As I handed my carefully wrapped package to the postal clerk, I thought, By tomorrow, my publisher will have my manuscript, and in a few months I'll see a lifelong dream fulfilled—a published book!
I expected to feel elated, but instead felt numb. Completing the project had been a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual marathon. I felt as though every intelligent thought I'd ever had I'd poured into that book. I didn't have a single word left in my brain!
A few days later, my editor called. "We love the manuscript. Just one more thing … we want you to write four more chapters. Get it to us as soon as possible. We're on a tight schedule."
It was as though I'd undergone a 9-month pregnancy, endured 24 hours of hard labor, delivered a beautiful baby, and a week later the obstetrician said, "You need to go back into labor for another 6 hours."
For the next three weeks, I struggled. I negotiated with God. I cried. Day after day, whatever I wrote went immediately into the wastebasket. Panic seeped into my thinking: I'm this close to the finish line, and I can't make it come together! The only thing that appeared certain was failure.
My extra book chapters eventually sprang to life—which is why I feel safer talking about them than a failed relationship or a failed business venture. Failure's something we'd rather talk about after it's overcome with subsequent success.
That's unfortunate, because failure teaches us things we can't learn any other way. The key is to treat failure as a visitor: allowed to deliver unpleasant news, but not allowed to take up permanent residence. We need to say, "Make your point—then leave."1