12: Those who go on anyway.

- October 9, 2016 -

Believe it or not, my friends, but this letter officially marks the six-month anniversary of The Sunday Letters.

As I start to consider how I might like future letters to take shape, I keep coming back to the idea that I’d like to make these letters even more personal, even more specifically about the ups and downs of life as a writer. Experience, however, has taught me that this is a difficult thing to do.

The stories in which we talk too much about our successes are often quickly deemed uninteresting, but so are the ones in which we talk too much about our failures. The ideal, it seems, is something of a detached middle ground, a compromise between the two extremes in which the story is neutral overall but sufficiently peppered with both successes and failures so as to remain interesting.

It is a fine line to tread, but it is one that I am eager to explore.

. . .

Recent months have had me coping with what I would consider the biggest failure of my professional career. Even though it was neither the biggest nor the most publicly I’d ever failed, it was certainly the failure which has affected me the most deeply.

It was the first time I’d failed at something that was so important to me, something that I had so genuinely poured myself into, and something that was so wholly emblematic of what I wanted.

It was the kind of failure where I couldn’t simply turn to the typical safety-net excuses of, “I wasn’t really trying,” or, “I didn’t really care.” I tried very hard, and I cared very much.

. . .

As you may have noticed, there is a lot of talk these days about pursuing your passion, following your bliss, and doing what excites you. As I recently discovered, however, there is very little that is said about coping with failure within the realm of this passionate pursuit.

This has left me wrestling with a number of unanswered questions. What happens when, as you’re pursuing your passion, you hit a roadblock? What, specifically, are you to do? How is it that you can move past a failure which is now so closely tied to the deepest, most intrinsic parts of your identity?

The best answers, so far, have come to me from the teachings of artist Robert Henri. According to him, there is but a single option: you must keep going.

“Go on anyway,” he writes in The Art Spirit. “Everything depends on those who go on anyway.”


– J


This piece comes from Jana Marie’s newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.