let's talk about failure, baby
Happy November! I don’t have 10 items for you today but what this week’s newsletter lacks in things to share it’ll make up for in pretty pictures.
With Halloween now behind us, I’m able to share at long last a few pictures of the 10yo’s completed angel costume, complete with faux felt feather embellished wings and a light-up halo (she originally wanted a silver belt and shoes, but I’m kind of digging the 80s vibe of the rainbow tie-dye sneakers and the pink “belt” I quickly crocheted for her). She ended up wearing the halo more as a wreath/headdress for evening trick or treating (gotta remember to prototype things like this earlier than the night before!) but overall I was pretty happy with how this turned out (although adding the feathers to the wings took a lot longer than I originally anticipated). It would be swell if we could get more pre-made faux feather options on the market given feathers are indeed the new fur.
Sunday marked the 18th anniversary of my first Blogger blog post. In honor of this milestone, I collated my 18 most-viewed blog posts of all-time.
Following up on last week’s newsletter (#8) turns out the snaap survey is still a thing. I haven’t had much time this week to dig into it but could easily spend a lot of time doing so. Perhaps I’ll report back here on my findings in future newsletter updates.
Also following up on that item, there was a response to the NSQ episode about creativity & happiness at the end of the latest episode, from Jason Adams, who cowrote the song Scotty Doesn’t Know, featured in the cult hit EuroTrip:
Hi, this is Jason. I enjoyed listening to your episode about happiness and creativity. Listening to it, I had so many feelings! I co-wrote the song ‘Scotty Doesn’t Know,’ which appeared in the movie EuroTrip in 2004. And despite some success, this song has not made my fortune as a musician. Your podcast didn’t really address the grinding austerity that is endemic to creative jobs. For lots of people, there’s a nasty tradeoff between the creative urge and making a living. I became a freelance software engineer myself to survive. This work can be dry and tedious. And sometimes you just cannot satisfy your creative urge with the work you do to subsist. I can say with some authority that creative work, like other work, has its ups and downs. It’s got its own tedium and agony. The great appeal of creative work, on the other hand, I think, is control and escapism. Creation offers the prospect, perhaps illusory, of controlling one’s reality. You can take refuge, however briefly, in a world of your own.
I wrote last week, and I quote: “Ultimately for me, all of these conversations about creativity are moot without solving the problem of TIME.” But what Adams writes in response to the episode captures all of the feels I’d really love to keep exploring some day through my podcast.
As the saying goes, the last 10% really does take the longest, but the house additions/renovations are really coming along. Last Friday, Oakland-based Arcadian Stained Glass popped by to help install the custom black-crowned night heron piece he created for us on commission. Tell me you love Oakland without telling me you love Oakland, am I right?
“Shouldn’t we spend some time hearing the failure stories too? Can’t they be as instructive as the success stories?” That’s Stephen Dubner, host of the Freakonomics podcast, from the ongoing series about how to succeed at failing, part 3. I referenced the episode in my roundup of 18 top blog posts (#15) but there’s so much more I could say about it. Dubner goes on to say something in his intro that made me think of art/grad school, specifically the role of the critique: “When I read the other students’ writing, and it didn’t work—if it was boring, or pretentious, or confusing, or if it lacked self-awareness—I could see that failure, right there on the page, in a way that was hard to see in my own writing.” And I love Melanie Stefan’s idea of a CV of failures. In a similar spirit, back in February I wrote a thread on X/Twitter about all the jobs I’ve applied to but didn’t get (a companion, perhaps, to my burning bridges series, in which I write about the many day jobs I’ve worked over the past 25 years). Ultimately, though, it’s the story about academia that hit closest to home.
That idea you have that, “Okay, I’m going to have a fulfilling career on a campus where there are creative, thoughtful people with new ideas and just this vibrancy and this enthusiasm for learning, I’m going to get to be around that my whole life” — and then you got to flip the switch and find something else to do.
Ouch. Been there. To quote Dubner again, after getting my MFA and applying for two years to different college-level teaching gigs, I was “as stunned as Mike Ridgeman that they devoted so much time and money and effort to a system he dearly wanted to belong to, but which in the end just spat him out.” I couldn’t help but wonder, as fun as working for Trek sounds, why he didn’t pivot to, say, secondary education? It’s taken me well over a decade, but I have recently been wondering the same thing about myself. It’s funny how long it takes to let go of some things.