On Writing and Failure: Or, on the Peculiar Perseverance Required to Endure the Life of a Writer (Field Notes) (Paperback)

Staff Pick Badge
On Writing and Failure: Or, on the Peculiar Perseverance Required to Endure the Life of a Writer (Field Notes) By Stephen Marche Cover Image
Not in stock at Boswell. Available to order.

Staff Reviews

I am not a writer, and after reading Marche’s astonishingly quotable book, I am very grateful I’m not a writer. If you are or want to become a writer, beware: Marche will give you dozens of pithy reasons why you shouldn’t. But if you insist, Marche helpfully describes exactly what it takes to be a writer. This is a tiny gem!

— Kay Wosewick

A central (perhaps the central) paradox of the writing life is this: in order to churn out the freest, most generous, truest work possible, the writer must embrace the utter and complete futility of the task of writing. As a writer at the beginning of a new project, I couldn’t ask for a better companion to carry me through the coming, inevitable, necessary days of failure, joy, and frustration. Marche’s essay is such a heartening guide through the writer’s life (of failure). As a reader, Marche’s perspective on the lives, hopes, frustrations, and failures of some all-time greats is nothing short of a marvel. It’s like being able to see into the upside-down of centuries of literature. Any person interested in language, books, stories, and meaning-making will find themselves richer for reading this exceptional little book.

— Chris Lee


Writing is, and always will be, an act defined by failure. The best plan is to just get used to it.

Failure is a topic discussed in every creative writing department in the world, but this is the book every beginning writer should have on their shelf to prepare them. Less a guide to writing and more a guide to what you need to continue existing as a writer, On Writing and Failure: Or, On the Peculiar Perseverance Required to Endure the Life of a Writer describes the defining role played by rejection in literary endeavors and contemplates failure as the essence of the writer's life. Along with his own history of rejection, Marche offers stories from the history of writerly failure, from Ovid's exile and Dostoevsky's mock execution to James Baldwin's advice just to endure, where living with the struggle and the pointlessness of writing is the point.

About the Author

Stephen Marche is a novelist, essayist and cultural commentator. He is the author of half a dozen books, and has written opinion pieces and essays for the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire, The Walrus, and many others. He lives in Toronto with his wife and children.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781771965163
ISBN-10: 1771965169
Publisher: Biblioasis
Publication Date: February 14th, 2023
Pages: 128
Language: English
Series: Field Notes