Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Fail Better

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

A famous quotation. What in the blasted barnacles does failing better mean? This sounds profound, but is it?

Anne Lamott wrote in Bird by Bird that most of her writing students come to her classes not to learn how to write but how to get published. She doesn’t teach how to get published, and barely teaches how to write. What she does do is share her experience of struggle, perseverance, and failure. She is an engaging and successful writer, so reading about her fails is inspiring.

She perfected the better and best failing.

The stories we follow and the tales we tell are not really about failures. They are about overcoming first failed attempts. The more dramatic and the higher the stakes, the better the fail, er, I mean the ultimate success.
We really have no narrative of failure. Not the real kind. Not in literature and certainly not in the popular culture. True better failures are banned in storytelling. Even our narrative of history is the story of the victors.

Our failures are the stories of ultimate success. “If at first you don’t… try again.” We live on hope.
I know of no alternative. I intend to do better, not fail better, thank you.


  1. I interpret failing better to mean coming closer to succeeding. So like getting a form rejection is failing. Getting a personalized rejection is failing better. I could totally be off though. ;)

  2. This is truly a profound post, Mirka. I'm reading it numerous times and going deeper each time. Personally, I don't think much about failure. To me, it's just another word for learning. And I love that Annie Lamott quote, because those who write for the end result of publication or sales or bestselling lists or to win contests or any other type of accolade are seriously off track, I think. Those ideas and wishes may come later once the book is done but when writing, it's such a personal battle between the writer and the page.

  3. Thought provoking. I don't have time right now to ponder this sufficiently to make a coherent response, but it think it's in our failures that sometimes we find ourselves closer to God. When we truly realize that no, we really can't make a success out this situation on our own, it's then that we realize how much we need God. So for me, to fail better is to fail in such a way that I acknowledge my inadequacies and my innate need for God's help.

  4. After what Evelyn said, I have nothing to say. Fail better.

  5. Yes, I often think where would any of us be without hope. The journey can be so much better than the finish line.