How to Rotate Success


How to Rotate Success

Recently I learned another very interesting bit of advice from some acclaimed writers: several used the phrase "rotate failure." A poet, a memoirist and a fiction writer all agreed with this idea, and it does seem like a wise way to approach your writing. So what does this phrase mean? And how do we apply it to our creative writing lives?

Whenever you're good at something, you're bad at something else.

When you're really devoting yourself to your poems or fiction, something else is necessarily being given the slip in your life. It might be your schoolwork, or it could be your time with your family; it could be all those projects you wanted to do, like learning to cook or training for a 10K or eating more healthily or getting into college. At any one time, we're trying to manage and juggle a busy life full of expectations, obligations, and demands. The truth of our modern lives is that we can't be awesome at everything at the same time.

But the secret is, we CAN be awesome at some things some of the time.

It's sort of like that quotation attributed to Abraham Lincoln: you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. Similarly, you can be great at awesome at writing and relationships and work and life; but you can't do all of it at the same time. If you neglect one of these areas for too long a time, then you'll lose a handle on it. You'll let it go, and bad things can happen. But if you learn how to rotate your failure, or rotate your success, then you can accomplish what you really want to accomplish.

So all right, it's spring. Maybe this is a really important time to focus on your own health. It's time to get out there and jog around the block and eat well. That means less time for really organizing your room or doing all the extra credit on all the homework or writing ten poems a day.

But next month, it's time to focus first and foremost on your creative writing.

In our complicated modern lives, it's close to impossible to focus on just one thing at a time. But if you try to be awesome, to be perfect, at everything, then unless you're a combination of Albert Einstein and the Hulk, you won't make it. That's okay, though. You can still accomplish what's really important to you, if you shift things around, and give each thing the periodic dose of attention it needs. Shift your successes from one thing to the next. Be like a roving spotlight on a field of flowers. The flowers need your light to grow, but they can stand a little time in the dark.