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  • Writer's pictureHannah Rooke

Failing for life

The theme of failure has been cropping up for me recently (🇺🇦 Eddie Shleyner's latest newsletter, Mark Ritson's webinar with The Marketing Meetup and Dee Wicked Creative's incredibly supportive #FemaleCopywritersAlliance). We often see failure as negative, but within business (as in life) it can have a hugely positive impact and is often necessary for survival.


💡 Imagine if we succeeded at everything, every time, first time? Would you be content, feel rewarded, fulfilled?

💡 Imagine if you got that first job interview and every promotion since, and didn't go on those career zigs and zags. FYI I would have been a Hotel Manager!

💡Are you working with the right people if they say "yes" to everything?

💡Are you charging enough if you're winning all the pitches? (Mark Ritson recommends the rule of losing 1/3 to help assess your pricing and also filter out the cheapskates.)

💡Are you in your right mind if you feel you smash every job and project you complete?

💡 Imagine if your first ever relationship worked and you never dated anyone else.

💡Would you have discovered that amazing place if you hadn't taken the wrong turn?


Humans naturally thrive on challenge. The endorphins and hormones cursing through our bodies are testimony to that. Without wanting to appear all tree-huggy - yes, failure and frustration can lead to rage which is often fleeting but the greatest feeling of accomplishment from tough situations, after mini failures or 'almost failing', lasts much longer and spurs us on to greater things.


Scientific development has only been possible due to huge levels of failure - often discovering more answers because things don't work out. And even some of the everyday medicines and products were 'failures' (BluTak, Penicillin, Slinky, Velcro), let alone all those delicious culinary mistakes (chocolate chip cookies, Tarte Tatin, nachos).


Witnessing my toddler's development allows some perspective (when I'm not too emotionally invested). His natural and (necessary) resilience from an early age, has helped him dust himself off and try again after failures. Interestingly, it's only more recently he's been getting increasingly frustrated when he's unable to do things - is that linked more to his early formation of peer pressure? However, with a little cajoling, he's getting there. Rather than giving up entirely, he's also learning (probably more importantly) where his current limitations are, and when to ask for help.


The same applies to the writing process. When I write, I always review it, redo it and ask for help. Help can be a quick check of the dictionary, reviewing word choice in a thesaurus, bouncing an idea around with someone, searching for data to support an opinion, sense-checking a sentence or getting a full proofread of my work. If no-one's available to proofread my work, I'll use the 'Read Aloud' function to check things flow properly and then leave it to 'percolate' and come back to review things later. Ideally, I'll wait until the next day, once some of the detail has come into focus and I can tighten things up. Clients of mine never get my first attempt. It might be version 1, but it's often had various failed attempts before then.


And I always try to learn from my failings. Feedback as a human is good, but as a writer it's invaluable.I can only improve when I know what's wrong or not quite right. However, pointing out others' failings needs to be conducted with sensitivity and humanity and it should always be constructive. Challenges, on the whole, improve thoughts, understanding, and writing. By identifying and accepting our failings, however small, we get better.


Many of my earlier failings stay with me today - persistently misspelling necessary, confusing effect and affect. I don't recall the snide comments or patronising pull ups, but I do recall the supportive advice and tips. I regularly recite the mnemonics and tricks to check and I have a personal 'trip list' which I update with all the common problems I spot (or other people spot) in my writing. We all have brain black holes that never seem to fix - I always want to write 'upto' even though I know it's wrong! But it's important to identify what they are to avoid falling into the dark, endless vacuum of fear - or looking a bit silly.


So carry on failing, making mistakes, feeling a little inferior, learning from all that and continue developing, improving and getting stronger.

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