Things I’ve learned from being unsuccessful

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

~ Albert Einstein

There had been moments in my life when I felt myself being useless, even a failure. When I thought about what I have achieved and what my parent’s expectations were, I could really cry. I felt like I have disappointed them in so many ways. Although they are not here anymore it still weigh on me sometimes.

But what exactly is success? Who decides if you’re successful of not?

It took me some years but I finally realise that success is merely a measurement and every person handles a different scale.

Allow me to share with you what I’ve learned over the past decade and how I measure success now.


Self-pitying does not help

It all starts with self-pitying. You see family or friends achieving one success after another. Family and friends always talk about the ONE who has accomplished a big thing. Your head is spinning, thinking what did I accomplish? Why don’t they talk about me? Well, who cares? Today they talk about the one, tomorrow they’ve already forgotten the one.

The point is, don’t compare yourself to others. Because in your eyes they will be always more successful than you. Focus on yourself! Start thinking what you did. Did you start writing that novel you always wanted to write? Did you start baking a three-layered cake you’ve always wanted to bake? Or maybe you want to climb the Mount Everest in a Pokemon cosplay suit? Put on the suit and start training! Just do it!

The moment you start to do whatever you want to do, even the smallest amount of effort is already success. You can now tell people you actually did it! If people know, it will motivate you to finish it. But if you don’t start, you will never taste success. And miss out all the fun of seeing peoples astonished faces when you tell them you’ve actually put on a Pokemon suit and climbed a wall!


Shift your focus to feel success

For a long time I only think I failed because it took me a very long time to finish my first screenplay. Actual writing became the measurement of success. If there are no words flowing from my fingers and hitting the computer screen, I think of it as a failure.

But then I realise that I have done research for the topic I’m writing about. I’ve read books about screenwriting. My head spins thinking about plots and story.

I’m not failing my writing. No words on my computer screen doesn’t mean I’m not writing. Because every minute of the day I am thinking about the story and I jot down notes. That is part of the writing process too.

So, not doing exactly what you want to do, does not mean you’re not successful. It’s the process that counts.


Recognise you successes

No matter how much success you gain, if you yourself does not recognise it you will still be unsuccessful.

Start with the small things. If you have achieved 2 pages of writings added to you story instead of ten, tell yourself that it is okay. Because you have two pages instead of zero!

Learn to be satisfied with even the smallest thing you have achieved.


It’s all in your mind!

Change your mindset! Tell yourself you are already very successful! I might be a screenwriter with zero productions. Yet! But I am a successful screenwriter. Because I have actually finished a screenplay and I’m working on other scripts too.

Hell, I am a successful mother taking good care of my kid, cooking for her, helping her with homework and tuck her in bed.

I am a successful employee as I always give a 100% at work and carry out my duties with great care.

I am a successful friend as I always make my friends laugh and have fun when we’re together.

Get it?


And remember: success is just a measurement

Success does not mean the same to everyone. No matter what you do, there are always people who think it could be done better. But there are also people who admire you for what you’ve done! Don’t lose yourself to the negative comments. Stick close to yourself and listen to what your heart tells you.

So, in the end, what’s my story about?

It’s simple. If, on a scale from 1 to 10 you always set 10 as being successful, I can assure, you will always be a failure.

Nobody is perfect and certainly nobody can achieve tens all the way. If you succeed to achieve a 10 once, twice or maybe three times, well, spread it over a life time, I can really say, u suck.

But instead, why not just set your scale at 3 or 4 or maybe 6, wouldn’t you feel a lot more comfortable and successful?

Life is not just about successes. It is, well, about life! About being alive! Enjoy every moment of it. Enjoy every moment you are chasing success and don’t just fixate on reaching success. Let the ride thrill you as well. Although at the end you don’t succeed in what you wanted to do, you have at least tried and enjoyed doing it.

Writer’s foreplay

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

~ Albert Schweitzer

I always had that romantic image of a writer in my head: a melancholic appearance, hanging over a laptop in a coffeeshop, sipping a cup of black coffee, typing away the words which hit the screen like water hitting breakers. Occasionally shedding an eye on a small notebook at the corner of the table and then continue processing the information into the story on the bright screen.

Unfortunately, I found out that it doesn’t work that way. Being a writer is everything but romantic. It is hard work! You can’t just write away and and skip the foreplay. The foreplay of a writer isn’t romantic either. It means a lot of research, outlining, structuring and absorbing all kinds of information about the subject you are writing.

The foreplay is necessary! I made the big mistake of skipping this proces and followed the image of a romantic writer, eager to become one of myself. I failed!

As a novice writer I started to write my first story without preparations. Well, of course I did some structuring and outlining. I knew, for instance, who my protagonist is and what her goal will be. I focused on it, wrote down some notes about her and her goal. I also knew who the antagonist is and what she wanted from my main character. Well, that should be enough, right?!

I didn’t work out a detailed outline. Just worked out half a story structure. Didn’t get to know my story characters as good as I should have and what they do and what they really really want. I didn’t work out the side characters and their stories. I just started to write down my story while the foreplay wasn’t even getting warm let even hot. I managed to get words processed on my laptop. But the more I wrote, the more I got lost! The story went a whole different way than I had planned! All the characters did something different than I wanted them to. The main story did stick a bit, but all side stories went astray. I had to adjust the story while I was writing and it took me a lot of time to get it straight again. When I finally typed “Fade out” the outcome was a whole different story than I had in my mind in the first place. The rewrite was fun though. But that was only after I wrote a detailed outline and set up a new structure. And I made a character sketch for every character that appears in the story and got to know them again. If only I had started with these preparations in the first place, it could’ve saved me a lot of precious time.

So, the next project I started, I did my research and structuring well! The writing went a lot smoother than my first project and the story sticks! It saved me a lot of struggling while writing.

This is one thing I learned: just consider writing is your love relationship. You can not just reach an ecstatic state without hugging and a kissing. The more you know about your partner and his or her needs the better your love life will be! The same works for writing. The better you do your research and structure the better the outcome will be!

Don’t make the same mistake I did! Be well prepared if it concerns your precious story! But by all means, if you have made the same mistake I did, don’t give up! Just get over it and keep on writing! Learn from the mistake. Make the second attempt a better one. And the third one even more better. Because, if that is what you love to do, you will somehow learn to play the first bit and successfully get to the ecstatic stage!

More on structuring:
Find some strong facts about structure by Bang2Write here
Some interesting structuring tips article on ScriptMag.com: The Four Act Structure