I'm fascinated by failure.
So many times I haven't bothered to try something, or put off trying something, because I was sure I would fail.
Edison said "if I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."
You have to try and fail and fail and fail if you ever hope to succeed. It's a truism that every artist has 10,000 crappy drawings inside them; the only way to get good is to get those crappy ones out.
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." - Samuel Beckett
"Failure mode" is a grim engineer's joke - a fancy gadget with multiple operating modes breaks down; you say it's operating in the failure mode. If, like so many complex modern gadgets, it has more than one way to go wrong, you ask which failure mode it's in. When I started making music in 1991 I chose the name "Failure Mode" for my broken synthpop releases. An acquaintance's inksplatter art experiment, an image of the fall of Icarus, became the icon I associated with Failure Mode. After carrying that image around for 25 years I'm ready to get it as a tattoo.
For the new year, I knew I needed to step up my game, try more, fail more, create more. I have so many ideas, so short an attention span. I want to create a glorious epic novel, graphic novel, soundscape, computer game, crime scene, so much more. I work in fits and starts, producing only small fractions. I was introduced to a Real Writer once with "Russell writes too," and the Real Writer said "what do you write?" I answered "um, chapters." My most heroic effort at completing a project yielded two thin comic books, just 30-40% of the whole vision (huh, 40% doesn't sound so bad actually) and a paralyzing fear of trying to go the rest of the way.
Last year, I followed along in LiveJournal as crisper
executed his 2010 resolution of writing a piece of short fiction every day for a year
. I found it vastly inspirational and entertaining. I would love to be the type of person with the discipline to match that feat, but I don't think I am.
I tried setting myself a more modest resolution: to create something - anything - every day. Not necessarily complete, but a sincere effort at production, every single day. Shoot for a complete ultra-short story, or 500-word chunk of something bigger, or a complete drawing, or a complete design document for a system, or a pitch document for a game design, or a sexual innovation, or a song, something, anything.
That lasted two days into the new year.
Okay, fine, I don't have the discipline to do something new every day. I decided to at least catalog all my creations this year, give them Failure numbers (Nine Inch Nails Halo style), so at the end of a year I can look back and say "hey, I created 100 things" or whatever it turns out to be.
So far it feels good to produce, even unevenly. Some of the Failures (like design documents) will remain under wraps for now, but a lot of them I will post here. Maybe at the end of a year I'll post an index.
In the meantime, hwrnmnbsol
is picking up crisper
's torch and running with it with a 365-day writing project of his own. So start following that if you know what's good for you.Here's to failure