There are plenty of quotes about how it’s better to “fail fast and fail often”, or that it’s better to try and fail, rather than not try at all. Along the lines of this, from the first page of Samuel Beckett’s Westward Ho:
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
I read that in John Banville’s review of The Letters of Samuel Becket, Volume II: 1941-1956 in the New York Review of Books. Which caught my eye because a couple of days earlier, in the London Review of Books, I read this passage from Stephen Spender’s 1950 diary:
I blame myself not so much for failure — but for not having pressed ideas of work original work to the point of proof where they either failed or succeeded. What I blame myself for in a sense is that I didn’t have enough failures — but that I so often put aside the things I most deeply wanted to do — the things that were my own thing from inside myself — and did things which were proposed from the outside.
Yes, that. Although taking this as a motto for yourself assumes you do have “my own thing from inside myself” to try.
This latter quote I came across in Karl Miller’s review of New Selected Journals, 1939-95, which also delivers the image of an ageing Spender receiving applause from strangers for farting loudly while walking along Long Acre.
Fart again. Fart better.
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