Failure

I’ve been thinking about failure lately. For two reasons:

1) Getting a book published is incredible. And people are really excited about it and that makes me happy and feeds my ego. But it has a flip side too: No one has read the book yet. I’ve waited for plenty of books and albums and whatevers that didn’t deliver. I’m sure there’s some couch for me to lie on somewhere and mumble through my┬áinadequacies, but I don’t really care. I wrote stories that someone liked enough to print. I’m hanging onto that for now. Which leads me to…

2) I’m teaching at Dordt College in northwest rural Iowa right now. The students are particularly bright; for the most part, they’re excellent writers. But getting them to volunteer an answer in class is–I was going to say, Like pulling teeth, but I know what that’s like, and it’s not really the same thing. Getting them to pipe up is mostly frustrating. I think, at the heart of it, there’s a fear of getting it wrong, of failure. But if they knew me–which they don’t, I’m still the new guy–they’d know that I’ll take crash-and-burn glorious failure over a strong hesitation to join the discussion any day. How else do you learn but to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail? And if failure stays with us to the end (which I’m certain that it does), what’s there to be afraid of?

So, if you don’t like my book, that’s fine. I’m still glad you got it; I’m still glad you read it. And I’ll welcome the criticism; it won’t be rain on my parade. I’ll keep driving figure 8s like those nutty Shriners (which might be a perfect facsimile for the writing process anyway).

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