Posted in art, avoidance

On failure in writing

“One of the things that young people need to know when they go into writing,” she said, “is that they ought to stop writing these stupid books that please people. They should write as if they might fail at it. To succeed at something mediocre is worse than to fail at something great.”

“Jamaica Kincaid on writing and critics.” Kate Tuttle. The Boston Sunday Globe, Nov. 3, 2013. p. N18.

“Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own.  Don’t put limitations on yourself. Other people will do that for you…failure has to be an option in art and exploration because it’s a leap of faith.  In whatever you’re doing, failure is an option, but fear is not.” 

James Cameron, director of “Avatar,” at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference on Feb. 13, 2010. CNN.

“If you’re going to try anything, try something big,” [Stephen] Sondheim told the rapt audience during a visit to Brown in February.  “Make a big failure.  Big failures are dignified.  Little failures are shameful.”

“Why Write?”  L. G.  Brown Alumni Magazine, Mar/Apr 2010, p. 20.

“Why fixate on success when, as Bob Dylan once put it, ‘there’s no success like failure’ and ‘failure’s no success at all’?”

Bob Dylan. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit.”  Bringing It All Back Home. Columbia Records. March 1965. Quoted in Stephen Prothero. God is Not One:  The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter. New York: HarperOne, 2010. p. 302.

“‘Insignificance is the locus of true significance. This should never be forgotten,’ Barthes tells the interviewer from Le Monde. ‘That is why it seems so important to me to ask a writer about his writing habits, putting things on the most material level, I would even say the most minimal level possible. This is an anti-mythological action.’”

Ben Kafka. The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork. New York: Zone Books, 2012. p. 142.


Novelist of matters surreal and magical. Studied philosophy and journalism. Worked in technology and finance. Knows about UX design and life coaching. Helps people write their books. Ask. Don't be shy. Author of TEN PAST NOON, BAD FIRE, PAINTING DRAGONS, and ENKIDU IS DEAD AND NOT DEAD.

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