I was thinking today about failure, and how afraid people are of failure. Fear of failure is the death of art and creativity and often of social opportunities, too.
I think, for example, of the many men who are too intimidated to introduce themselves to women at parties, and this makes me think of the many men who asked me and my friends to dance at a ceilidh last Friday night.
One great thing about social dancing is that the reason why men ask you to dance is because they want to dance. I think Alisha told me once that it is bad manners to turn down a dance (unless for a very, VERY good reason), so I never did, even though I am shy about my dancing skills. Thank heavens it was an old-fashioned gathering where women were naturally assumed to be the followers. Having been asked to dance so often, and having been competently led, I, loather of dance class, had a very good time at this ceilidh.
I hope it really is a rule that women at public social dances are not supposed to refuse dances because it suggests that here, at last, is a place where men can be relatively sure they can interact socially with women without being shot down. And the better they can dance (especially the better they can lead), the more grateful women will be to dance with them. And the more the men work at it, the better they will be able to dance and lead.
But to start such a new activity does mean overcoming a fear of failure.
The fascinating thing about the relationship between creativity and failure is that both the pay-offs for an experiment that goes right and an experiment that goes wrong can be enormous. The surrealist who first painted a moustache on the Mona Lisa is hailed as a great wit; the woman who satirized Gone with the Wind with The Wind Done Gone was accused of plagiarism. (The book was published, however, and became a bestseller.)
Creativity depends on risk--on formulating new ideas, on doing something new, on taking apart someone's project--like a mobile phone--and putting it together in a whole new way. But risk does indeed imply failure.
Failure hurts. But it is interesting to really look at what in a failure was the real failure.
My two worst failures were giving up my dream of marrying a fellow Catholic (age 25) and not paying attention to the voice in my head that said, You will not be able to make it through a PhD program in this place alone (age 35). The marriage was not a failure; the failure was contracting it. The PhD was not a failure; the failure was not being rooted in the reality of the environment. The first failure came about through fear of being alone; the second failure came about through pride.
The first failure was somewhat resolved by blogging for Single women, and it was completely resolved when I did marry a fellow Catholic (age 38). The second failure is not resolved. Maybe I'll let you know when it is, if it is.
Failing and then persevering. It's the American dream--and the Christian narrative, too. Our Lord's creative work on earth looked like a big failure, one for which He was blamed and mocked and crucified, but His work transformed the world and His very crucifixion led to Easter Sunday.
In today's combox, it would be great if you described a failure from which you recovered and a success that followed it.
I'm taking the guard off the combox because I don't have much internet access today, so please be respectful of the feelings of other readers. Remember that this is a place where vulnerable, often lonely, Single women with unfashionable (e.g. traditionalist) opinions should feel safe.