What does it mean to be a failure at writing fiction? To me it means you’ve said you want to be a writer and you don’t write. You give up on writing. That’s the only way you can fail to be a writer. A writer writes. He writes well. He writes badly. He writes in-between the two.
There are setbacks, like writing and rewriting a work and still knowing deep down it doesn’t work. There’s writing and rewriting and sending a work off again and again and getting rejected. There is writing a book, getting an agent, selling the book to a publisher, seeing it go to bookstores, seeing it disappear from bookstores a few months later, and looking at less that stellar sales. None of these are failures. They’re difficult and they’re things that most writers go through, but they aren’t failure.
Failure, to me, is one thing. It’s giving up. Whether this happens before you finish your first novel or after your third or fourth manuscript. The only way you can truly fail as a writer is by stopping writing. Some do. The rejection gets too much for them or they realize they don’t love writing enough. There are a lot of highs and lows in writing. Some people can’t tolerate these. There are many reasons to give up, I suppose.
But there’s one compelling reason not to. If you’re doing something you love, you’re very, very lucky. It’s hard to find things you love. It’s hard to find work you love. If you love to write, it’s something you can do your entire life. We’re lucky.