I Can Never Fail

So Fabulous Publisher Babe™ and I have the Anti-Stodgy Campaign, where each month we consciously try to do something new. Something fresh. Something we’ve never done before.

I will be the first to admit that it doesn’t always work out, but the whole point is the newness, not the potential improvements to efficiency. She and I got to talking the other day and I made the comment that “I can never fail.”

I need to break that down for the folks playing along at home. I can fail, but it doesn’t matter. Just this afternoon I poured a half-gallon of hooch down the drain because it just didn’t work out. Coffee intended for turning into wine, but it really just ended up being all the bitterness of coffee with the astringency of alcohol. Nothing worth pursuing, because we drink for the taste and wouldn’t go after that taste.

But the rum worked out and I’ll make it again. The coffee mead is still brewing, and hopefully that works. Again, not worried.

I cannot fail because I am not trying to succeed. Or rather, I measure success in the “trying something new” not in the outcome.

Recently, I got contacted by a musician who picked up on my usual comment that I wanted to be Bernie Taupin. He needed a lyricist and asked if I was interested in becoming his Bernie.

Well, hell, that sounds like fun. Never written lyrics, but I have written a lot of poetry in my time, so I’m used to breathing the words and finding the rhythm of the thing. So we met for coffee and hit it off. He’s a fun guy.

I went home and finished one of my instant expert research books on the shelf, related to writing musical lyrics. (I have a weird library these days.) I read the lyrics section and skipped the composition part because I cannot write music. And skipped the business part because the book is twenty years old, and so everything is likely badly out of date. But writing lyrics and score does not change, except to get easier as the tools evolve.

I wanted to experiment with lyrics. So I did.

In the last week, I’ve written lyrics to three songs. I have no idea if they are any good. I’ll let Elton take a look in a few days and pronounce his opinion. I trust that he’ll have useful opinions that I can turn around and use to make my writing better, because he’s been doing this for decades.

The best job review I ever got was broken down into “Do more of this. Keep doing this. Do less of this.” It was fantastic because I could work with that. (When I started dating again, his sage advice was “Be less you.” and I understood that. Didn’t need it in the end, because I found a woman who was enough of herself to handle me, but that also worked. Haven’t worked for him in 14 years and we still talk occasionally.)

So my approach to writing lyrics is that I cannot fail. I mean, hell, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Someone likes them enough to record the song and I hear it on the radio? Gosh.

I cannot fail, because I tried something new. Anything new. That was the success.

You can’t fail, if you intend to do new things and become a newer/better you. So go out and try some new hobby.

Personally, I try to keep a list of twelve things that I want to pursue at any given time. Then, on a regular basis (frequently June 1 and Dec 1), I chuck one or two out so I can try new things. Lyric writing replaced something else. Okay. If it works out, we’ve do more. If not, I’ll mark it down as a REALLY useful learning experience and move on.

I tried something new. I succeeded. When you try something new, you succeed.

In fact, for me, the only way to fail would be to just keep doing the same thing for the rest of my life. Eat the same food. Listen to the same five albums. Wear the same clothes.


Stodgy. Don’t do that.


That is the single most important lesson anyone ever taught me.


What new thing have you done lately?