What books taught me about failure

I just moved to a new house, and with moving there are always thoughts of new beginnings and starting fresh. 

At our old place there wasn’t a lot of living space, but there was a lot of storage. So many things we would have liked to have out on display were hidden away in closets and behind nooks and crannies. 

This included our book collection, and one of the things I was most excited for about moving was the possibility of finding a home with space for a proper bookshelf. 

Well, we found the right place. And thanks to a target gift card we found the bookshelf. And so I set about putting our books in their places of honor. Categorized loosely. 

It’s so pretty 🙂 By far my favorite part of unpacking. I could’ve done it all day. 

Oh, and forgive the ugly blank space on the top shelf. It awaits its role as the new home of my Willow Tree Angels. 

My husband and I both adore books. We share a love for some of the same novels, but generally our tastes are prioritized vastly differently. However, no matter the differences in taste, we relate in the enjoyment of devouring beautiful language and captivating stories. 

So as I sat on the floor and read through the titles that make up our very young collection, I thought about how lovely it will be to re-read some of my favorites, and how exciting it will be to read some new titles recently added to our collection (my current fun book is a new one: Kathy Reich’s first of the Temperance Brennan books, “Deja Dead.” So far so good.) As I admired my beautiful new bookshelf, I thought about how many words made up each of those books. How each word was carefully selected by an author. And then carefully approved or improved by an editor. Each book had a publishing team, cover artists, marketing teams, and workers for printing. 

I wondered, if each person, who had ever contributed to the creating of each specific edition of each of my books, lined up outside my new house, how far would the line reach? How many names would I learn? How many life stories would exist at that specific time and place? 

We focus a lot on authors. And rightly so. It is their stories that are told. But we overlook the stories and histories of other important players in the creation of a novel. 

For example, let’s take Shakespeare’s first folio. Now, considering how many different editions of Shakespeare’s work have been produced since he wrote the originals, you’ve got a long line of contributing people throughout history. There are entire courses devoted to Shakespeare, and yet we know so little about his friends who actually preserved his works so that we can read them today. If it weren’t for them, none of us would even know who Shakespeare was, or that he even existed. 

This got me thinking about collaboration.  Authors understand it. They write acknowledgements and cite resources and ask other authors to compose forwards for them. They understand that without the help of other people, their books would’ve remained nothing more than a manuscript at their desk or lonely document on their computer. 

So it is with everything. Very few things can be accomplished by just one solitary person. And even then, no one is in total solitude their whole life, so they’ve undoubtedly been influenced by someone at some point. Even things that seem to be the success of just one can be traced back to a collaboration. Teachers for example, make up part of the collaboration of pretty much everyone’s success. 

So how come we’re all so concerned about “what will I accomplish?” and “what will my success story be?” Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask ourselves, “what will our success story be?” and “who will play a role along the road to my accomplishments? Who will share those accomplishments with me?” 

And to take it a step further, how come we never wonder who we will help in reaching their success and accomplishments? Why do we never wonder what collaborations we’ll be a part of? 

I think it is easy to feel like a failure if you truly believe success is achieved alone. We do not notice in our everyday endeavors that everything we are a part of is some type of collaboration. Perhaps if we truly realized this, we would stop being so hard on ourselves, and maybe, just maybe, we would live our lives with more gratitude. 

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