I appreciate failure, rejection, and misfires. It’s easy to ignore truths, even truths we know, truths we could describe impressively in our preferential testing environment. Essay, oral presentation, multiple choice, short answer, or even true or false. Is failure good, necessary, and part of the process of most things? Yes. And yes because of these thousand reasons. Edison might have said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And yet.

Being rejected, or having something not work out is hardly failure. Not passing a test, even a test you’ve studied for, hardly means you are a failure. I think it needs to happen. It’s a natural part of our stories, like the seasons, like so many things. William Stafford says you need the bad poems. I believe that.

I wrote and sent to a publisher a poetry manuscript last year. I received an official “thanks for trying” letter in the mail last week. Of course I did. That’s how that works. But it’s my first and I’m excited about it. I know all about the statistics and probabilities in the publishing world. (If you want a wild story, look up the publishing history of the book The Confederacy of Dunces.)

I am reminded, when it comes to failure, rejection, and not passing something of the old “man in the arena” quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

I feel like I have read and heard and absorbed so many of these fail to succeed messages over the last few years, but still they ring true. Even if you do get tired of hearing them, or impatient about progress. I appreciate rejection, failures, misses, and misfires. They prove you are trying, they prove that you are in the game, they prove that you keep showing up.

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