Why Failure is the Writer’s Friend

I’ve had a lot of writing failures. The stories that don’t sell, the articles on perpetual circulation. The novels that amble around like docile sauropods. The topical gags and sketches that live and die without an audience.

Sometimes I get despondent, more often just peeved. But part of me takes a secret delight in it. Because, in order to get this many rejections, I must be making a hell of a lot of submissions. I watch myself, to see what he’ll do next when the standard rejection letter arrives or when nothing comes back at all. And if, despite all that, I still write something new or edit something old, and whizz it off to a new prospect, I smile a little. I know I’ve got it bad. And that’s good.

Fair weather writers are ten a penny. Any time I hear someone say “I’ve often thought about writing something…” I change the subject – they’re a lost cause. For hardcore writers – even the not so literary ones like me – writing is an itch, an obsession, maybe even a religion. It shapes how you see the world and how you see your own life. It makes you pay attention.

So with that in mind, I present a failure list – comedy writing this time – and all of them hard won. Or rather, hard lost. Some wrote back nicely, others left me hanging.

C5’s Swinging, C4 Bremner, Bird & Fortune, News Huddlines, The Now Show, Watson’s Wind-Up, Newsjack, Jimmy Carr, Lead Balloon, The Comedy Unit, Glasgow, Shoot The Writer, The Last Laugh, For Training Purposes Only, Work supplement in The Guardian, BBC Writersroom x 3, C4 Comedy Lab, Parsons and Naylor, The First Post, Private Eye, Readers’ Digest, Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton.


  1. I really like what you say about taking a secret delight in rejections – what an excellent attitude. You are reminding me that it's time to get some subs out there again.
    (By the way, I left a comment on your first post, but it seems to have -aaargh! REJECTED me!!! Lucky I'm not a fair-weather-blog-responder).

  2. Derek says:

    Hi Susie, thanks for joining. I'm not sure why your first post was rejected. Then again, not sure about the science of rejections, period. I have this idea at the back of my head that it's a 5% to 10% success rate but that's just guesswork. The main thing is to keep writing, editing and submitting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *