Reader Friday: The Agony of Defeat

What’s an early memory of failure or defeat? How did you handle it? What did you learn, and how does it apply to your writing life? 

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15 thoughts on “Reader Friday: The Agony of Defeat

  1. I vividly remember not making the All Star team in my final year of Little League. Since I had dreamed of playing center field for the Dodgers, this was a crushing blow. I had to face the fact that baseball was not the sport I was built for. I turned to basketball, and discovered I was better at it and also liked it more.

    I learned you sometimes have to shift your pursuits around until you find a sweet spot–then keep working that sweet spot.

  2. I blew a live shot early on in TV news. I resolved to get better, but learned that live performance was never going to be my favorite thing!

    • Nice. You pull an Albert Brooks from Broadcast News? Deer in the headlights, sweating profusely to the degree that old ladies called the station out of concern for your health?

    • I DID, Mark! Omigosh, it was terrible! The engineers in the studio replayed it whenever they needed a good laugh! Instead of flop sweat a la Albert Brooks, I got cold, and started shaking from the cold as well as nerves! Then I got nervous and started rambling. It was gloriously, horribly epic,lol.

    • Later in my illustrious broadcast “career”, I actually did have old ladies calling in to check up on me. I had gained a bit of weight, and in response I avoided doing “stand-ups”, those shots where the reporter appears on camera talking directly to the audience. A couple of ladies called in to find out what was going on. I remember one of them said, “We hear your voice so we know you’re on the story, but we don’t SEE you!” Aargh! The whole experience did provide useful background as I was developing the lead character for my series, Kate Gallagher, a weight-challenged investigative reporter.

  3. In my family the iconic story is about my brother. He was a small town baseball star in 1962. A scout from the majors came to some games and offered him a try-out with a pro pitcher.

    The fast balls went well, Ken took them downtown. But, then they switched up and my bro always said that he was flummoxed, he got nothing but air.

    The scout put his arm around Ken’s shoulder and said, “Son, I can’t use anyone who can’t hit a curve ball. It can’t be taught, you either can or you can’t.”

    That was the beginning and end of his pro baseball career. And the folks, bless them, didn’t argue or sign him up for baseball camp or curse the blindness of the scout, they said, “Sorry Son,” and let him fail with grace.

    As for myself, I’ve gotten some pretty crushing rejections in the query process. I still have fulls out, but tis a humbling process.


    • Funny you should mention curveball hitters, Terri. I was watching the Marlins game the other night with the husband and we were talking about why good curveball pitchers are so hard to face. He was telling me he read an article by Dusty Baker that said hitters COULD be taught to hit a curveball. But that no one could hit a really GREAT curveball. Great careers…on both sides of the ball are made of such tiny distinctions. 🙂

    • Ken said it was like magic. One second the ball was there and then it just . . . vanished. And he was no slouch, the scout was there for a reason.

  4. I was 12 and entered a speaking contest (weird for a teen-type). I was crushed, I didn’t even place and I knew by speaking standards I’d done well. All of the talks were very same-y. I put a lot of effort in my talk and over time figured that because I flipped the subject on it’s ear, to look at it differently than everyone else did that is probably what cost me. I still stick to my guns. I regularly flip things over because you see more when you look at things from a different angle. I do this on my stories and I still speak often without being boring or same-y.

  5. 1. Nine grade debate class. I was shy and in over my head. I panicked and clammed up and the class “brain” made some snickering remark. I can’t remember what he said, just the humiliation. The good part of this story is that years later when I was a junior in college, our paths crossed and he asked me out. I turned him down.

    2. Went to a BEA convention once, just after my new book had come out. Found my publisher’s table and went up to my editor to say hello. She didn’t know who I was.

    3. Got dropped by above publisher. Best thing that ever happened to me because it forced me to give up writing romance and turn to crime.

  6. My first business venture was selling pine cones. Now I see ’em all bagged up in the Albertsons. I was maybe six or seven at the time. Probably I didn’t understand marketing. I flunked out of college once. But that shouldn’t count. The Army didn’t give me the “re-up” talk. That don’t count either. Probably the biggest “deer in the headlights” moment was in a stage play when I was ten. My buddy and I were doing a routine from The Honeymooners. My pal was short and fat and did the Ralph Kramdon part. I was tall and skinny and did the Ed Norton part. I had one line and couldn’t remember it to save my life. In the end, everyone in the audience (little kids) was screaming out the line and going berserk, while I stood there with my broom paralyzed. Of course, our act won the Big Prize. The line? “It’s cooler in the sewer.” I remember that line to this day, and can’t wait to use it.

  7. Great question, Jim. My biggest failure was succumbing to the lure of alcohol. What I learned is that if drinking begins a problem one must do anything, including tying oneself to a tree, to stop.

  8. My first mystery proposal got rejected by 10 agents, but two of them gave me useful comments. Later, I used those comments to rewrite the proposal and finished the story. It sold within six months. That was book one in my Bad Hair Day series. So never be defeated by rejection. It’s a stepping stone on the way to publication.

  9. I asked out this really hot girl I met at work…she said no. I asked again…she said no. I asked again…she said no. This went on for a month or so. We’ve been married twenty six years now.


    Laying on the ground at USMC Camp Pendleton California looking at a pair of ankles that looked more like nerf footballs in shape and size and realizing my dream of a 30 year career evaporated the moment the corpsman looked at me and said “Damn dude” and called for help to carry me off the training field.

    Lessons learned:

    1. Persistence pays off
    2. Unless you’re marching on fractured bones

    Wisdom attained:
    What will be already is, our job is show ourselves worthy on the path laid out before us.

    And to keep the missus happy…that’s the other job…must must keep the missus happy

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