The fine art of failing to succeed

I’ve always had a unique knack for being in the right spot at the right time. It’s helped me get cool jobs, travel, meet interesting people, and it’s led to some fun experiences. It has also helped me overcome some of the negative things that I have experienced. A little over a decade ago, I found myself temporarily without employment. It was a tough time for many people, and, even with my occasional good luck, I was no exception. Instead of sitting around and watching TV while I waited for responses to my resume, I decided to start writing. OK, maybe I did watch a lot of TV, but I did a lot of writing as well.

I had recently read Stephen King’s book On Writing. One of my main takeaways from this book was that you should write what comes out. Don’t force yourself to write horror if what your brain gives you is science fiction. With that in mind, I painstakingly outlined my idea for a brilliant novel. It had intrigue, nefarious organizations, and characters with godlike powers and Stan Lee-like ideas about how to use them. It had a buddy cop aspect and a good bit of humor. Then, I sat down at my computer and began to type.

Seems like a good place to put an aside. Let’s have an aside. While putting together this post, I happened to come across this one by Wil Wheaton where he says much of what I intended to say next. For those that don’t want to click over and read his post, I think this quote sums up the main theme.

Sometimes we set out to do something, like write a novel, and we fail at writing that particular novel. But in the process of failing at that novel, we can actually succeed at writing another. – Wil Wheaton

And, I failed on an epic level. My game changing novel came out as children’s poetry. Rhyming, sappy, puppy and candy type children’s poetry. Apparently, there’s a lot of that kind of thing rolling around in my head. Who knew? But, instead of forcing myself to write my novel, I went with it. I wrote poem after poem until there were more than a hundred. Then, I wrote more.

If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.

I began to move past my disappointment at not writing my great American novel and embraced this new creative outlet. I started to come up with ideas for stories at dinner, in the shower, while driving. I wrote something every day. You know, like they tell you to do. But, after a while, it became difficult to juggle the writing, a new job, and all the other responsibilities I had. So, my words languished. For years. I mean, what do you do with 150+ children’s poems? What about the stories? How do you go about getting them published? It all seemed so foreign, so daunting. So I left it.

Fast forward to today. It’s just a little over 6 months until my first book comes out. You know, the one I keep harping about. It’s on and Amazon. Soon, it will be available at your local independent book seller, which is a great place to pick up a copy, or two. They even put it up on goodreads, which is an awesome place for readers to track books and find new stuff to read. I can’t recommend it enough. Sorry, the monkey took over a bit there. I’ve sent him away again. We should be back on track now.

What changed? When did I go back and revisit the ideas I had? How did I get a publisher? Well, that’s a story for another post. Trust me, I’ll fill in all the details as we go along here. The point I wanted to make is I still haven’t written my great American novel. I haven’t even revised my outline. I failed at that task immensely. But, I gambled on something new and it’s turned out pretty well so far.

As a special, secret-squirrel surprise, here’s one of those original poems. Actually, the first work I ever had professionally published.

Sometimes the world can seem very sad.
The noises, the smells, and the smiles you’ve had,
Can all go away at the drop of a hat.
And, you’re left all alone. It just happens like that.
But, I’ve found a place where it all goes away.
I can go in the night or go in the day.
It’s not in the city with its hubabaloo,
And, it’s far past the towns in the countryside, too.
Past the bridges and rivers, and many town squares.
There’s a rock at the end and a sign says, “Beware!”
You see, it’s all by itself, my sitting spot,
At the end of the world, and I like it, a lot.
There’s no one to sneer, to laugh, or to scoff,
And if you’re not careful, you just might fall off,
The view is so nice that it’s worth the chance.
It will fill you with joy till you jump up and dance.
There’s no pollution, and no ozone hole,
And, no dangerous stalkings, or melting South Pole.
I can’t see a war, or a person with hate,
And, no one gets punished for staying up late.
It’s quiet and nice, with all kinds of things.
There are flowers and trees, and a bird, who sings.
When my life gets empty,
Or hard,
Or just sad,
I go to my rock,
And then, I feel glad.


  1. […] and zip. It had all kinds of cool thoughts in it. And, it made absolutely no sense. As I said in a previous post, sometimes you need to fail to succeed. While I was pondering the mess that my post had become, one […]

  2. Bill Mensch on May 27, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Hi Adam, I will be a Skype presenter on May 30th as are you. I too have failed a writing…., my story. I would enjoy meeting you some time and discussing your children book concepts. I have enjoyed you blog post on “The fine art of failing to succeed.” A kids book title I thought of while reading your blog is “The Microcomputer that said NO! You must go out and play!” Best, -Bill

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