Good morning, dear readers. No, not that F word. This blog isn’t about censorship, but rather failure. Facing failure. Oh, great, you’re thinking. What an upbeat topic for a summer day. So Ron has written about the h word, humiliation. And all of us throughout the semester have discussed various versions of the C word – crazy, man. All writers are crazy – at times. And all of us have to face failure. I’ve been mulling about failure because I’ve been wanting to post about the end of my brother’s Everest journey. It turns out that he got two GI infections up there, lost twenty pounds and in the end had to come home and didn’t get to make a summit attempt. Since he had a web site/blog that was promoting four charities, his journey was quite public. I’ve run into people since that seem surprised. He didn’t make it? Well, no. People actually die up there, so we’re all relieved he made the smart decision to return home safely. You didn’t get your novel published? Haven’t you been working on for a long time?
Last night on Teri Gross’ radio show featuring song writers, someone quoted that Ira Gershwin wrote in isolation because of the “exclusivity of failure.” Chew on that for awhile. Some of our failed writings and goals in life are personal and private. And some are not. Soon after my brother returned, he was scheduled to give a talk at his university’s alumni weekend. Great, he says to me and my husband. I get to go give my loser speech. I could just picture my brother standing in front of all these guys, holding up his fingers in front of his face in an “L.”
John, I said, I think these guys would much rather hear about how one person faced failure when not reaching a goal, then hear about how a successful businessman also climbs the world’s tallest mountains, leaving overweight audience members feeling even more like slugs. I know. Easy for me to say. But as hard as it is, I do know after all these years, that I learn more from failure, than success. Maybe just because there is more of it.
Dang. I’m sorry to fall into cliche here, but it is the journey. When I published my novel Free Radical a few years ago, I hate to admit it, but deep down I really thought it might be a hit because I’d worked so many years on it. But the first review from Kirkus was not good. The following ones were quite decent and, though no award winner, the novel ended up doing well. But that first review devastated me for a few days. It’s not like I haven’t had plenty of reviews all over the spectrum, but for me novel reviews are tougher to take. It’s like for a NF book – oh, well, they don’t like my subject. And a picture book – the illustrations don’t really work.
A supportive writer friend sent me a Rumi quote to buck me up. I wish I had saved it. But it was about the journey, I’m sure. Eventually I recovered and returned to the keyboard.
Earlier in the spring I posted about how Icelanders consider failure the compost for later success. Go throw some vegetable scraps on the pile.
Got any of your own F stories to share?