I don’t know about you people, but as far as I’m concerned, things often don’t turn out as I hope they would. And mind you, it’s not because of carelessness or laziness or meanness on my part. I do my best. It’s just that I’m a short and frail boy-writer with a hat and with a propensity for tasting the bitter side of solitude.
I think that for a writer or artist it’s important to be able to live with defeat. Let’s face it, we’re frail and sensible dreamers, and life’s challenges often prove to be too much trouble for our faint hearts. Those of us who can live with defeat can convert griefs and woes into art that tickles hearts and challenges minds, and by doing so hopefully prosper. The ability to live with defeat as an artist isn’t inherent in everyone though, hence the reason why in all cultures artists have high suicide rates.
“Anyone can deal with victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat.”
― Adolf Hitler
Whether it’s romantic, artistic, professional, or financial defeat we encounter, I think we writers can turn it into characters with whom readers can sympathize, or tragic or amusing scenes, or engaging storylines. The pen and paper can make even the most mundane defeats solemn and inspiring. Just think of Shakespeare and of Dickens and of their often un-heroic literature.
Whatever defeat you’ve suffered, it’s always harder not to move on than it is to move on. I mean after every serious defeat you have two options: kill yourself, or carry on. It’s a lot harder to kill yourself than it is to move on. It takes a lot of courage to end your existence, a courage few posses. Besides, I think that in most cases it’s to everyone’s advantage if the defeated moves on. Defeat challenges the ego, it’s true, but it strengthens the mind and the body.
“Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.”
— Loss and Gain – H.W. Longfellow
For writers and for artists in general defeat is more than it is for other people. It’s an opportunity. You can re-imagine life on paper, and you can change the end, and in a way you can enjoy what life has denied you, whether it’s love, advancement, or riches.
The drunkard is too busy drinking to enjoy his drink, to describe its taste, to look at its effects. It’s the same with the victor; he moves too fast and notices too little. Defeat slows down life, makes you see the details that until then you have ignored. And often those details are the key ingredients for good literature or art.
If you’re an artist, tasting bitter defeat can be better for your art than savoring sugary victory. But like all things in this life, defeat must be enjoyed with moderation. Dear literary friends, we must not let ourselves be defeated too often.