Abandon Yourself to Mystery

I want my students to tack up a Samuel Beckett quotation on their office doors: “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The ability to fail is what distinguishes the ordinary writer from the great one. The one who actually wants to push herself or himself so far that they know they’re going to crash and burn. You must risk yourself in order to find out what it is you truly know.

         That usually means just abandoning yourself to mystery. Over time, the mystery itself will join these things together. Eventually, after weeks, or months, or years of not knowing, there will come a moment when you think, “Aw, yeah! That’s it! That’s it! That’s what I’ve been looking for!” The solution appears, so simple and so elegant that it almost seems mathematical. You think, “That's been staring at me for the past two years, three years. How come I couldn’t see it?” Well, the fact of the matter is you couldn’t see it because you can’t see the beautiful simplicity at first. You have to do a lot of messy work to get there.

COLUM McCANN