A recent topic on a mailing list I'm on is strategies for failure. I wrote one about failing at writing, but I'd note that the basic ideas have wide application to other endeavors, especially other arts.
- Take miserable care of your body, your
relationships, your finances and everything in your life. Avoid
anything that would make you happy — artists have to suffer.
Understand that you can only possibly write with your mind is
relaxed and untroubled by other concerns. So if there's anything else
at all you 'should' be doing, do it instead. For greatest efficiency, just thrash and worry about what you should be doing instead
of actually doing anything — that way you can endlessly reuse the
exact same things!
- You know it's impossible to make a living writing, so have a day
job you hate that leaves you mentally, physically and emotionally
exhausted. After work, you'll be in no shape to write, so have some
ice cream and watch TV. You deserve it.
- Invent endless constraints regarding under what circumstances you
could get writing done. You need your own office. A special desk. A
special pen. Absolute quiet. A certain computer. Spend more time
complaining about the lack of these circumstances than actually
- You'll be able to get plenty of writing done when you're
independently wealthy and have lots of free time. Just wait till
- There are thousands of writing books. Better read them all before
you start. One of them has got to have the secret. (Be sure to skip
all the exercises.)
- Let's face it, you don't know enough to be a writer. You've never
even read [insert famous literary work here]. Better get to it, or no
one will take you seriously.
- Surround yourself with people who are jealous of your time,
disrespect your writing and undermine you at every turn. If possible,
marry one and have kids.
- If you actually fail at all of the above, and actually sit down to
write, make sure each word, each sentence is perfect before you move
on — compare it to your favorite writers' published works (you don't
think people with talent have to rewrite, do you?) and attack it with
all the viciousness of your cruelest and bitterest teachers.
- Give up as soon as it seems hard or you feel uninspired. After
all, if it were real art, it would flow smoothly and be easy.
- Whatever you do, don't finish anything. Just keep starting new
fragments. (Any ideas prior to your latest suck anyway.) Or endlessly
torture your existing manuscripts until you drain them of any vitality
they might once have had.
- If you do finish something, immediately share it with someone who
can be counted on to tear it apart, tell you you're wasting your time,
and imply you're an idiot for ever imagining you could write. Believe
this person — s/he wouldn't say it if it weren't true.
- Be sure you never actually submit your work for publication. Take
the decision out of the editors' hands: reject it for them.
- If a story gets rejected, don't send it anywhere else — obviously
it was no good. In all likelihood, you aren't either: be sure not
to pass up the opportunity to consider giving it all up.
- If, in an extreme case of failing at the above, you've actually
published something, know that it was just a fluke. Never ever
believe in yourself.
Repeat as necessary.
Some of these, by the way, stem from observation and not experience.