It's a gray day at the Peterson residence. I didn't advance to the Quarter Finalist round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. As a highly competitive person, there has been a nagging little burn in my chest all day. It's like when you're in junior high -- a guy you have a massive crush on walks across the cafeteria to talk to you....r best friend, who is standing right beside you. This is the part where I burst into an explosion of inspirational quotes and feel-good success statistics. Hold onto your pants, ladies and gents!
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert F. Kennedy
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” - Thomas A. Edison
Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, was denied bank loans 242 times while trying to start his company.
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” - Napoleon Hill
J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times and told "not to quit her day job" when trying to publish Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
“As you proceed through life, following your own path, birds will shit on you. Don't bother to brush it off. Getting a comedic view of your situation gives you spiritual distance. Having a sense of humor saves you.” - Joseph Campbell
And don't even get me started on Walt Disney...
Still have your pants on? Whew!
We could go on with these all day. All of them are really great, but it doesn't help that nagging burn go away, now does it?
No, it doesn't. And the reason is that, while we all aspire to end up like J.K. Rowling -- richer than the Queen of England with a tower of best-selling books, or like Thomas Edison -- one of the greatest inventors of all time, we know deep down that it's not always going to be us.
The best we can do is reach for a high bar, do our damnedest, and evaluate our failures in the hopes of doing better next time.
So here you have it -- an evaluation of myself, losing the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.
There were 10,000 entries. Making it to Round 2 (which I did) took the count to about 300 entries per category. Since there were five categories, that means that Round 2 consisted of the top 1,500 entries. I made it to the top 15%! That's pretty damn good! But even if I didn't get past the first round, should it matter to me that a small group of people did not like my novel?
Maybe not. Perhaps I should look at this experience and remember that writing, like so many things, is ART.
Just like theater, or painting, or any other kind of art, the worship or disgust of an artistic endeavor is subjective. Some people will like it, and others may hate it. Lots will ignore it entirely. But in the end, the most important person to please is the artist herself. The question we've got to ask ourselves is whether or not we would do what we do if nobody ever applauded our efforts.
For me, the answer to that question is yes.
Maybe it's not about how many times you fail before you finally succeed. Maybe we should simply adjust our definition of success.
And, maybe losing the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition wasn't such a bad thing after all. :)