Welp, I failed. The Fiction Project deadline came and went, and my half-finished Moleskine is still hiding out in my computer bag, waiting for me to fill it with poems. I suppose I could still follow through and send it in, but there’s no way it’ll be touring this summer.

And you know what? I’m okay with that.

Okay, I’m annoyed that I let myself fail to the tune of 25 bucks. Like last year’s NaNoWriMo, it doesn’t take long for me to get bored and tell myself it’s no big deal if I finish or not. I’m too okay with failure. I’m too okay with giving up.

But, as my sister said when I told her with a sigh and a shrug I didn’t pull it off after all, you’ve got to learn to “fail well.” There’s always something to learn from these kind of projects; like NaNoWriMo, everyone’s a winner just for trying, whether you cross the finish line or just barely make a mile.

So, what did I learn from my awesome failure?

1) I can write poetry. As in, if I am intentional about the work instead of waiting for the muse to light upon me like a sparkling butterfly from heaven, I can sit down, take a scrap of an idea, and run with it until there’s something resembling a poem. And from there, left brain can take over and pick it apart, crunch some syllables and meter, and give it shape. But first you gotta write the crappy first draft!

2) I need accountability. The only time I’ve ever succeeded at any sort of creative project was when I told a bunch of people I was doing it and/or found solidarity in a creative community and/or had an editor and a deadline staring me down. I didn’t have that with NaNo last year or The Fiction Project. Which leads to point three…

3) Maybe I’m a collaborator after all. I like to think myself an independent worker and learner, but still… it helps to have others to work with, to share ideas and carry the load. Art is not made in a vacuum. If I’m more open to working with people, swapping poems, and seeking out that aforementioned accountability. then maybe finding my voice will be easier.

Was it worth failing to learn these lessons? Perhaps so… I know these things, but I need to be reminded. A lot. And if that means announcing I’m going to pull off some crazy feat, then drag myself home defeated, then it’s worth it. In the end, I still ended up with a few more poems than I had and the confidence to press on with writing, so perhaps failure’s not so bad.

Have you failed awesomely at something, creative or otherwise? What did you learn?