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How to Fail: Coping With Professional Rejection

March 10, 2023 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm GMT

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What's the best way to fail? Veteran of professional rejection, writer and comedian James Harris, takes us through the best and worst coping strategies, and helps us think through failure better. James Harris (@JamesHarrisNow) / Twitter

As a veteran of over twenty years of artistic rejection, including by some of the most prestigious publications and theatres around, the writer and comedian James Harris considers himself an expert in coping with failure. In this workshop, he’ll share what he’s learnt and try to help you deal with your own setbacks better.

This salon will talk about professional failure and how to deal with it, but not in a sentimental, “It’s all a step to success” way. We’ll acknowledge that failure really sucks, doesn’t always lead to a happy ending, but is also something which you can practice getting better at like any other skill.

What’s the best way to respond to failure?

We’ll look at how to keep going in the face of setbacks, the best ways to get mad, and crucially, how to separate the parts of failure which are “unavoidably bad” from the parts of failure we make unnecessarily worse for ourselves.

Another focus of this salon will be how art depicts failure; we’ll look at how artworks such as the Coen Brother’s film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ and George Orwell’s novel ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’ display the search for artistic recognition; the host will also share the lessons about failure he learnt from doing comedy for twenty years. And we’ll share some of our own setbacks and ways of dealing with them, asking: Are we thinking about failure in the right way – and what might be a better way to do so?

By the end of this salon, you may be no better set up to professional success, but you will be better equipped to deal with the inevitability of failure – and to feel less bad about it, too!

James Harris has written for The Spectator, The New European, The Critic, and last year published his first novel, Midlands. He writes a weekly Substack newsletter called Stiff Upper Quip and was a stand-up comedian, touring all over Europe, for twenty years.

Suggested Readings

  1. Harris, James (2022). On personal failure – by James Harris
  2. Orwell, George (1936). Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Chapters One-Four.


  1. ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (2014), dir. Joel and Ethan Coen.


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March 10, 2023
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm GMT
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