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The Art of Failure: The Good in Doing Things Badly

Remember the Michael Jordan commercial where he recounts how many buzzer-beaters he’s missed, how many games he’s lost, and the other failures in his career? I love that. Because of the inspiration? Nosir. Because I’m not a Michael Jordan fan and grew up despising the bandwagoneering of suddenly-now-Bulls-fans because of the dunking guy with the tongue out who gets foul calls when people make eye-contact with him? Si senor. I am a bitter, emotionally crippled, hermit of a man.

Actually, though I don’t give a fig about the Bulls and never was an MJ fan, I do see the value of such a commercial. It’s kind of brilliant. The point being that those whom we all see as Incredible Successes, were not always and are not always so.

Failure is essential to success. Stick that on a poster with a mountain, or a hang glider, and bam. Maybe the hang glider is crashing into the mountain. Yes, that’s it.

J.K. Rowling was rejected 8 million times by several billion publishers before one took a risk on her. (Note: Slight hyperbole.) (Note the second: Did you see where there was hyperbole within hyperbole there?)

Trillions of writers have similar stories, many have tales of wallpapering their walls with rejection letters. Then, later, they all become gazillionaires. I imagine there’s a lot of slow rolling down of the window of the mercedes to peer at the editor who rejected their work. Then the slow removal of expensive sun-glasses followed by the ironic smile…finally, the energetic peel-out.

(Note the third: I’m frightfully sorry I keep using these massive numbers. I just feel the need to keep using higher and higher figures until they lose all meaning. Vote for me next election. I’d fit right in the Gubment.)

Some guy in this Room of Rabbits (who is clueless about sports) encouraged me to blog about the story of my stories. That is, to talk about what I am “going through” as I give fiction writing the ole’ college try. I am reluctant to bore you to death with details, but I will say that some of the best advice I’ve been given has had to do with failure.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” G.K. Chesterton I take that to mean that there is a season for doing a thing badly before we ever do anything well, and that I must, as a writer, not expect my early efforts to be anything close to perfect.

There are going to be lots of missed buzzer-beaters and, perhaps more appropriately, a lot of games I’m not even going to get in to play at all. But sittin’-the-bench is time to notice things. Practice is time to…um…practice. Time to get better.

So, here’s to bad writing and being willing to fail. Even these are gifts. Cheers!


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