Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Better Late than Never...

by Jeanne Adams

Well, I had a whole other post ready for today and it's gone. Yep. Gone. The cyber-gremlins ate it. Which is why it wasn't posted at midnight like it was supposed to be. Sigh.

But it made me think about what happens when we lose something, whether it's text on the page or an earring, or a friend. Sometimes it's a devastating loss, as with the latter case of losing a friend. Sometimes, that seeming loss opens up a door we would never have known was there if we didn't "lose" the text for that scene from our new book. Recreating it, rewriting it sometimes leads to the invention of a whole new character or a more tension-raising scenario that makes the book SO much better. Suddenly, the book takes on a faster pacing, a new, edgier life, all because we lost half a chapter due to a power blip on the grid.

Hmmmm. So, is it a loss? Or a gain? Going back to that friend thing, I've lost a friend or two, sometimes through my own stupidity or neglect. Thankfully, I've usually been able to make up for my boneheadedness and reclaim the friendship, or at least smooth the water. I've finally learned to not regret it, but to be sure never to do "that" - whatever pushed the friend away - again. Then again, I've also had a time or two when I thought the world was ending because I had lost or upset a friend, only to discover that the "loss" was not only liberating, it was the best thing that had happened to me in years. In one case, it opened up the dialogue within the friendship to allow us to be more ourselves - less what we used to be as girls, more what we were becoming as we grew older.

In another, I quickly came to realize how much the so-called friend had brought me down, emotionally, and how much time I had spent listening to endless complaints which never seemed to have resolutions. I'm not sure that person actually wanted resolution, just a sounding board for griping. Wow. How could I have not seen that?
It took a loss. There's a kid's movie, made by Disney, called Meet the Robinsons. For those of you with older kids, or none at all, you've probably not seen this one. It's smart and funny on several levels. Like most of the Disney movies for the last few years, it has an adult level humor that the kids don't "get" and a kid level humor that isn't too annoying. I mention it, because one of the theme of this movie is to not give up on your dreams, to keep moving forward, refining as you go. As writers, we're called upon to do that all the time, with every critique, with every rejection letter, pretty much every time we sit down to write. At one point, in the Robinsons movie, a secondary character, in talking about failure says to Lewis, the hero, something that sticks out to me every time I see the movie. (BTW, I see this movie a LOT, since my three year old is on a Robinson's kick) Anyway, the Aunt Billie character is trying to boost Lewis's spirits after a particularly spectacular failure. She says, "From failure, you learn. From success? Not so much."

In Ninjitsu, it's said that you learn the most by being "uke" which is the demonstration partner. (The one who gets thrown around.) Ha!

What have you learned from a particularly spectacular failure?

What has failure taught you that you might not have learned any other way? Where has so-called-failure actually been or led to a roaring success? One of today's posters will win a cool Barnes and Noble bookmark and a Starbucks card, so let 'er rip!


brownone said...

Well, I once got "let go" from a job I had just started because they felt I wasn't picking the work up fast enough. I'll tell ya, it was actually a blessing because one week later I started working for a huge corporation with a MUCH bigger paycheck and better benefits!

Maureen said...

When we first had children we were renting an apartment and had to save to buy a house. So many people I knew had bought then house first and then had everything set to have children. The good thing was that I knew exactly what I wanted when we were looking at houses, like a fenced yard, a side street with little traffic, an open area for a swingset. The house wasn't perfect but the four of us have lived comfortably for sixteen years.

CrystalGB said...

I have learned that even I have failed at some things that I have gained experience and have learned what not to do as a result of the failures.

Cassondra said...

Great post Jeanne. Well worth waiting for.

Failure. Ugh. What an ugly word. I don't "do" failure well. I often say that I avoid things that I'm not good at. Now, if it's something new, and I can learn to do it better, that's an entirely different matter.

But if you want to look in the DSM III (or whatever version of the mental illness manual is out at present) under "fear of failure" there will be a picture of me.

I guess the thing I keep "failing" at and trying again is watercolor. Because whether it's any good or not is so bloody subjective! When a piece of art is amazing, a large percentage of people who are NOT your mother will look at it and go "that's great!" Not so with student attempts. I have yet to do a painting that I can look at and say "this one works. THIS is good." Each one of them has something I could have done better.

Art is just like that you know? Writing too, I think. I actually have a big storage container in which I keep all the scenes that got cut from my books. I guess they could be seen as failures, but I surely did learn how to write better scenes by doing those. I think that's why I keep them. In a world where progress is so difficult to measure, they are at least proof that I've covered that ground.

Probably part of why I hate writing but LOVE having written. I hate failure. Ew.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Brownone! You got the GR! :>

Isn't if funny how those job things are? You worry about letting go of one, but the next one seems to be SO much better. And Maureen, I know what you mean about houses. Sometimes waiting - which some see negatively - works out because instead of buying one, then moving when you needed more space, you waited and got what you wanted AND needed. Ha! That's good. Grins.

Cassondra, I am SO right with you there on the "failure-as-label" thing. My pal Tony Robbins likes to say that there are successes and there are Outcomes. We may not like the outcomes, but but we got SOMEWHERE. He feels that gives us the info we need to move ourselves in the right direction. He likes to use the metaphor that a plane flying to Hawai'i is off course 90% of the time. It's the check-ins and course corrections - what some would call failure - that get the plane to its intended destination.

That's how I'd think about your box. A satisfying chunk of course corrections! Ha! And hey, I've read your stuff. YOU are on course.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

crysatlgb, I completely agree with you. As I mentioned, my new mantra, courtesy of "Aunt Billie" in the Robinsons, is "From failure, you LEARN. From success? Not so much." heehee. She says it with this great slavic accent. It's great fun.

jo robertson said...

Brownone, you must claim your capture of the golden rooster! Congratulations.

I think wise people try to learn from their failures, to do something better the next time around or learn something about themselves.

There was a teaching position I wanted really badly when I was younger. That position didn't work out, but the one I got instead a few years later was the best job I've ever had. I loved teaching there because my children attended the same school.

brownone said...

Did I really?! I thought my computer was going bonkers because I posted so late! ;-)
BTW Cassondra...I think they're on to the DSM-IV (I do transcription for a couple of psychologists). And wow, I'm jealous of your talent! I can't even draw stick people. :-)

Anna Campbell said...

Great post, Jeanne. I've got to say I'm with Aunt Billie. I think our failures are the things that make us grow and learn and pick ourselves up and throw ourselves at that electric fence again. Although having said that, I HATE losing stuff I've written! But I think that's just laziness ;-)

Congratulations, Brownone! Is this the GR's first visit to you?

brownone said...

Yes this is the first time! I think the GR just wants to soak up the sun here in Florida. (It is pretty warm here, 80+ degrees F)

Laura J. said...

I used to fail at picking men. They were such loosers (HA--cuz they lost me!!!lol). But one of the loosers ended up given me one of the bests gifts ever, my wonderful son (I can say that even if he is a teenager). After having him I found a terrific guy (and I'm saying this even though this morning he was a butt) who has been a fabulous dad to my oldest son (who he adopted as his own) and has also given me two more wonderful kids! I've been very blessed!

Oh and this week I failed at my diet! But I'm not caring one smudge about that, because that Chick-Fil-A sandwich was the best!

p226 said...

I've learned that after a tank slapper on a bike, the calipers on your brakes compress all the way. So when you're heading into turn one (negotiable in your common family car at maybe 20mph) at 165mph and grab your brakes, there's nothing there.

And there's nothing there when you squeeze the lever the second time. But the third time you start to feel some braking and resistance. And by the time you've squeezed the lever four or five times, you get your brakes back. Unfortunately, by this point, you've overshot the turn quite severely, and are probably separated from the bike (and brake lever) and are bouncing through grass and pea gravel at 80mph.

That's the kind of lesson that sticks.


Cassondra said...

Brownone said:

BTW Cassondra...I think they're on to the DSM-IV (I do transcription for a couple of psychologists). And wow, I'm jealous of your talent! I can't even draw stick people. :-)

Are they indeed on another version? I figured as much. Probably all my mental illnesses--they couldn't fit them all in the book so they had to get a larger one. (grin)

And as to stick people--take up watercolor. It doesn't matter much if the stick people have some wobbles in them. You just say "I'm trying for a modernist approach." And people will nod and look thoughtful and go "Ooooohhhh. Ahhhhhh."

flchen1 said...

Congrats on the GR, Brownone!

Such a good post, Jeanne! I, too, hate to fail, so I tend to avoid things where I might. Oddly, I don't want my children to have similar hang-ups, so I've been trying harder to be willing to risk looking foolish in the interests of trying something new :)

I'm with Laura, in being thankful that some of my previous relationships did not work out--whew!! (as they say) ;)

Cassondra said...

Brownone said:

Yes this is the first time! I think the GR just wants to soak up the sun here in Florida. (It is pretty warm here, 80+ degrees F)

Brownone, if he scuffs his toe polish off on the sand, let me know. He was wearing OPI Russian Navy (blue black) but I've got a wonderful nearly black plum color (Midnight in Siberia I think it's called) I'll send right your way. Can't have him looking scuffed up next time the aussie girls try to steal...uh..ahem...capture him.

Cassondra said...

P226, it sounds as though you could use some of my OPI polish too. Works equally well on your nails and on your bike's tank and scuffed up parts.

Which color would you like? (evil grin)

p226 said...

Black or orange.

I'm guessing you have quantities of black directly on hand, no?

Donna MacMeans said...

Brownone - Congrats on the GR. Wouldn't mind soaking up a few of those Florida rays myself.

Cassondra - LOL on the watercolours. I'm an acrylic girl myself. Watercolors required a certain amount of pre-planning as once the paint hits paper it's hard to correct. Acrylics dry so fast, if you mess up you can paint right over it the next day. I mess up a lot *g*. Can you tell I'm not a plotter?

BTW, I once heard a suggestion that if your watercolour isn't working. Just let it dry, rip it into squares and reassemble as something new. Hard to do with canvas *g*.

You know - I'd written for ten years before selling, and in nine of those years, I'd never won a writing contest. I'd finalled many times, but never came in first. Until the year I sold. That year, 2006, I won a contest in January, won the GH in July, won a contest with my time-travel in August. I think it was all the learning from the previous nine years of not winning (I refuse to say failing) that led to the magical 2006. Learning from mistakes works. I know because I've made so darn many of them.

Helen said...

Very thoughtful post Jeanne.
Congrats Brownone on the GR I am sure he is going to have fun with you
I have and still do train a lot of staff at work and one of the first things I say to them all is if you never make a mistake or fail at something you never really learn anything use these mistakes or failure as a lesson. And always be honest with yourself and others about your mistakes after all we are all human.
Have Fun

Susan Seyfarth said...

This is a great topic, Jeanne, & super timely for me, as I'm desperately trying to get some momentum on a new WIP. I sit down to write every day, & even when I manage to squeeze out a few pages, they don't lead anywhere. I've started this darn book well over a dozen times now.

But each false start eliminates a few angles, narrows down the possibilities, & clarifies my thinking. Just yesterday I had a brainstorm that gives my heroine a nice GMC that I finally feel like I can WORK with. My hero, however, has not been quite as forthcoming. I'm working on him today, though. I'll let you all know if my many...Outcomes...have lead me into anything like a good starting point for him. :-)

Aunty Cindy said...

WAY TO GO, Brownone! Hope you and the GR enjoy soaking up those rays.

GREAT POST, Mme Duchesse! One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Woody Allen: "If you're not failing once in awhile, you're not in the business."

In something as subjective as writing or art, it's often hard to see the line between success and failure. And that line changes with every person and every attempt!

Helen, I LOVE your advice to your employees about being human. I used to give similar 'talks' when I was a manager.

As for my own "happy failures" jobs and relationships rank right up there at the top.


Cassondra said...

You know, when I did corporate teambuilding, there was one exercise we'd do with mid-level managers that was very telling, from the observer's point of view.

We set it up so that "failure" was inevitable for each individual many times throughout this one brief event (it lasted maybe 20 minutes). "Failure" at the activity resulted in the person who "failed" having to raise his or her hand and say, loudly, "I MADE A MISTAKE, I MADE A MISTAKE."

There were no actual CONSEQUENCES to the making of a mistake, but to play the game fairly, you did have to admit that you made one.

Now you have to realize that we were outside, in the woods, doing silly things completely unrelated to the workplace. But I watched people cheat, hide their mistakes, hide their "failures" and cover up, point fingers, get mad, place get the picture--ALL TO AVOID the simple act of raising the hand and saying, out loud "I made a mistake."

Some of the managers got the point and some did not. In the debriefing period for this exercise, many did admit how very difficult it was to actually say that out loud--to admit that one had made a mistake--even if the instruction was to kneel and duckwalk and say 'moooooooo' instead of the expected "quack quack". We set them up for a mistake, and still, many flat out refused to admit that they'd made one.

Imagine the work environment Helen speaks of--when there's real money or issues at stake, rather than just fun?

Failure, in our society, is a very big deal.

p226 said...

Cassondra's touching on a pet issue of mine. Owning up to failure when that failure impacts others. I consider it a measure of integrity.

Helen said...

Cassondra my job does invole money and this is why I say to everyone I work with always be honest I know it takes a lot to own up to making a mistake but that to me shows strength and honesty in a person and these are things that I think are really important in people.
Have Fun

Cherie J said...

I was a failure at keeping one of my friends from my high school days. I am actually happy about it because she was not there for me when I really needed her to be there for me. I was still willing to try but she was not so I consider it a good thing. Her selfcenteredness was more acceptable in high school but I don't think in adulthood that it is something I should have to put up with.

anne said...

This blog is so timely and important. I think that everyone has learned from many or at least one of these experiences. Referring to the relationship issue. It is difficult to consistently be a soundingboard for individuals who never take advice or listen. It would be gratifying to have someone listen to my side once in a while, instead of just sounding off.

ruth said...

I doubt that anyone can escape an episode either at work or in school that involves a friendship gone awry. I know that I have and it is awkward and difficult. SOmetimes I am at a loss as to what I have done or not done and it seems so immature and petty to dwell on it for hours and days. If I failed at being a wonderful friend then so be it. I hope that next time i will be aware of my shortcomings.

ellie said...

Great blog! Thanks.
I was fired and it was a letdown and unexpected but I benefitted from it by completing my degree and then getting a productive and satisfying job in another field which I loved.

petite said...

thanks for this topic on your blog today. Failure is universal and having experienced failure many times I realize now that it is part of life. It is hard to take but hopefully we gain from it. Failing at being a good enough daughter or sister is one that always was on my mind and still continues to plague me at times.

jenna said...

Love the post today.
I have never been an athlete, in fact, far from it but I can cook like a dream. I was always rejected in phys. ed. and felt sick over it but have recovered now as an adult. Some things we cannot do and others we can master. The important thing is to get over these upsets and failings and pick yourself up and carry on with your best intentions and abilities.

Nancy said...

Brownone, congrats on snagging the rooster! I hope he enjoys the sunshine.

Jeanne, this is an interesting subject. I guess my first staggering failure was the spectacular crash of my first serious relationship. It was really hard to deal with, but I eventually came to realize that it couldn't have crashed in such a devastating way if he'd been the man I thought he was. The whole experience taught me to judge people by their actions, not their words. If I'd focused on his actions, I'd have known to run for it.

Dianna Love Snell said...

Hi Jeanne and gang -

Sorry to hear the gremlins got you, but the post is great. I figured something was up when I stopped by this morning and no new post.

I'm on Cassondra's wavelength about art. I have a box of pieces I cut out of pictures I was working on where I liked one part, but not the rest of the picture. I save scenes I cut too.

I was born an artist so I attemped a lot of things out of creative curiosity. During my years in middle and high school I tired a lot of mediums and finally realized I was not a good artist at things like landscapes or cartoons - very different from drawing or painting photorealistic portraits, which is what I do best. I'm in awe of Manga artists, love their work.

I never thought of all the sucky art I drew or painting along the way to my discovery as failures so much as working through the learning curve and finding out waht I really wanted to do. I didn't enjoy doing landscapes or cartoons (good thing, because NO ONE would have paid for mine "g").

That helped me be open to trying things without worrying about if I could do them or not - because I had no way to know until I got my hands dirty. If I don't do well on the first or second attempt at a new project my determination to continue and/or be successful depends on how important that task is to me. So I really don't think of the first couple attempts at something as a succeed or fail concept so much as a test ride to see if I want to keep going.


Nathalie said...

A failure... hum, I think I must have learned to trust myself when I have an idea, and speak my mind :)

Lily said...

I think I must have learned that every failure comes for a reason, and that the most important thing is to learn from them and not repeat them!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

As my grandmother used to say.."Anyone who doesn't make mistakes isn't doing anything."
I work with money daily, I make mistakes and have often had to say.... "uhhhhh I did it." I have been in this job for years and thought it isn't easy I will own to it if I messed up. Learning from your mistakes is something I have preached for years, to my kids, to my friends, to the folks I train. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, the key is to learn from it.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Brownone, I'm joining the GR with you in FL. It's nice today in DC, but by Sunday? Supposed to be in the 30's for the high. Brrrr.

Anna, it's true, it does teach you stuff, but like you, I HATE losing text, even if I do feel like the rewrite is better. :>

Laura, have to agree, if they lost YOU, they're losers! :> And Chick-fil-a isn't a cheat, it's protein! Grins.

P226, that lesson would stick badly enough to have to be removed with tweezers. I hate pea gravel for just that reason. Oooooouuuuch.

Cassondra and Brownone, you're making me spew tea with the whole Book of Mental Illnesses. It's like the Great Big Book of Everything (Those of you with small kids will know what this is) for maniacs. Snork.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

flchen1, I had to LOL about avoiding things where one might fail. So familiar a tune...but like you, I'm trying to mend my own ways as an example to my sons to not be SO perfectionistic!

Oh, and I'l say ditto to your comment about being glad certain relationships didn't work, even tho' at the time....ugh.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Cassondra and P226, can you use it on gun barrels too? I scuffed mine up while hunting for the GR...Mwah-ha-ha!! Just kidding, he's too important a bird to shoot.

As for that polish on his talons, couldn't we have gone red? It looks so good with the gold feathers...

Donna, I had to mop up tea again on the tearing up the watercolors. Jeepers, when will I learn NOT to drink while reading the blog? Jeeeez. (more napkins needed...)

Helen, you are SO's hard sometimes but it's right!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan, in a throwback to the holidays, I'll say, may all your Outcomes be merry... Ha! I know what you mean though. I'm in the throes of Book 2 of my contract and in rereading it, I see I've got some work to do. Grrrr.

AC, I love that Woody Allen quote. I heard something similar in that if you're not failing, your not pushing it hard enough.

Okay, Cassondra, that moonwalking duck mooing thing...quite the visual! Ha!

P226, I couldn't agree more. Nothing more important and nothing more indicative of character and integrity than saying, "I made a mistake and I take responsibility for it." :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Cherie J, good for you for realizing that about your friend. Sometimes people "grow" at different rates. Or as a coach friend of mine says, some are complainers, some are campers and some are climbers. :> Welcome to the mountain! Ha!

Anne, it's so true, isn't it? You get those people who just whinge and whine and never once say, "Oh, and what's up with you?" I've done my best to weed THOSE out of my life. :>

And Ruth, ditto to what you said! :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Yeah, Ellie! It's great when you can look back and see that something like getting fired catalyzed you to make big strides.

And Petite, it IS hard to be a good daughter sometimes. I know that my father STILL sees me as happy-go-lucky, sunny, blonde and...well, not that bright. :> Why, I have no idea. I have the grades, job experiences, etc. that "say" I'm bright...but he's my dad, I'm his get the picture. Snicker.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Yeah, Jenna! What do you like to cook? Did you enjoy the recipes in December?

And Nancy, I so totally agree, I've had that kind of crash too and wow, I used to think, if I'd just looked at what he DID rather than what he SAID... :>

Dianna, I love your outlook and your Art! :> Having seen your work on your, I'm in awe. Glad you didn't try for cartoons, considering how great you are at the BIG art projects! (Not to mention at your writing!)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Nathalie, good on you! Keep going that way and you'll do great things...I could wish I had had that skill earlier, but I'm hopefully there now... :> Especially on the speaking my mind part! Ha!

Lily, you are SO right. There is nothing worse than reapeating the mistke. Grrrr.

Joan said...

Just some random thoughts:

I don't do watercolor or acrylic. I color! I LOVE getting a coloring book and a fresh box of Crayolas and just staying in the lines.

Losing a scene? Well, once I had my document open for THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE, closed it and when I opened it back was ALL JUMBLED! I spent FOREVER piecing it back together and ended up with five extra paragraphs.

And p226, ain't it the truth about owning up to mistakes. Few people do anymore. (sigh)

Laura J. said...

Jeanne--Thank You! and btw I just had some protein!!*g*

Joan--I'm a stamper (make cards with rubber stamps) and someone once told me that using stamps is coloring for big people. So I like to color too!!

doglady said...

Greetings, Banditas! Congrats on the GR, brownone! He definitely seems to be seeking the sun! I learned a valuable lesson when my computer died and my entire novel was on it with NO backup. My entire family called me one at a time to scream at me and say "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN'T BACK IT UP???" Fortunately, the husband of our local bookseller is a computer genius. He managed to save the entire book and transfer it to my new computer. Then he taught me about portable drives and several other systems of backup. Won't do THAT again! My father used to say "Character is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." Sad, but true. Lost my Great Dane to bone cancer when all of the surgery and chemo failed, but I learned the difference between dying and living up to the very end with joy and no knowledge or one's own mortality. It was a beautiful lesson to learn.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Joan and Laura, I LOVE stamping and coloring. It's such mind-freeing fun. Had to LOL that stamping is coloring for big people. Snork.

Doglady, SO sorry about your Dane. Lost my special Dalmatian girl a couple of years ago, but got a similar lesson in dignity and grace.

As to back up...Grrrr. All I have to say is Thank God for thumb drives. They SO make backing up easier! :>

blackroze37 said...

that my children see something bad happens, but you survive and get stronger for it

Brandi V said...

I have learned in all situations to trust my gut feeling and things will work out fine.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Blackrose and Brandi, couldn't agree more!