Join me in this live, two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about failure’s essential role in success – and about the necessity of reframing our creative setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth.
I’m Steve Almond. I’m a writer, and a teacher.
This spring, I’ll publish a new book, Truth is the Arrow, Mercy is the Bow. It began as a craft book based on my 30 years of teaching writing and storytelling. But the more I wrote, the more I felt myself shying away from Wise-Teacher mode. Why? Because, as a writer, I almost never feel wise. I feel adrift, addled, and generally doubt-choked. Some of the book is about craft, because I think it’s vital for writers to be able to put language to their most common struggles—with stuff like plot and narration and character development and chronology.
But most of the book is really written from the perspective of a writer trying, sometimes quite ineptly, to make a career from the practice of writing. That means going beyond the technical aspects of craft to the sources of inspiration that drive creativity, and, even more important, to the various emotional and psychological forces that inhibit our aspirations. I’m talking about the inner demons that haunt our creative process: writer’s block, competitive envy, anxiety about exposure, and yes, fear of failure.
I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Writing, Failing, and Trying Again because it’s these demons—which hardly ever get talked about in writing classes—that I really want to explore with you.
Above all, I want most to share the two most important things I’ve learned after three decades at the keyboard. First, that every single person on earth is a storyteller; we are all trying to understand the story of our lives. And second, that the essential tools of this, or any, creative pursuit are patience and forgiveness and courage.
As I’ll explain during this two-hour class, I found this all out for myself the hard way, and only a little at a time.
In 2022, at the tender age of 55, I published a book called All the Secrets of the World. It was my first published novel. But it was actually the fifth novel I’d written. The other four were never published, though I worked on them for years and years. The truth is, I’ve spent most of my career defining myself as a failed novelist. I don’t recommend this kind of thinking to fellow writers (or to artists of any kind), but my sense is that most of us succumb to this self-doubt on some level. Rather than esteeming our own efforts, and triumphs, we fixate on our failures.
This happens, in large part, because we’re told to hide our failures — directly and indirectly, a million times a day. It turns out, that’s the wrong approach.
In our time together, I’ll discuss what I’ve come to learn is the right approach, which is to accept failure as a necessary step on the way to success, and to reframe our creative failures as opportunities for learning and growth. I’ll share the process by which I came to understand that it was, in fact, the writing of my earlier books that ultimately allowed me to work through all the bad decisions that doomed my unpublished novels. My hope is to help writers, and other creative artists, reckon with their demons rather than blaming themselves. The goal isn’t just to tighten up that meandering plot, or push deeper into a character’s inner life, but to renew your essential faith in the imaginative endeavor.
That’s a goal that transcends writing. It applies to everything you do in life.
If you’ve ever failed at a creative endeavor and hidden that failure (and the feeling that comes from failure) this is the class for you.
I hope you’ll join me.
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