Life isn’t always about winning, so it makes sense that we’d want to write about the agony of defeat as well as about our accomplishments. In fact, these stories of missing the mark are often the ones that connect us to family members, resonating because we all know that agony of defeat.
However, the difference between a simple loss and an epic disappointment isn’t always self-apparent. For example, watching the Olympics it’s clear that for some athletes, making it to Sochi was the victory. For others, “winning” a silver medal is the agony of defeat.
Why it mattered
Of course, you have to begin with the facts and establish a setting for you story. However, you can’t simply tell what happened. The crux of the story isn’t the loss; it’s if and why you agonized over it. Why did you want to win? What did it matter to you? Another important consideration: Was it the defeat that mattered or was it how the people around you behaved?
Often a debacle demarcates a change in direction in our life journey or a re-doubling of efforts. Just the fact that we still ruminate over our setbacks means they’re stories that matter. What’s the subtext behind the story? Did this loss mark a change in perspective or change in the path you chose to tread?
Of course, it doesn’t have to have been a big fat hairy deal to be a great story. Even minor incidents make interesting reading. (For an example of this, read Special Needs: Bravery Over-rated?)
Not just the Facts
In addition to the who’s, what’s, where’s and how’s, add your personal perspective. How did you feel about your defeat at the time? How do you feel now?
Being part of a team doesn’t mean immunize you against loss.
Were you part of a team that experienced a loss of defeat? Why was it important to the group? What were the group dynamics? How did you deal with the aftermath?
If you feel your performance played a role in the loss, such a defeat can rankle for decades. (Yes, I once fumbled a hike on the extra point, losing the game.) Write about coming to terms with costing (or believing you cost) your teammates a win.
Those involved in performance arts or sports know what it’s like to work for judges’ scores. Others of compete against our own expectations.
The agony of defeat can come at the hands of expectations that are out of sync with reality, circumstances beyond our control, illness, or just being up against someone better. Were you passed over for a position? Unable to complete an academic program of study? Did the agony of defeat come at the hands of your own anxiety?
These make great, heartfelt stories. These stories connect with everyone who has fallen short of their own goals.
Agony of Public Defeat
You can hide a moment of personal defeat. That’s not the case when you’re running for public office or taking on an issue in a very public way. How did this add to depth of your disappointment? How did you cope? What did you learn?
Take your heart off your sleeve and let it bleed onto the page.