I recently had to give up on something that was a dream of mine. Something I’d worked on for nearly three years, and invested a good deal of money, too. It was a reading app called LitWeaver, a dot com, wherein authors could deliver contemporary young adult literature directly to English teachers in middle- and high schools. Describing building a digital library and the app itself would require a book (I’ll write it, someday), but in the end our website did not get enough traction (users and paying subscribers) to make it sustainable. We peaked at 1200 English teachers from ten countries. This was admirable but insufficient. Along the way, however, we forked some lightning–winning education-technology awards, connecting with teachers and students, and developing work from an A-list of YA authors. But in the end, we had to shut LitWeaver down. It was an idea whose timing was off a click or two; e-reading, and digital delivery of content to schools has not fully arrived. Schools are all over the tech and digital-reading continuum, with some fully digitized, and others several years behind the times. The whole landscape was, and remains, too unsettled for what we offered.
So let’s speak to failure. As author, it’s part of the landscape you live in. Looking back through my writing files the other day, I totted up some seriously “lost” time: novels, short stories, miscellany that was never published. A rough estimate? Probably around 4-5 to five full years of writing that went nowhere.
But is that truly lost time? Wasted effort? I don’t think so. For writers, every page we write makes us a tiny bit better: smoother, less self-conscious, more aware of our personal voice. With LitWeaver there is serious, short term loss but, I believe, some eventual reward for having stepped up and tried. In fact, “eventual” might have already arrived: I’ve plunged back into my own writing with energy and excitement that had, to be honest, waned over the years. Now the act of writing feels fresh and new. With some luck my reward for failure will be a book or two that would not have been written otherwise.
Addendum: LitWeaver offered work from over fifty top, YA authors, including my pal, Pete Hautman. Our authors were first to know about the shut-down of our app, and here is Pete’s reply: