3 Quick Ways to Fail

This week, I published several pieces on Medium that went nowhere. I also read a rant by an author condemning Amazon to be worse than any traditional publisher, making him less money than a few Medium articles each month despite his 30 published novels. Finally, I observed a Twitter feud where one thread writer accused another of stealing his work for his new, competing writing class.

The truth that unites the four of us? It’s just not that good. Our stuff, that is. The work we think is hot enough to make the big bucks. Or wish it were, perhaps.

There are a million ways to fail when shooting for the moon, but the following three won’t even land you among the stars. They’ll make sure you’ll stay firmly grounded with little to show for, failing quickly and silently into oblivion.

1. Easy mode. Amazon sure has its problems, but if there’s one thing they like doing, it’s making a buck. If your book sells, even a little, Amazon will keep pushing it — if only a little. If you have 30 titles out yet can’t make $500, the problem is not Amazon. The problem is your first book was not that good — and you seem to haven’t learned anything since. It’s comfortable to stay on easy mode. To repeat the same work over and over again, mistakes and all. But you can’t expect different results if you’re refusing to change. Try harder, but mostly, try something harder.

2. Addiction to moral high ground. Especially on Twitter, it’s en vogue to show how virtuous you are by tearing someone else down — as if that wasn’t a paradox. If you find yourself trying to claim copyright for three-word tweets composed of the most common words in the English language, you’ve probably lost the plot a little. It just makes you look silly — as does using those same phrases to sell a purported writing class when, actually, all you’ve ever done is tweeted. Perhaps first, before going to war over your values, you could do some actual writing. Which brings me to…

3. Playing the wrong games. Reposting my blog posts on Medium is fun. It might make a dollar or two. But it’s not only easy work when there are many hard tasks left to do, it’s the wrong game to play altogether. Whatever time I can spare should go to books and big, daring pieces, the kind that might not work but that could also turn out to be “just that good.” Not making a few more shekels with light edits and carefully picked cover images — especially if the pieces I’m choosing are not the ones perfectly suited for the Medium audience.

Pick the right battles, challenge yourself, and don’t get lost in berating other people. Some failures are better than others. Crash in the right lane so you can keep going after you hit a wall and still reach your ultimate destination.