All of the above! Failure is such a loaded word. So much depends on expectations, which easily snowball out of control. How many jobs have we applied for and straightaway daydreamed ourselves into that new role, all the way down to the new commute/desk/coffee mug and what we’d do with an increase in salary every month?!
I often encounter the idea of failure in writing in terms of writers submitting to agents and publishers and getting turned down, but it’s the same for contests and pitching matches. Though winning is lovely, I often think that getting shortlisted is the real honour. The selection of the winner among books that are often equally accomplished in craft and style is so often so subjective – it just depends who’s on the judging panel this year. It’s about taste.
Also, sometimes it’s one of the runners-up who’s written the book that gets picked up – it’s not unknown for the full manuscript of a winner to fail to achieve the same effect as the short selection shared in certain contests or pitches. Even greater disappointment there!
I did a post on my blog about being declined, should anyone be interested: Rejected, Or Declined? (Is it okay to post links like that here?)
All the same: there’s still a lot to gain and learn from all of these experiences. Especially ‘learnings’ (whatever happened to ‘lessons’?) to carry forward to the next book.