Challenge,  On Writing

Stunned By The Voice

A Detail About The Voice That Flat Amazed Me…

One young woman was back after failing last season to get a chair to turn. (She got two this time.) And in the conversation about her courage to come back, and how she had gone away and worked really hard, it was revealed that any time a judge told someone who failed to get a chair to turn to come back, that person had an automatic invite back.

That’s right, all a judge had to do was say “come back” to a singer who failed and the invite was automatically there.

And then the detail was mentioned that almost knocked me out of my chair.


Are you fricking kidding me????

Back to what Adam Levine said… It is your reaction to your failure that makes your success. No wonder they were working with that young girl so hard when he said that. They know that when they invite a person back, they usually don’t come back, even though they have a standing invite.

Wow, just wow.

Let me say that again. Most do not come back.

That just takes my breath away.

A person goes on the show claiming to want to be a performer, a singer. They are good enough to qualify and they get a shot at having millions see them. They get to sing in front of millions and four superstars, then when invited back, they don’t go home and practice like crazy, work ten times as hard, and then go back to the show to sing in front of millions again.

Nope. They don’t return.

Reaction to failure makes your success.

I was just stunned. I have failed at so many things, I can’t imagine giving up at any point. Maybe that’s why I have been around for 40 years in this business. So learning that most, with an invite to try to make their dream again, don’t bother, or are too scared to even try, I flat don’t get it.

I not only don’t get it, I am stunned by the very idea.

But then I look around at the writers I know and all of them are people who just keep pushing and trying and wanting to learn. The ones who don’t are gone. Long gone.

And I honestly don’t notice they have left. My attention is on those who are staying and working hard.

Sad that I don’t notice, but I don’t.

I have been watching this thing for years now. So many writers push right up to a point and some failure, or perceived failure stops them cold and they vanish. And often the failure is some belief system the writer had that didn’t get met for one reason or another.

Sometimes the failure is that traditional publishing spits them out after a few books. Sometimes they write and publish a dozen indie books and get almost no sales and quit.

In publishing, the failures are automatic and continuous. I heard one writer who quit after getting a few rejections from AGENTS. Seriously, how stupid is that?

This business takes years and years. And it takes the ability to just keep going, no matter what.

If I was a young writer and had a shot to get myself in front of millions of readers, I would take it, and if I failed at it again, and got an invite to try again, you can bet any amount of money I would be there the second time. Or the third.

I guess I have found the secret to being a long term successful writer. Just never let failure stop you.

Reaction to failure makes your success.


  • Céline Malgen

    But but but Dean, that would mean you actually have to practice and improve and keep coming back? That’s work, that’s hard!

    It’s so much easier to dismiss the judges as being unable to recognise your “true talent” when they see it, and go back to your regular life, bragging about having been on The Voice (or on having written one novel or one short story).

  • Marsha

    I caught that too, Dean, and couldn’t believe it. Especially since every one of the singers has put years and their heart and soul into their craft. How can they let it go when they’re so close? The only answer I can come up with is that singing isn’t as important to them as they thought.

    I belong to a writer’s FB marketing group that I joined hoping to learn more about indie marketing when I have time and enough product under my belt. The group gives me a window into what you keep telling us. So many of them are ready to quit when they aren’t making steady sales after two or three books. Like the singers on The Voice, I can only assume that writing isn’t as important to them as they thought.

    For me, absolute failure is not an option. Sure, I’m failing plenty along the way, but in the end I know I’ll make it. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

  • Annie Reed

    Last weekend I listened to a voice actress respond to a question from the audience about how to break into the business, how she got where she is in her career. During her response, she talked about the difficult decision she made to go from primarily doing English dubs of Japanese anime to original English animation. She mentioned how she worried she might end up with no jobs at all if she turned down the dubs that had been her bread and butter to concentrate on something else she might not be able to break into.

    Fascinating stuff, but I really loved this part:

    She specifically told this young voice actor hopeful that she didn’t believe in failure. There’s no such thing as failure, she told him. It’s just another road to finding success.

    She’s not the first voice actor or actress I’ve heard talk about not letting failure stop you, but I really liked the way she put it.

  • Thomas E

    I guess I don’t really see it as a failure… I see it more as a decision. Someone decides not to pay the price for success.

    I’d like to be a professional artist… Sort of… but I don’t spend the minimum 4 hours a day drawing and painting and investing in learning that would get me there for sure in ten years.

    So I’m never going to be a professional artist.

    Kind of because the cake isn’t worth the candle. It’s not ‘failure’ but merely that other things are more important.

    • dwsmith

      Exactly, Thomas. The problem comes in when someone claims they want to be a professional artist or writer and then manages no time at it at all. But nothing at all wrong with being a part-time writer who just loves to tell stories. I always admire people who have that level of awareness around themselves. So it depends on the person’s stated goal completely.

  • Maree

    I seriously hope that the reason that many of the contestants don’t come back is because their performance caught the ear of a producer and before the year is up they’re already under contract to someone else. In reality I’m sure it’s the case for some of them.

    I grew up in a music family. Several of my family members are or have been working musicians. I have a clear memory of performing on stage when I was about 4, and my mother giving me a big smile because I was finally hitting the harmony spot on. Musicians are weird, in a fairly similar way to how writers are weird.

    The thing about being a musician (or any other creative) is that talent is like step one. I’ve had so many people yell at me about wasting talent blah blah blah. The truth of it is that I don’t like practicing. It’s boring. So I continue to be a mediocre musician. I love performing. That is fun. But listen closer to the biopics about the contestants. So many talk about the thrill of performing. If you’re only in it for the thrill of performance then you will burn out.

    For many people in my family, I think half the time I’ve ever seen them they have a guitar in their hands. Or their fingers on the keys. Or they’re singing. (omg so much spontaneous singing) Practice isn’t practice to them. It’s fun.

    Anyway, my point is that I think the difference between being a flash in the pan and persistence isn’t just practice. It’s legit thinking practicing in fun.

    • J.M. Ney-Grimm

      It’s legit thinking practicing is fun.

      Wow! Love that thought. Made me realize that just as your kin constantly have a guitar in hand or fingers on the keyboard, I constantly have a pen in my fingers and paper under that pen. When I’m waiting somewhere and discover I don’t have a book to read, I am just as content to borrow pen and paper and write instead. The writing entertains me. But I didn’t realize this about myself until I saw what you said about your musical family. Thanks for the insight!

  • Morgan Broadhead

    I’ve gone back and forth a little about this very idea with Phillip McCollum, who actually directed me to this blog post. I had no idea most don’t accept the invitation to come back. I’ve been writing for seven years now: no sales at all yet, not even semi-pro’s. I’m FINALLY starting to see consistent personal rejections, but a rejection is still a rejection. Still, after all that, I simply CAN’T quit writing. I enjoy it way too much. And so all those rejections just keep pushing me harder, keep telling me, “Not quite yet, but keep trying.” Thanks for this post. It’s a good reminder that what I’m experiencing is normal and I’m not alone.

    • dwsmith


      I know the feeling. I went for seven years with only form rejections before finding Heinlein’s Rules and jumping on them and finally starting to sell. And even after that there were dry spells that drove me nuts. And at times I had over seventy short stories in the mail at once. So you are far from alone and you have a great attitude. Things will break, keep at it, keep learning. And keep having fun. That is the key to it all.

  • Caryl Giles

    I love this, Dean! I, too, am blown away by that revelation–that those people who had enough of a vision to make it on the show the first time, and given an opportunity to hit it again, would just walk away. My mouth is hanging open! I love your attitude, and I find it so encouraging because I just cannot get enough of learning. God bless you and Kris for your generosity in sharing what you’ve learned over the years. I am so grateful, and excited for the awesome years ahead!