Is it better to be a modest success than a grand failure?

A note from Nava: Here's one of my favorite posts, from a year ago. Not sure I agree 100% but there's a lot of wisdom in Vita Sackville-West's words, speaking to everyone's fear of taking risks with their work.

Dear Literary Ladies,
I’m plugging away at a modest but steady writing career, but sometimes I think about aiming higher. I admit that I’m afraid to fail— and then look foolish to myself and others. What about you? Do you think it’s better to stick with what you do best, rather than stick your neck out and possibly fail?

Is it better to be extremely ambitious, or rather modest? Probably the latter is safer; but I hate safety, and would rather fail gloriously than dingily succeed.

—Vita Sackville-West, from a letter to Virginia Woolf, Aug. 1928


Anonymous December 31, 2010 at 8:14 PM  

Dear Nava,

Thank you so much for this wonderful source of inspiration. Writing, including songwriting, is truly a narrow, winding and sometimes lonely road. We need all the encouragement we can get, especially from the literary ladies :) Keep them coming and all the best for the new books!

Debbie (from Malaysia!) :)

Nava Atlas January 1, 2011 at 5:37 AM  

Thanks so much, Debbie! Happy 2011 to you...

seule771 February 4, 2014 at 8:20 PM  

Vita Sackville-West resembles Cher and we all know of her many risks taken as artist. I am equating risk with 'risque'. Unsure if meant to be fore-worn since one must always know of their place in life in waiting for ones turn with next generation and all.
I want to say thank you for your lovely book: Literary Ladies; Guide to the Writing life. I am not author since my books are self-published solely for me; libraries will not house them. I am inferior with an ego to boot and it has done me more harm than good. Ethnicity places all things, always.

Ainee (Sterling, MA)

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Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

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