Who would I be without my failures?

Sometimes I think I like my failures more than they like me. And they so like me! While others measure us by our successes we measure ourselves by our failures. You know I’m correct about this.

What does this have to do with poetry? Everything.

I wanted to say that every poems begins as a failure. But after scribbling that sentence in my notebook on three separate occasions I realize it’s simply not true. Though it is one of those easy to remember lines and would be often repeated in workshops. The truth is, every poem begins as hope. The poet, or the person writing the poem*, hopes the poem about to be littered across the page will be the greatest ever spilled on paper.

Fear of failure is often referred to as writer’s block.

There are few things as enjoyable as writing badly. Sitting in a coffee shop. Scribble, scribble, scribble. I even allow myself to use words like love, dream, laughter; yes, I actually write those words. I’m convinced Shakespeare would be jealous. For those precious few minutes I don’t judge, I simply enjoy. Here’s the problem. If I closed my notebook. If I never read what I wrote, nor shared with friends the result of that joyfulness I could continue the self-delusion. Unfortunately, I’m filled with arrogance and pretense and pretend I’m really a poet. And, gasp, share my poems with the world.

Writing like this. Writing badly, when you know it’s bad and write it anyway, is like sex. Once it’s over you have nothing to show for it other than a memory of pleasure. Sex is never a failure. Neither is pleasure.

But there comes a time when failure is not an option§. There comes a time when writing poetry is too serious to enjoy. Yes, I said writing poetry is not something meant to be enjoyed. It’s meant to be hard work. If it was easy everyone would be at it and the magical pleasure of a successful poem would be less magical. All this would happen if it were easy.

You send out your manuscript to 100 contests and win none and continue writing. That’s not failure. Failure is when you fail to get out of bed in the morning.

I smeared ink across a newly written sentence. That’s a failure, but negated by the fact that I was writing.

No one would suggest that the man who crossed the finish line last in the New York Marathon was a failure.

Failure isn’t meant to be embarrassing. Though it often is.
Failure isn’t meant to be painful. Though is always is.
Failures and mistakes have nothing to do with each other.
Be brave. That’s my advice.

How many books have been written about success? Too many. The world needs books about failure, the more commonly shared experience.

The word failure is at is best in “I failed to write today.”

* Writing a poem doesn’t necessarily make you a poet. According to the International Poetry Registry and Administration, Geneva, Switzerland, only seven percent of poems are actually written by poets.
§ That line sounded so good in the movie “Apollo 13” I wanted to borrow it.