Saturday, April 16, 2011

Success and failure

I've been thinking about the definition of "success" and "failure."

We tend to talk about failed careers, failed relationships, failed manuscripts, failed projects. The half-knitted scarf that is three inches wide in some places and six inches wide in others. The apartment we fled before the lease was up, despite the cost. The manuscripts that never sold. The manuscripts we never finished.

I have a hard time calling those experiences "failures." Certainly they didn't work out as intended; certainly the time came to put them aside. And yet, maybe they worked for a while. Or their flaws taught us something that made the next experience much better.

Behind every story I've published is a stack of stories, and attempts at stories, that never made it. But I don't think the published stories would exist if it weren't for the thousands of unpublished words that came before them.

One of my mini-obsessions is armchair mountaineering. I've read dozens of accounts of expeditions, and the interesting thing is that the mountaineers didn't always have to make the summit for the expedition story to be riveting, and absolutely worth reading.

There are days when the summit can't be reached, but still the climb is worth something.


  1. Searching for my virtual tabbie.

    Thanks. I really have to say, your posts always seem to align with certain feelings I have at the moment.

    Still climbing.