempt is bringing me closer to a seamless, revealing scene that’s better, stronger, and truer than the one I started with. This is what revision is all about, isn’t it? Re-visioning.
Right now, you may be in the same place I’m in: Reworking a scene that isn’t working hard enough in your story. Here’s something I’ve learned in all this: When we work harder on our story, our story works harder for us. Write on!