Archive for December 2009

Christmas Rejections

December 23, 2009

As a writer, I’m used to rejection. But some hurt more than others, especially when the piece is based on something personal. A couple of years ago I entered my “Lost in Venice” essay in the Honolulu Advertiser’s Christmas story contest. It wasn’t one of the finalists, so I shrugged it off and shelved it.

Then last year I resurrected it for my Sunday Star-Bulletin Addicted to Life column. The theme of “wrong turns” and being lost had taken on more meaning in the wake of a tragic car accident that took the life of a beloved local playwright. I revised and reworked it until I felt it was good enough to send to the S-B editorial page editor. She read it and told me she cried because it moved her.

I looked forward to seeing it in the Sunday paper just before Christmas. But when I checked the editorial section, it wasn’t there. Since the next Sunday paper would be too late to run the Christmas piece, I was heartbroken. I asked the editor what happened. She said they didn’t have space for it — however, she was going to run it on Christmas instead, which was even better since the column would be the main attraction on the op-ed page that day. (The editor later confessed she left it out of the Sunday paper by mistake, and her idea to run it on Christmas was a spur of the moment decision!)

My wife, family, friends and thousands of other people read it on the day it was meant for… an essay that had been rejected, then accidentally left out… a story that was about mistakes and wrong turns in life that can lead to special moments, now had its own happy ending. The earlier rejection made me work harder on that piece, and it made the story better. Stronger.

Here’s the link to that column. Hope you like it. Please feel free to share your comments and thoughts below.


Celebrate Failure!

December 4, 2009

No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Screw success. This blog is about failures and mistakes — things I know a lot about. Want examples? Here’s a sampler:

Bad judgment during my alcoholic days when I was in my twenties… Bad luck when the stock market crashed on Black Monday in 1987 on my first day of training as a commodity options broker… More bad timing when I got my real estate license just as the market in Hawaii turned south in the ’90s.

It seemed like everything I touched turned to crap.

That’s why I started writing again after I got sober. Truth be told, I wasn’t having much success at anything else I tried. But I looked at all the recovering addicts and alcoholics around me in rehab, listened to their stories at 12 Step meetings, and was inspired by these people. My life didn’t seem half bad by comparison.

Not only that, I saw a potential movie or TV series in these characters — and in my own failings, on both a personal and professional level. I’ve gone on to write scripts that won awards and have been optioned by veteran movie industry professionals. However, none of my scripts have been produced yet, meaning I’m just another “aspiring” writer for all intents and purposes.

Which is why I decided to do the Career Changers TV series. Even though I had a semi-famous manager repping me at one point (she was Quentin Tarantino’s manager for 10 years), my stuff wasn’t selling in Hollywood. The freelance writing work I was doing disappeared because my former clients had to deal with budget cuts of their own. No one wanted to hire me.

So I created my own “job” by pitching the concept for the CCTV show to Ron Darby, an established TV producer in Hawaii. He could’ve slammed the door on my idea, since I had no experience in television. Or he could’ve said, hmm, let’s think about it. Instead he said, let’s do it.

It’s taken us longer to launch the show and web site than I thought it would, but that’s part of the learning process. In the coming weeks, I plan on sharing more about the mistakes I made (and continue to make) in starting up a new venture from scratch. I’m hoping other business owners and entrepreneurs will chime in too.

Here’s the “take-away” idea from this post: don’t let fear of failure stop you from taking action. Got an idea for a business? Talk to someone about it. Want to work for a particular company? Contact them. What’s the worst that can happen?

Whatever you do, don’t be like the squashed gecko in my door frame. Every day I look at its dessicated yellowish-green outline plastered on the wood, and wonder if the poor little creature was trying to get in or get out. Instead, during a moment of indecision, the closing door sealed the gecko’s fate for him.

Decide where YOU want to go — then go for it. The only thing worse than failing is not trying. Or letting someone else determine your outcome in life.

RELATED ARTICLE: Scientific studies show that people actually learn more when they make mistakes than from simply memorizing things. Makes sense when you think about it. Here’s the link to the Scientific American article.