Too big to fail? Gosh, I hope not…

Watch at your own risk…

As some of you know, this year I’ve set myself the creative project of making a short video every day, which I then post on Facebook. I’ve actually been pretty faithful and have only missed a few days, either due to technology failure or sheer fatigue. Tonight’s video was of the last block I walk when I get home. I shot at night on a Droid, so needless to say it’s a lot of dark screen with occasional bright lights from cars and heavy breathing from me cause it’s the start of the fall allergy season. In other words, it’s not the most riveting piece of footage ever.

That being said, this particular piece of video points to something I’ve totally embraced with this project—the possibility of failure. It’s been particularly easy as I have no prior video training (believe me, back when I studied TV production in college, those cameras were anything but mobile and I sorta ducked out of any actual camera-wielding responsibilities on a regular basis). So I approach each night’s video with “beginner’s mind”—I take a risk because I don’t have enough skills to know what I have to lose?

I think setting myself up to so publicly fail each night has also been reaping dividends in my poetry work (at which I’m a wee bit more expert). First it reminds me to stay in beginner’s mind—that place where anything is possible. And I’ve found myself being more willing to write about risky, uncomfortable things willfully by design rather than by the sheer accident of my poetic self always  triumphing over my editor self that’s screaming, “Uhm, you can’t write that!”

Another thing about failure—I don’t actually always fail. Sometimes some of the nuttiest things I’ve done for a video have turned out to be some of my favorite videos. (For example, the one where I announced I was going to read Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and then read it…silently to myself…with the webcam rolling. Or the one where I demonstrated tap dance steps, but only shot from the waist up.) And so I’m even more encouraged to risk because that scary first line that makes me want to hide under the covers might just turn out to be one of the strongest poems I’ve written yet.

In these economic times, the phrase “too big to fail” gets bandied about quite a bit. And while I recognize that the collapse of the financial system is a bit more serious than the collapse of a poem, I still hope no one ever applies that phrase to me. If I get too big to fail, that means I get too big to change, to grow, to get to the next level in my writing,  and hell, what’s the fun in that?

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Posted on August 30, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I love this post. Great insights. I am a great believer in “beginner’s mind,” as a fan of Natalie Goldberg’s, Writing Down the Bones. Never be afraid to fail. The best work is often unearthed from experimentation. Your video a day project is inspired!

  2. Reminds me of “Traveling Through the Dark.” (tee hee)

  3. i agree that this was a really good post. it gave me a lot to think about re: the idea of failure. i tell my students all the time that you learn more from failure than from success but i’m pretty sure that failure still scares the pants off of me. brava!

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