Failure is part of the process, we hear.
Sometimes that thought is accompanied by “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Samuel Beckett’s words show up frequently in posts about the value of failure.
The point seems to be that failure leads to success. Engineers often fail in their first attempt but persist until they get it right. Scientists fail to prove a hypothesis but develop a new hypothesis from their failure. Famously, writers were rejected 41 times but succeeded on the 42nd (Madeline L’Engle with A Wrinkle in Time),
27 times before the 28th (Dr. Seuss with And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street),
or—most recently—12 times before the lucky 13th (J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone).
Most of those who post about failure do so from a position of ultimate success. They’re there to say, “Keep going. You can do it. You too can succeed,” or “I did it. You can, too.” They are sincere in their encouragement.
And they have wonderful suggestions.
Here’s the thing. Success is not guaranteed.
I don’t mean in the sense that even someone as well-published as Jane Yolen still receives rejection letters—rejection is built into the writing business. (I truly appreciate knowing that someone as well-published and awarded as Jane Yolen does receive rejections. It increases my respect for the business of publishing as well as for the author-poet herself.) I mean, if finding a wide readership for your work is your goal, and the only way to access your particular readership is traditional publishing, you may never make it onto the first rung of the publishing ladder.
Success is not guaranteed. It, like Beckett’s Godot, may never arrive.
Beckett knew that. The man was as bleak as he was fearless.
There’s another way to read his words. Failing better could mean the failure is bigger, deeper, further in the direction of complete, utter non-achievement. Or it could mean becoming a failure artist (and if you want to read echoes of Kafka into that, go right ahead).
What do I mean? Accept failure. Embrace failure. Explore failure.
Make failure your art.
Who cares if Godot, or success, ever comes?
What matters is the art. What matters is the making.
And the pleasure that making brings the maker.
Photos: All photos except palette licensed via Creative Commons:
Fail: Chris Griffths, Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisgriffith/3769283867
Samuel Beckett: https://agolpedepluma.wordpress.com/2012/08/
Madeleine L’Engle: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2012/03/02/a-wrinkle-in-time-turns-50/
Palette: Katherine Quimby Johnson.