John McNally's New Book on Failure and the Craft of Writing
The Promise of Failure: One Writer’s Perspective on Not Succeeding (University of Iowa Press, 2018) is part memoir of the writing life, part advice book, and part craft book; sometimes funny, sometimes wrenching, but always honest. MFA in Writing faculty member John McNally uses his own life as a blueprint for the writer’s daily struggles as well as the existential ones, tackling subjects such as when to quit and when to keep going, how to deal with depression, what risking something of yourself means, and ways to reenergize your writing through reinvention.
What McNally illuminates is how rejection, in its best light, is another element of craft, a necessary stage to move the writer from one project to the next, and that it’s best to see rejection and failure on a life-long continuum so that you can see the interconnectedness between failure and success, rather than focusing on failure as a measure of self-worth. As brutally candid as McNally can sometimes be, The Promise of Failure is ultimately an inspiring book—never in a Pollyannaish self-help way. McNally approaches the reader as a sympathetic companion with cautionary tales to tell. Written by an author who has as many unpublished books under his belt as published ones, The Promise of Failure is as much for the newcomer as it is for the established writer.