Success Failure Publication

My blogging friend, Pooky, wrote a poem titled, Failure. This poem lit a fuse, made me think. Below is the link to Pooky’s poem followed by where my thoughts took me.

Who measures success and failure? So often it’s ourself, and we can be harsh taskmasters. So many high achievers are driven by fear of failure and sadly many fail to find joy in their everyday small successes.

I’ve had a few poems published but in reality my words do not go down well with the mainstream ‘poetry police’ – my little swipe at them. πŸ™‚ I know I can do it their way, but I don’t want to. I write ‘Freefall’, a stream of consciousness form of writing taught by Barbara Turner-Vesselago, that takes me deeper and deeper into my place of truth. Freefall is meant to be a beginning but for me it’s the beginning, middle and end. I don’t edit, other than for spelling mistakes and I sometimes miss those. I write raw because that’s how I live.

I wrote the guts out of a poem of mine that my son was in the process of animating when he died. We wanted to turn it into a short film that my son would narrate by reading my poem. Ken had a beautiful speaking voice. He’d almost completed the story boards when he died. I rewrote the poem because I wanted it published, or at least a facsimile. I wanted a part of our dream of working together, to live on. And so a remnant of the original poem lives in the State Library of Victoria.

Incredibly, the book was launched at St Paul’s Cathedral, the last place we had been as a family. We went there to see the Cancer Council Arts Awards exhibition the day before, Ken, died. I’d been earlier in the week and had been talking to him about one of the paintings, a heart wrenching painting of a child’s empty jacket, and he wanted to see the painting. Sadly that day he was deeply depressed but still wanted to go to the exhibition.

I was one of only 10 poets, some quite well known, chosen to read my poem at the launch. The launch was just a couple of months after my husband’s death, and was one of the most moving moments of my life. Only my close family and a few friends knew of the loving synchronicity that day held for me.

The book itself is a thing of beauty. A combination of poetry, artwork and photography, all about my home town, Melbourne. I’ll try to include a photo of the books cover here and post the two poems separately.


Posted on November 10, 2013, in I am what I am, Poems. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Can’t wait to read the poems, Tricia. I cannot write poetry in a way that is publishable either. Any poetry I write is Freefall and when I try and edit it, I seem to write the ‘guts’ out of it, too. Consequently, I stick with longer writing forms …

    • Louise, in the beginning I wrote short stories, but was only ever happy with a couple of them. Most seemed contrived to me. I always felt I was a poet, it’s just that the poetry community disagreed with me. πŸ™‚ The more Freefall I did, the more I settled into my personal poetry style. For me it suits what I want to say and how I want to say it. Once I decided I was writing for myself and if it struck a cord with anyone else that was a bonus, then I became more comfortable, at home with my natural, instinctive style.
      I’ll post the published poem tomorrow, and the original the following day.
      Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate it.

  2. Hi Tricia.

    This is a great post and very thought provoking for me. I am really looking forward to reading the poems, and the book sounds wonderful. I can only begin to try and imagine what a moving experience this was for you on that day.I have come to know and love you over the past couple of years and I am extremely grateful for your genuine love and friendship. ❀

    Pooky writes some thought provoking words and they often take me to a deeper place down my own wonky paths. I have always been a harsh taskmaster toward myself and it has taken me a very long time to start being lenient and rewarding myself for the small successes. In fact it has taken chronic illness to wake me up to all this.

    When I was in therapy for alcoholism the biggest issue I kept going back to was a fear of failure and then my therapist suggested I might be afraid of success rather than failure. I think he was right but I also think the two opposites can also be the same if that makes sense, in that I feared failure, but when I did succeed I feared having to follow it up with more success, and live up to it. Any success I achieved was always “a fluke”.

    Your great post has set me thinking all over again and made me realise that, although I am a lot more well balanced with all this stuff now, I still have a long way to go.

    My poetry writing was a gift given to me from somewhere “out there” because I know nothing about the “subject” of poetry, and I dont even think I can make it publishable, as you can. I simply write. I know nothing of rules etc. but that doesn’t bother me because first and foremost my poems are for me in order to help me, but if, in writing them, they reach out and help someone else then my goal is achieved. I have no desire to be published for the sake of it. And yet part of me still wants them to be so good poetically, so perfect as to “wow” people. Its all very complex isnt it. Do I want to be liked and why? Why do I need the approval of others? Why isnt the fact that I achieve small successes enough for me? Why does anything I do need to impact on other people at all? Isnt it enough simply to be kind and to love? Apparently not!

    I do get scared of what people might think of my poems, but it doesnt stop me from sharing them and thats a massive move forwards for me. There is one word underpinning all of this and that is “perfectionism”. Its a bugger to get rid of and sticks to me like super glue, but I am dealing with it and slowly becoming more content with who I am and what I have to offer to the world around me. And I have no idea where the perfctionism came from however far back I look.

    Sorry for going on for so long.

    Love and hugs

    • Dear Christine, I too value your love and frienship.

      Reexamining these poems, and the corresponding periods of my life has been huge for me. I was weary and unwell when I began, and now I’m worn out. I smiled when you mentioned not knowing ‘the rules’. I know many of them and take great delight in breaking them. πŸ™‚ Like you, I write for myself and if my work touches others in some small way, then that’s great. Even with Freefall there’s a rule (Barbara refers to them as precepts) about allowing time to pass, a period of years, before writing about memoir type things. I don’t follow that rule.

      The original poem, Darkness Before Dusk, I wrote in the middle of the night of the day I had the experience. Reading it 15 years on, I feel if I’d waited 10 years to write it, I’d have lost the depth of emotion, which for me is the strength of my writing. By writing it when I did I’ve preserved and important memory. I can still picture the young man’s face. (I deleted 2 lines I felt were unnecessary before I reposted it, but the guts of it is there) For me the power is in the immediacy. I think the Freefall precept is about not getting lost in journal or angst type writing, and I don’t feel I do that. I try to write from a witness state.

      I’m encouraged by the feedback I get here, but I also write things like the, Bite Me Alice. I felt people wouldn’t know were to go with that and I was surprised that anyone responded. I do love my occasional rant. πŸ™‚

      I must go, I’ve a friend coming in a couple of hours. She’s bringing dinner with her and my kitchen bench looks like a holiday resort for bacteria. It will take much huffing and puffing, but I’ll get there.
      Much love my dear friend
      Tricia xoxo

  3. Thankyou for sharing this part of your story Tricia. I look forward to reading your poems.
    Your words, and Christine’s comments also, about why we write, who we write for, and the difficulties in doing so, connect with me very strongly in a way that I cannot yet explain. I want to discuss this but I don’t know how at his moment.
    *Can we write for each other as well as ourselves?*
    Would this change how we write, and does that matter?
    I feel so young at sharing my writing, my blog is only 1 year old, and regular writing has only taken off in the last month or two. For years my writing was very selfish and angry, and now as people accept what I share, my motivations and feelings change.
    I will contemplate all these questions and see what comes up.

    • Hello, Peter, and thank you for your warm words.
      I’ve taken a while to respond because your comments gave me much to think about.
      I’ve written all my life, mostly for myself and family and friends on birthdays and such. I went back to college as a mature age student 20 something years ago. I was doing an accounting degree when my comm skills tutor told me I had an original writing voice that she felt was worth exploring, but life intervened and it didn’t happen. My husband and son had also wanted me to ‘do something’ with my writing. My son was a graphic artist and was studying animation when he died. We were planning to combine our skills but of course after his death I was good for nothing for some years.
      I did eventually join a writer’s group, but had a bad experience. I then joined a local poetry group and we wrote and performed our poems at literary festivals and at Federation Square, a place in the heart of Melbourne. My health was deteriorating and I couldn’t keep up the pace, plus I found I had begun to write for other’s approval and I felt my work suffered as a result. Then I went to my first Freefall writer’s workshop and experienced this sense of finding my writing home. Freefall is meant to be a beginning for those who want their work published eventually. You go where the words take you, you don’t edit, and it just takes one deeper and deeper into that place where the best words come from. A lot of people find they write memoir type pieces during freefall workshops, but it works equally well for fiction. I’ve written short stories but my heart is in poetry.
      I can no longer manage the workshops but a small Freefall group, we are four in total, meet once a month at my home, share food, words and support each other. I no longer have a wish to be ‘published’, I prefer the freedom of writing for myself, from my heart. I enjoy the honesty and friendship of our blogging community, and am often inspired by the work of others. I love where the words take me. And although my poetry is often sad, I’m a happy person at heart. But I feel strongly that the hard truths are too often left in the background and so it’s these areas I tend to focus on. I have written some humorous pieces and will again. For now I have a couple of serious poems ready to post, but feel I must respond to the comments before I post anything else.
      I’m so pleased to have discovered your blog via, Pooky.
      Take care
      Tricia x

      • Appreciate your response Tricia. You have certainly been through a lot in life. I know Federation Square as well as any Adelaidean who has visited Melbourne on a few occasions, including seeing an exhibition at ACMI.
        I have been asked to do some public poetry reading at a future event in Sydney, I may have to ask you for some pointers!
        From my thoughts that started about writing, I wrote my recent post “Around Here…”. But that was just the start. I wish I had more time to just sit/think/write, so busy there is little free time at the moment.

  4. Tricia, it means so much to me that my words somehow moved you to share these thoughts… I look forward immensely to reading the poems… they must be absolutely filled with emotion for you. It’s so hard, reading this and understanding the great talents your son clearly had, and the love you shared, that he should have been driven to take his own life. It’s incomprehensible. But then I think it nearly always is. I’ve probably told you before that my grandmother took her own life (before I was born) I am closer to my grandfather than to almost anyone else in the world and yet it was only this summer than I learnt that he believes her death was an accident – I think that is perhaps the only way he could make sense of it…

    I’m rambling…

    Your question about who is measuring our success and failure is a poignant one. I see myself as constantly failing yet I know that others perceive me as someone who succeeds in the things I try. I guess it’s about the pictures we paint of ourselves. Most people are probably unaware of quite how much glue Tom uses to hold me together each day!

    And who do we write for? That’s an interesting question I keep coming back to. With my poetry I am writing simply because I wanted to try something new. I’m doing it for me, it’s a selfish act, and yet I have learnt more from the responses to my ramblings (by kind folk such as yourself, Peter and Christine) than I have learnt from the act of writing them. It surprises me that anyone wants to read my words but it is motivating too. You must feel great pride in your published work and the thought it provokes in people?

    • Dear Pooky, I do relate to your comment regarding the glue your Tom, uses to hold you together. If I’d not found Rod, my life would have been so very different. That’s why my song, Horsewhisperer, is so important to me. I just wish he could have heard it. But then he knew how much I loved him because I told him every day. πŸ™‚ Even though I ache for him, his loving, caring presence in my life is worth any amount of pain now. He contributed so much to the person I am today. I found between Rod’s love and a good psychologist I was able to grow in confidence and belief in myself, but it did take some time for the broken child to heal and the scars never leave.
      And I do feel for your grandfather, the why and what ifs in the aftermath of suicide are horrendous.
      As for ‘pride in my published work’, I experience much more satisfaction from the poems that are used by my health psychologist, and the responses I get here on my blog. Also I’m very proud of the writer’s workshops I’ve created for both the bereaved and the chronically ill. For me, wanting to be published was an ego thing, these days I just want to write and if my words touch anyone then that brings me immense joy. I do feel strongly, as my intro blurb states, that mortality and grief need to be discussed more openly, and that’s the reason I share so much of my personal pain. I don’t want pity, I want to try to help people to see that one can still live a happy, productive life, in the face of suffering.
      Pooky, you have a natural, publishable talent, particularly in the area of children’s poetry. Your more serious poems are moving and inspirational, your words give others permission and encouragement to share and feel safe in their sharing.
      Tricia x

      • We were lucky to find our respective glues… even in his physical absence I daresay Rod is still a glue that binds you each day?

        You should be hugely proud of what you’ve achieved with your words, both in terms of what you’ve shared of yourself and also in terms of what you’ve enabled others to find within and share of themselves (through reading what you’ve written as well as participating in your workshops).

        Like you, I think there are many things we’re scared to talk about which we should be more willing to tackle head on. Doing so openly and honestly is terrifying though and something I’ve only just started being able to do myself in recent months. But where we lead, others will gladly follow, and that is how a revolution starts…

        I hope you that you and Big Ted are okay. I think of you often. It feels like we’ve known each other longer x

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