Saturday, January 28, 2012

In Sony's Flubs, a Lesson for Writers

Entertainment giant Sony [SNE], creator of innovative products such as the Walkman and Playstation, has a market capitalization of 18.5 billion dollars. But not all of their products have been successes. Remember BetaMax? Yeah, that was Sony.

There were other Sony attempts that have since fallen into obscurity: AIBO, PSX/PlayTV, the eVilla Network Entertainment Center. The list is long.

And yet, Sony has not only survived, but grown ever more successful. Why? Because they didn't let their failures define them.
For many, the writing life is defined by a series of failures -- rejections, poor reviews, more rejections, aborted storylines, and yet even more rejections -- only occasionally interrupted by success. Successful writers know failure well but don't dwell on it. Failed writers let their failure define them.

It's dangerous to think this way. No one ever said writing would be easy. Sure, being creative is easy. (There, I said it: it's easy.) The hard part is creating something others find appealing. If this weren't true, then there wouldn't be so damn many Christmas fruitcakes and knitted sweaters given away each year and they wouldn't be so grudgingly received.

Linus Pauling once said that ideas are the s**t of a creative mind, and he was right. Anyone can have an idea; anyone can have a good -- even great -- idea. It's putting that idea into practice that's so difficult.

Writing is hard. Writing well is even harder, and writing something people want to read is the hardest thing of all. What's the formula? Nobody knows. There are some basic principles: write well, develop sympathetic characters with believeable stories and tell those stories in a pleasing arc. But beyond that, it's anyone's guess.

So, don't despair when you fail (and you will). Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and write. Keep writing. Don't quit.

If Sony had done that after creating Beta, we'd all still be walking around with boomboxes over our shoulders.

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