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I’m Thankful for Failure

Failed to sample
A doubleweave throw that is not to be. The yarn is too fat and sticky to work. I failed to sample and paid the price.

Thanksgiving is a time to contemplate gratefulness and reconciliation.  I am both thankful for, and recently reconciled with, failure and its cousin perfectionism.

I just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  It wasn’t a book I was drawn to by the subject—living the creative life—but rather by the author. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, Committed, and The Signature of All Things has an extraordinary way of peeling back the layers of the human experience and getting real. So I read it and a big take away was sense of partnership with failure. Sit right down Failure and have some turkey.

Failure to live up
This is perfectly lovely cloth, but not what I intended. It feels like a failure when, in truth, it is nothing of the kind.

You see, writing a book about weaving is all about failure. You have this perfect vision about what you want in the book and a tidy outline showing it in glorious detail. You see in your mind’s eye all the projects you will make, the lessons you will impart, and the contributions you will make to weaving literature. In order to make this a reality though, you must fail, fail, fail, particularly when faced with the crushing realities of deadlines. You can’t afford to dwell on the failures. You must keep moving and figure out how to fail faster if you aren’t going to have the big professional/public failure. (Even this, you can live through, I have.) You must carve out enough time to fail, assuming you won’t get it right the first time.

Failure is not always failure
This was in the did-not-work pile. Digging it out to share in this post, I see some good potential. Walking away from failure and coming back to it often gives you fresh eyes.

This process applies to everything, not just writing a book.  Creativity is required for all work—accounting, cooking, business management, teaching—every single profession needs some big magic.

Like everyone else, I don’t like to fail. I’ve heard all the  conventional wisdom about failure being part of the process—heck I teach the conventional wisdom—but that doesn’t mean that failure isn’t still very, very hard and very, very personal.

For whatever reason, I keep failing at weaving (and writing about weaving and teaching weaving), but I don’t abandon it because this is what I do. Big Magic brought a Thanksgiving gift of being reconciled with failure; partnering with it to do what needs to be done—to get on with it. I am very, very grateful for all my failures and even when they stood me still in my tracks for a time, sometimes a long time, I keep going.

Happy Weaving,



5 thoughts on “I’m Thankful for Failure”

  1. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your thoughts on failure. I too have read Big Magic and enjoyed it. Did not think as much about failure after as you did, will go back for a reread.

    • Failure was more of a subtext than a theme of Big Magic. Her message was to be creative at whatever makes you happy. The failure takeaway was probably a result of where I am at personally right now. Not everyone is trying to find perfection. Just weaving itself gives us so much joy. That’s what I set out to do this year was to just weave for me and now I find myself weaving for publication. It’s funny that. We set out in one direction an end up wandering off on another path–sometimes the same rutted path. She tells another story in another book of going to an ashram and being determined to be silent for the entire stay and then they give her the job of greeter.

  2. You give me hope. I just spent a week weaving a table top(for my mother-in-law), Didn’t order enough yarn so tried a loose weave. Best I can say of the experience is I learned a lot of how not tos. Have ordered more yarn and have promised myself a do over
    Like so many have said …It’s only yarn 🙂

    • Gifting whoopsies end up in a whole other class of whoopsies. The best way to make the most of the “learning” is to jump right back in and weave the thing again. Your mother-in-law and your weaving chops will both benefit. Good luck with round two!

  3. Liz:

    I am sorry to have missed this post earlier – but I’ve only recently come to weaving (which I absolutely LOVE). This is a very important message in your post – a learning experience, even though it masquerades as a failure, is still a valuable learning experience. And, as an adjunct, if we can divorce ourselves from our primary expectations, perhaps as the result of the passage of time (and distancing ourselves from the emotional investment in the initial project) we might find the beauty that is actually there!

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