Saturday, March 5, 2022

3 Reasons a Writer Might Feel Like a Failure

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

Have you ever felt like a failure?

That’s a silly question to ask writers, or any human being. No matter what we do, there is always a nagging voice that’s going to pop up and say we aren’t enough. We don’t belong.

I’ve heard this from people just beginning their writing journeys. And, surprisingly, I’ve heard it from authors who we would think are too successful to have any doubts.

But there’s one thing about us writers—we are experts at having self-doubts.

Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” And aren’t we always starting something?

We humans are a curious lot. We are quick to label ourselves negatively when we would never treat a friend that way. Why do we call ourselves failures when we all have the snowballs of life headed our way?

Here 3 things I’ve found that make me feel like a failure.

1. I’ve set a goal that is unreasonable.

Setting goals is a wise and a wonderful way to be more productive. It helps us stay on track and accomplish more than if we just go with the flow.

But goals can also become hurdles when we think we are a failure when we don’t meet them. Often, I’ve set a goal and then something comes up and takes my time or energy away from reaching it.

When I ran a half-marathon to celebrate my fiftieth birthday (I never claimed to be smart. Ask my wife.), the leaders never caught a glimpse of me. They didn’t have to worry about me challenging them.

My goal wasn’t to win, my goal was to challenge myself to finish. One popular running slogan is: dead last is better than did not finish, which is better than did not start. I wasn’t dead last, and I didn’t leave in an ambulance, so, for me, it was a big win.

Did I enjoy being passed by people who looked older or more out of shape than me? No. A couple of times I sped up to stay even with them. But then I’d slow down so I could stay at my pace and finish. My race wasn’t against them, it was against the distance. I was attempting to complete 13.1 miles. Where I was in my conditioning, that was challenge enough.

2. I compare myself to others.

Writing is not a competition against other writers. Much of life is not a competition. Nobody gets an award for having the biggest house, best wardrobe. Or biggest boat. (Really, Jeff Bezos?)

I grew up a NASCAR fan. And there is a saying among the racers, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” That’s the dumbest saying adults utter. (Maybe not, we say some dumb stuff.)

In a car race, as in writing, everyone doesn’t have the same resources or goals. Some teams can barely afford to have a car in the field. Other teams have three or four with full-time, year-around engineers and manufacturers to support them. Some teams buy hand-me-down equipment and comprise people who have other jobs and do this just on the weekends they race.

As writers, we are not all on the same journey. We have different education, career demands, family demands, health issues, talents, callings. Some people are able to write full time. Others are lucking to work in a couple of hours of writing a week between their jobs, children, aging parents, etc. So why do we think we should compare ourselves to a friend, or worse, to someone we’ve heard about but don’t really know?

3. I run out of patience.

Nothing about writing happens quickly. And if you’re writing to get published, put away the watch and get out the calendar. The multiyear calendar. It’s going to take time. Even if you self-publish, a lot of work must go into it first.

And this waiting is hard for me to accept. If I have any talent, or if God has called me to this, shouldn’t it be quicker? Why is it so hard? I can spell and punctuate. How much more is there to know?

While I was mulling over this post, I had on the show, Castle. Castle is about an author who follows a NYPD cop for inspiration for his novels. He must be successful because he has a nice loft in uptown Manhattan. I mean, a really nice loft.

He also has a daughter, Alexis, who is an overachiever. In this episode, she had received a rejection from a college she had applied for, and she was devastated. She asked her dad how he handled getting so many rejections for his writing and not feel like a failure. 

Her father answered, “Rejection isn’t failure. Failure is giving up.”

Nailed it, didn’t he?

There’s going to be times when we are going to come up short. Especially if we try to do something that we think is important.

Like riding a bicycle.

Wait. I saw you roll your eyes. Yes, that’s a cliché. So childish. But so applicable, isn’t it? The only way someone can fail to learn how to ride a bike is to give up. Oh, you’re going to be tempted to quit. Asphalt is hard. But the funny thing about the bicycle is that the more you get on and ride, the farther you’ll go. 

So, if you start hearing that voice saying you’re a failure, ask yourself the following questions. Is this the right goal for me? Am I comparing myself to someone else? Should I give it a little more time?

Remember, the One who knows us the best, loves us the most. He didn’t create us to perform His plan for us just to see us fail. And He isn’t finished working in us yet. 


Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter, as well as at and


  1. Excellent post and so true! It's so easy to compare myself to others, and yet that is such a waste of time!

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Thank you for this inspiring post, Mr. Suddeth. Blessings on you for writing it!

  3. Wonderful advice, Tim. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for your words of wisdom.