Embrace “Failare”: A HippoCamp 2021 Recap

by Leah McNaughton Lederman

This post is part of a HippoCamp 2021 recap series, with guest blog posts written by HippoCamp attendees. Learn more about our conference for creative nonfiction writers.

amy eaton at podium at HippoCamp 2021

Amy Eaton presents about embracing failure in her flash session at HippoCamp 2021. Photo by Lina Seijo for Hippocampus Magazine.

When Amy Eaton spoke about failure at Hippocamp 2021, she was speaking my language. (Even if she couldn’t see me in the audience, wearing my special “Embrace Failare” hat.)

I’m a walking example of failure. I mean, I’ve got to be good at something, right? And there’s just so many ways to do it!

But failure still sucks.

Especially because it comes from inside of us and outside of us.

And, for writers, failure gets a double dose of sucktitude because well, it’s in writing.

How do we fail? Let me count the ways:

  • got rejected (again)
  • didn’t hit my word count goal
  • (didn’t establish a word count goal)
  • binged on Netflix instead of writing
  • was super awkward when I met that author
  • was super awkward in general
  • missed that deadline
  • didn’t register for that class
  • got into a Twitter fight
  • couldn’t get the damn paragraph right
  • didn’t back up my work
  • didn’t prepare well enough for my presentation
  • fell behind on my website and marketing
  • couldn’t format the damn book
  • missed a typo on something important

It’s moments like these we wonder why we even continue.

Failure comes at us in phrases like, “Oh, you’re a writer. Have I heard of any of your books? Have you [even] been published?”

Or the dreaded distant cousin at Thanksgiving dinner: “Soooo, how’s that book coming along?”

It’s moments like these we wonder why we even continue. 

When you fail, because you will, I give you the words of my mother. Think these to yourself, even if you can’t hear her voice like I do: “You are still a worthy human being.”

Say it until you can get up again.

You have to get up again.

When you get up after you fail, you’ll see that you’ve opened new doors for yourself. Your failure forced you to find a way in through a window, over a fence, under a bridge. And that was the path for you all along. You’re not on anyone else’s trajectory.

Why do we have to get up again, keep on keeping on? Why can’t we give up?

Because, as Amy pointed out with an arrow directly into my soul, “You don’t know who’s out there waiting for you, waiting to hear your message.”


leah lederman in hat that says "embrace failare" with the misspelling intentional for comedic effectLeah McNaughton Lederman has created two volumes of Café Macabre: A Collection of Horror Stories and Art by Women (SourcePoint Press, 2019; 2021) and her own short story collection: A Novel of Shorts: The Woman No One Sees (2020). Her creative nonfiction has been published in The River and South Review and Defenestration Mag, and she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her essay “My Bleeding Heart” in the online anthology, What is and What Will Be: Life in the Time of Covid. Leah is active in several writing communities in the Midwest, where she lives with her husband and an assortment of children, cats, and dogs.






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