Failing is Easy. Do It Well.

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. — C. S. Lewis

We are surrounded by opportunities to fail at. We judge ourselves when we can’t meet societal expectations. Furthermore, we blame ourselves when we don’t fulfil our high aspirations. For creatives, the “fear of failure” is numbing - every such mind is then inundated with suggestions to overcome this fear. Ironically, the suggestions come from the same society whose unreasonable expectations label these minds as “failures”.

In this issue, I feature the essays that, in no way, preach how such fears can be, should be overcome. Rather, they attempt to persuade that it is all fine to fail.


Falling short: seven writers reflect on failure

“Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Anne Enright, Howard Jacobson, Will Self and Lionel Shriver reflect on their disappointments in life, love and work”. It is a brilliant read for when the trying times drag you, your morale down. Everyone fails. Especially those who are known for their successes. I find the below passage from Anne Enright enlightening.

I have no problem with failure - it is success that makes me sad. Failure is easy. I do it every day, I have been doing it for years. I have thrown out more sentences than I ever kept, I have dumped months of work, I have wasted whole years writing the wrong things for the wrong people. Even when I am pointed the right way and productive and finally published, I am not satisfied by the results. This is not an affectation, failure is what writers do. It is built in.

Fail better

“What makes a good writer? Is writing an expression of self, or, as TS Eliot argued, ‘an escape from personality’? Do novelists have a duty? Do readers? Why are there so few truly great novels? Zadie Smith writes about literature’s legacy of honourable failure.”

Map of disappointments - Nabokov would call that a good title for a bad novel. It strikes me as a suitable guide to the land where writers live, a country I imagine as mostly beach, with hopeful writers standing on the shoreline while their perfect novels pile up, over on the opposite coast, out of reach. Thrusting out of the shoreline are hundreds of piers, or “disappointed bridges”, as Joyce called them. Most writers, most of the time, get wet. Why they get wet is of little interest to critics or readers, who can only judge the soggy novel in front of them. But for the people who write novels, what it takes to walk the pier and get to the other side is, to say the least, a matter of some importance.

Write Till You Drop

For a writer, every rejection, every failure is an opportunity to stop writing? Why should I write when no one wants to read what I write? And what should I write about if anything that I write about doesn’t interest anyone? The doubts are genuine, but to stop after such doubts cloud your mind is to be brutal on the creative mind. Annie Dillard lays out many ways that writers can trudge along through the difficult phases of self-scrutiny.

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Author of a published novel, Andrea often writes short essays and stories. Carve Magazine had published one of her short stories, Kudzu as part of their Fall 2015 issue. Andrea magnificently narrates this layered story of an ageing lady and her two relationships – one that’s blooming and another that’s lost. The Kudzu fields surrounding the town plays a role that’s a lot more significant than being just a backdrop.

When the regular music distracts you while you write, the ambient noise of just a café does not work, Noisli can help. A “digital place for focus” as the team behind describes the service, it allows you to mix and match various sounds to get that perfect environment. You can select the ambient sounds of rain, thunder, fire, forest and many others. It also provides a curated playlist of such sound mixes.

One Final Inspiration

Postscript

Have any recommendations or feedback for me? I’d love to hear from you. Just hit reply, or you can even email me.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

-Amit

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