A man on public radio has written a book about the importance of failure, especially if you’re in the arts. People don’t recognize it, but if you’re in business or other places, fear of failure keeps people from achieving. I can kind of see it as a general theory. Here’s the story: as an experiment, an art teacher teaches a ceramics course divided the class in half.
He took half the class and said, “At the end of the semester, your grade will be determined by weight. We’re going to weigh every piece that you do and so many pounds will be an ‘A’, so many pounds a ‘B’, and so on.” He took the other half and said, “Your grade is going to be determined on your single best piece.”
Now, all of us — especially if we work in arts — we’re sure of what’s going to happen. We’re sure that best work is going to be done by the people in Plan B where everything depends upon doing one good piece, and the other side will create tons of crap. It’s not what happened. The people who were just told, basically, forget about grades, just create a lot of stuff. That was the real message: forget about being evaluated all the time, just keep doing it.They learned, they progressed, they got better, they did some of the best pieces. Isn’t that fascinating? I wish somebody had told me this fricking story forty years ago.
That’s kind of the stuff I see a lot of, especially in music. You may not be the best songwriter right now, but just keep working on it and you’ll get better. But I feel like everything I have to do has to be perfect, so its even hard to get started.
See, what it’s meant for me as a writer, is that I am so demanding about what I do, especially poetry and fiction, the stuff that I care deeply about. I tend to take rejection way, way too seriously. For someone that’s worked as a magazine editor, that’s stupid, because I know firsthand that if you send a piece in to any literary magazine, they’re going to have thousands of other pieces, the process is way too fast, and you should never say this is the final judgement on my work when it gets rejected. It’s crazy to do that — It’s just wrong. I know that and yet…
My friend Matt Cashion is a writer. He’s much smarter and he’s always on my case about this, because he’s younger and more energetic, too. I’ll send a novel off and it’ll get rejected and I won’t send it off for six months, but he will get rejected, but have four other copies out to different publishers. As soon as one gets rejected, he’s writing somewhere else. He keeps the US Postal Service in business. His approach is right. So anyway, that’s my story.
You can relate that to our topic here, about love in general and just getting out there and just keep on trying.
So you mentioned music – are you a musician?
Yeah, I play bass.
You play what I think of now as a bass guitar. Have you ever played a stand-up?
No, that’d be awesome.
It was. I played back in the early 60’s. I don’t want to say before bass guitars were invented, but it was close.
That’s what I was thinking. I know Paul McCartney played a bass, like a bass guitar, but it still looked almost like an upright.
So you’re doing music. Are you playing with a group?
No, not really. I’m just kind of working on my own music and having friends fill in where ever I need them, mostly drummers. It’s hard to find a drummer.
No kidding. You know the story of the Beatles, right? They started out with a drummer, and not that they’re bad guys, but they were always very ambitious. They had a chance to record if they got a decent drummer. That’s when they found Ringo and they just said to the other guy, “Bye! You’re not one of us anymore.” And he watched the Beatles get rich and famous and it drives him crazy.
Yeah, I bet. I heard in one of the Beatles later albums, Paul McCartney just rerecorded all the drums, replaced all of Ringo’s drumming.
Really? That’s interesting, isn’t it? I don’t know, I guess it’s how it sounds when you get it.