A Dozen Little Failures

I have a dozen failures,
Every one of them is mine.
Like a dozen little ducklings,
Spread out in a line.

They follow me throughout my life,
They never miss a beat.
A dozen little failures,
Gathered all around my feet.

Didn’t wash the dog today,
Forgot to feed the fish,
Called my mom an hour late,
And broke another dish.

I have a dozen failures,
They always come along.
Chattering the whole long way,
To remind me I’ve done wrong.

I stubbed my toe again,
And bought a shirt I didn’t need.
The dishes aren’t done,
And there’s the book I didn’t read.

I failed that class I should’ve aced,
And didn’t make the bed,
That lettuce rotted in the fridge,
And there are words I should’ve said.

I have a dozen failures,
They populate my life.
A dozen little failures,
Who always cause me strife.

I should’ve run a mile today,
I wish I’d washed my clothes,
My garden’s been neglected,
I could weed between the rows.

My writing’s been abandoned,
I forgot about that note.
I didn’t clean the bathroom,
And there’s a hole in my new coat.

I have a dozen failures,
They follow me around.
Like cheeping, peeping ducklings,
It’s not so bad as it might sound.

They come and go in every life,
They’re not so easy to forget.
Screeching, scratching failures,
Round every person I have met.

We all want something better,
A life within the lines.
A perfect pretty box,
To build around our shrines.

I have a dozen failures,
I think I’ll keep them all.
They peck apart my perfect world,
And remind me of His call.

Here’s To Embarrassment

Writing professionally is not for the faint of heart.

It’s true. Unfortunately, by its very nature, writing is a vulnerable business. Your stories are pieces of yourself, and putting them out to potential ridicule or even well-meaning critique is a difficult thing to do.

But there’s more to it than that, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years thinking about what makes starting out as a writer feel so hard—especially as my own career has gained a footing and is moving toward something like a real beginning.

This quote by Ed Latimore, a former heavyweight boxer and a full-time writer, sums up what I’ve discovered amazingly well.

“Embarrassment is the cost of entry. If you aren’t willing to look like a foolish beginner, you’ll never become a graceful master.”

Ed Latimore

Beginning any new skill, especially in a professional environment, is a difficult thing to do, whether you’re writing, have your first job straight out of college, or simply were asked to light the bonfire for the first time. You run the risk of failure, awkward mistakes, and breaches in etiquette that will hang around as a standby joke for meetings at the water cooler for years.

Okay, probably not for years. But that’s what it feels like.

I, unfortunately, am very easily embarrassed. I like to show my best face to people, and I always like to go above and beyond expectations wherever possible.

And, realistically, that’s not always possible.

Starting a new skill and beginning a career requires fumbles. It requires mistakes and failures and awkward, stilted first attempts and most of all . . . embarrassment. If you haven’t been failing, especially as a writer, then you haven’t been trying. Your work can’t grow and your career can’t grow, because you can’t grow. As much as I would like to think that my career is built on the things I’ve done right over the years, I know that it’s not. It’s built on the moments that I got hit in the stomach with a massive dose of embarrassment, swallowed my pride, corrected my mistake . . . and learned from it.

Because embarrassment might be a harsh teacher, but my goodness, do you learn from it.

What are some ways you’ve learned to work through embarrassment in your life? Tell me about them in the comments!

Dr. Watson

As most of you know, I lost my sweet Mrs. Hudson at the end of January. She was older than the hills, on full-time medication, and finally reached the point where we knew it was time to let her go.

I held her while she got the shot, we buried her on our back property with a big white stone over her grave, and I swore that was it. We were done with cats, we had a puppy now, and no cat could ever replace Mrs. Hudson. To be honest, I was afraid of never finding another cat with a personality I liked as much as hers.

Six days later, I caved.

A cat brings something into a house, guys. It fills a hole. I kept thinking I saw her dart past my feet, or heard her meowing outside at night. It nearly drove me bonkers.

So, six days after she died, on a complete whim, we went to visit the humane society.

Just to look.

Pro-tip, if you ever go to the humane society just to look, you’re not going to just look. I can promise you that.

They only had two cats when we came in, which kind of shocked me. When I picked up Mrs. Hudson, there were probably thirty cats waiting to be adopted. This time, nothing but empty cages. One had a tortoise-shell female who was labeled an ‘overstimulated’ cat (a cat who will play or enjoy petting, but will quickly become overstimulated and bite or scratch.) Obviously, not a cat for us.

And . . . there was Dr. Watson.

They had a label for him too. Shy, anxious, going to need lots of time to adjust to his new home. Since Mrs. Hudson was the same way, I figured he was perfect. I know how to deal with shy cats.

I’m very shy myself, you know.

So . . . after a lot of agonizing, we brought him home. He spent the first two weeks hiding in our closet with a nasty bout of a kitty cold he picked up at the kennel. We saw him only at night, when, promptly at nine o’clock, he came to join us in bed and sneeze in our faces while we slept.

Snuggling is always mandatory, even with a cold.

Since then, he’s come out of his shell, gotten rid of the sniffles, and become the perfect addition to our little family. He gets along famously with our puppy—who is delighted to have a cat that finally is young enough to want to play—is quiet and mannerly, and always up for a good cuddle. Even if he is already three, I’m pretty sure he’s actually Mrs. Hudson on another of her nine lives, back to reclaim her queendom and boss us around for another ten years. I still miss her terribly, but am relieved to have another cat in the house.

Every writer needs a cat, right?

Have you ever welcomed a new animal after the loss of a beloved older pet? What was your experience like? Tell me about it in the comments!

Writing Poetry

I dislike admitting that there is a kind of writing I can’t do.

I will freely admit that part of this—and only part—is a pride thing. I make my living off of writing, and I like to think that I can do most kinds well.

The not-pride part of the annoyance stems from the fact that I do make my living off of my writing. My career revolves around my ability to communicate with words, and when I run across a style of writing that I don’t automatically adapt to, it bothers me. I’m still a baby in the industry, but one of my goals is to be well-rounded as a writer, with multiple areas of expertise and a fat bag of tricks that I can draw from should the need arise.

So, when I was assigned a homework project a few months back that immediately made me think, ‘Oh, but I can’t write poetry,’ it bothered me.

Because I never write poetry. Ever. It’s not in my bag of tricks, it’s not something I would ever think to do, and it’s not something I would ever, ever claim to be skilled at.

And it bugged me.

And because it bugged me, I did exactly what I always do in these situations.I decided to change it.

Because I am not great about tolerating things that bug me and leaving them in peace, y’all. It’s not my thing.

Since I am a hands-on kind of person and have discovered that my learning style is ‘sit down and do it until you have learned to do it’, I decided to add a document to my computer and fill it with as many bad poems as were needed to produce a few good ones.

In case you’re wondering, it’s a lot.

Less than I was expecting, however. In fact, once I got past the whiny voice in my head that was complaining about not knowing how to write poems, I found that I quite liked writing them.

Who knew?

My original plan of one poem a day was derailed by deadlines, homework assignments, and family problems, but the ones I did produce aren’t too shabby. I plan on sharing a few and continuing to explore this new medium in the next few months.

We’ll see how it goes!

When was the last time you decided to challenge yourself with something you ‘couldn’t’ do? How did it go? Tell me about it in the comments!