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  • Amy Liz Harrison

On Writing and Recovery: Reflections on Failure from a Writer in Recovery

Failure. It’s a word that often carries a heavy burden, conjuring images of defeat, disappointment, and inadequacy. In a world that prizes success and achievement, failure is typically seen as something to be avoided at all costs. But what if we reframe our understanding of failure? What if, instead of viewing it as the end of the road, we see it as a vital part of the journey?

Reflecting on my recent podcast series, I'm reminded of how deeply intertwined failure is, not just in the creative process, but also in our personal journeys of recovery. Inspired by Stephen Marche's book, On Writing and Failure, this series has illuminated the essential role failure plays in writing, growth, and healing.

As I look back on my own experiences, both as a writer and as someone in recovery, I realize how these two aspects of my life are interconnected. Writing, much like recovery, is a process of communication—of conveying emotions, struggles, and triumphs. It's about staying true to our voices, even when faced with setbacks and rejections.

While on the path to recovery, failure often feels like a step backward. But as I’ve learned, these moments are not the end, but rather pivotal points of growth. Failure teaches us resilience and perseverance. It pushes us to confront our vulnerabilities and emerge stronger. This perspective has been crucial in my writing journey, where rejection is a constant companion. Learning to embrace criticism, understanding its value, and using it to fuel my creative fire has been transformative. It's about reframing these experiences, much like reframing setbacks in recovery, and seeing them as opportunities for growth. Handling criticism and finding positivity in creative pursuits mirror the challenges faced in recovery. Both require a thick skin and an open heart.

After a fascinating discussion with Stephen Marche himself, Stephen's reflections underscored that failure is integral to success. It's not just about reaching a destination but about the journey itself—the learning, the adapting, the growing. 

One of the most poignant moments was drawing parallels between writing and baseball. In both fields, failure is an inherent part of the game. In baseball, a player who fails seven times out of ten is still celebrated. This analogy beautifully illustrates that in writing, as in recovery, failures are not just setbacks but essential parts of the process. They shape us, teach us, and propel us forward.

Throughout these conversations, a recurring theme has been the evolving definition of success.

Stephen Marche’s reflections on redefining success resonated deeply with me. Success is not a fixed point but a fluid concept that changes as we grow and learn. It’s about staying true to our vision, embracing change, and understanding that the path to achievement—whether in writing or recovery—is often paved with failures.

Just as in writing, our personal recovery journeys are fraught with setbacks and moments of doubt. There were times when it felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back. But, as I've come to realize, these "failures" were not defeats; they were vital lessons that shaped my resilience and determination. Each stumble allowed me to reassess, learn more about myself, and find new strategies for moving forward.

If you haven’t had the chance to listen yet, I invite you to explore each part of the series: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Additionally, our conversation with Stephen Marche offers profound reflections on writing, failure, and resilience.


Listen to the Writing and Failure Series on Eternally Amy


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