Losing is not one of those things that is solely reserved for athletes. People lose every day. Writers, for instance, lose all of the time. Getting a rejection from an agent is losing. Getting negative feedback about your manuscript is losing. Anything that’s not a thumb’s up is losing. I don’t live in a world where everybody gets a trophy for showing up. No, you get a trophy for winning.
Unfortunately, I lose more often than I win, but such is life. The same is true for most people, actually. Losing is a natural part of life and it’s important to learn how to lose gracefully.
Tip: Don’t model your behavior after Mat Latos, one of the starting pitchers for the Cincinnati Reds. He’s a poor sport. No, really. But there’s a lot we can learn from Mat Latos, like what not to do when we lose.
It started back in 2010 when Latos was pitching for the Padres. San Diego had pretty much staked their claim to the West for most of the season. But then it happened– with a few strategic lineup changes and a forward-thinking mentality, the San Francisco Giants came out of virtually nowhere to clinch the West. While it proved to be an upset for many, nobody seemed more upset about it than Mat Latos, who signed three baseballs with “I hate the Giants.”
Fast-forward two years and here the Giants are back to the World Series and Mat Latos is sporting a new uniform. If he thought it was painful to watch the Giants clinch the West two years back and then go on to win the World Series, he must be seriously stewing now. After all, Latos’s new team, the St. Louis Cardinals lost in the NLCS to the Giants for a spot in the Series. But this post isn’t about baseball (no matter how much I LOVE to talk about it.) This post is about losing. Don’t be Mat Latos– learn how to lose with class.
The road is never short for a writer. It’s always an uphill battle that makes it feel like Tanya Harding’s cornered you as her newest victim. We writers take beatings left, right, and sideways. For every writer’s commercial success, they likely face mass scrutiny among academics. The number of writers who receive both critical and commercial success are few and far between. Hell, in today’s market that’s littered with poorly-edited self-published works, the best most authors can hope for is that their book sales support their coffee habit. I know I sure do.
So here’s something to remember, something to really let sink in: most writers fail. And failure is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it builds character. But before I can profess the wonders of failing, let’s first define what failure means because I think some people might have a different definition than I do. I’m defining failure by the simple measure of not achieving one’s goals. Most writers don’t achieve their goals. That might be a nod to our far-reaching dreams, or it might say something about the publishing industry and the flooded market. I don’t know, I’m not feeling terribly academic right now.
Identifying oneself as a writer, really devoting yourself to your chosen profession, is the first step in not failing. I know many writers who keep what they do under-wraps (I know I do) because they fear being seen as a failure by others. But by letting yourself believe you’re going to fail, you’re setting yourself up to lose no matter what. Other ways in which writers fail come in the form of numbers (lots of frickin’ numbers): number of followers on any of the top social media sites, number of query rejections, and my personal favorite– number of revisions per MS.
There are so many ways to fail. I think it’s time to teach Mat Latos a thing or two about failure. Work on changing your mindset from counting your failures to counting your successes. Instead of comparing your successes to others, compare them to where you were yesterday. You see, if Mat Latos could count his blessing that he’s been on two teams who have made it to the playoffs, then maybe his outlook would be different.
But really, how many people are going to take the advice given here today? I know I’m likely to forget it by tomorrow and then have to spend the next day reminding myself. We writers are a competitive bunch by nature, not unlike athletes. It’s no wonder we get bent out of shape when we’re not first in line, but like athletes, we would all do well to remember that even those authors who have received the illusive critical acclaim have been met with their share of failures. It’s a part of life, it’s a part of the writer’s path, and it’s up to the individual to decide how they’re going to handle it. And that’s totally cool. Just don’t be a Mat Latos and make your temper-tamtrums public.
Oh, and one more thing: