Ep 20: John McNally


As the school year winds down, another Ph.D joins the podcast, this time to talk about fiction writing and The Promise of Failure. As an author and editor of 17 books, John McNally knows a little bit about the joy of being published and the agony of rejections letters. His most recent book is a collection of lectures and essays he's given to writing students about the certainty of rejection and how best to handle it and move on from it.

I mean, what better guest and topic are there for the Why I'll Never Make It podcast??

He shares his strategy for combating writer's block and how the theater and acting play a role in his own writing as well as how he teaches his students.

Follow John on Instagram.

A Review of John McNally's The Promise of Failure

by HILLARY MOSES MOHAUPT (Brevity Magazine)

Part memoir, part craft book, The Promise of Failure rests on the premise that every writer will fail; what matters is how each writer chooses to build on those failures without surrendering the craft. For McNally, success is in part about letting enough time pass so that his failed ideas can marinate in his subconscious mind, and about writing in the meantime so that he can remain open to the possibility of, in fact, succeeding. "You never know," he writes, "when an idea in passing, even one where you're merely trying to make a buck, will change the course of your life." While it ruminates on failures, The Promise of Failure is, on balance, about charting an individual course that lets you, as Ray Bradbury once said, "Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down."

This book is full of hard-hitting advice a writer could scribble out on a Post-it and slap above their writing desk for inspiration. 

McNally's book is not an instruction manual; it's a guidebook for interrogating your own motives to write, finding your own pain points, and for measuring your progress against your personal expectations, rather than the perfectly curated successes of your social media connections. "Learn what your own strengths and weaknesses are," he writes, which is good advice not only for writing but for every endeavor you might ever undertake.