Beautiful Failures: an essay


“The secrets of all love are known to me
Throughout the darkest night
My song resounds…”

beautiful failures coverI just saw Peter Murphy in concert. It was a stripped down show which a friend remarked was filled with “deep cuts.” Not the most popular stuff. Not the expected. Unusual songs. Difficult songs.

Murphy has always been a strange one, and his fans know that. This night in April, the thing I noticed was that he seemed fully himself. He threw himself into each song. He raised his arms in invocation. He bowed down to the floor. And in between, he kept up strange and funny banter, a bit of a dorky wild card.

This was not a concert filled with showy postures to have effect. The invocations and bowing were just as real as the silly banter. And all the seams were showing.

The sound wasn’t the best. A little muddy. The musicians kept having to gesture to the sound board to adjust their monitors. I stayed with the show anyway, thinking it just wouldn’t be the best one I’d seen. But there was enough to keep me interested.

I saw Murphy years ago, in a concert when he didn’t seem to be himself. He was strutting around in a weird costume, and the whole thing seemed contrived. He also wasn’t in good voice. Wasn’t throwing himself into the songs. We left disappointed only to take a risk on seeing a Bauhaus reunion a couple of years later. What can we say, it was Halloween. That show was amazing. Murphy was back in form.

So we took another risk to see this April’s stripped down show by a middle aged musician who was popular in certain circles in the 80s and 90s…and who keeps creating new music.

All these words have been preamble to what happened around 1/3 into the concert:

He said, “This song is almost impossible to perform live.”

And he did it anyway. And the song poured through him. And it was amazing. After that, the issues with the sound cleared up, too. My theory? The sound engineer, pulled in by what was generated on stage, was finally able to find the correct levels for this weird concert.

In the middle of that song I thought, “He is a beautiful failure.”

What did that mean? It meant that he was singing a song almost impossible to perform live. He was performing a bunch of deep cuts. He was throwing himself into the music and was a silly dork outside the songs…

He took big risks, completely himself, and it was gorgeous.

This was not the best, most incandescent concert I’ve been to. But it was beautiful.

In a world that harps on and on about success (as I can, too), I want us to be beautiful failures.

I’m risking that right now. By launching a fiction writing career when there are no guarantees (despite all my study, work, and planning) that success will come. And by working on a novel series that might net me a lot of criticism. Or no attention at all.

Murphy risked failure and we were moved. He just wanted to be himself, it seemed. In choosing to sing the songs he did that night, he risked alienating his fans. He even complained at having to play the one song he knew was expected of him. And he played a lot of other songs that we did not expect. Songs that caused gasps and happiness.

The whole night was unpolished. Present. True. The whole night was a beautiful failure, and therefore created something worthwhile.

Sometimes success is too much. There’s too much riding on it from the outset. Other times, successes mean we weren’t willing to risk much.

When we play it safe, we diminish the range of successes that are possible to have. 

The successes that are unexpected and rocket all the way to the moon and back are usually “flukes” that can not be planned for. It just means that someone took a risk because of passion. Often the success isn’t even what they were aiming for. It’s just where their effort landed.

A beautiful, glorious, failure.

And sometimes the efforts, the passion, don’t look like success at all. They do look like failures. But these are necessary failures that help us learn, and build, and risk some more.

If we are willing to risk being beautiful failures, we are willing to create a world filled with the possibility of magic, and beauty, and heart wrenching insight, and things that others have forgotten, or never knew before.

If we are willing to fall, hard, we are willing to fly.

Will you risk being a beautiful failure with me?


copyright: T. Thorn Coyle, April 2016


This piece is a companion to Let Your Life Be Lightning.

This is reader-funded writing.

I give thanks to all of my Patreon supporters, who donate every month so I can offer one essay and one short story to the general public for free.

I give thanks to new patrons Sharon and Mary Anne, and to supporters Joanna, Tony, Angela,Constance, Stone, Omorka, Unwoman, Shemandoah, Sarah, Rain, Cid, Alley, Mica, Christine, Vyviane, Katie, Emilie, Louise, Victoria, Greg, Ealasaid, Jennifer, Louise, Rose, Starr, Sinead, Lyssa, Aeptha, Cara, Crystal, Angela, Misha, Eridanus, Cheryl, Lori, Soli, Peter, Angela, Ambariel, Sonia, Jennifer, Ruth, Miranda, Jeremy, Jonah, Michelle, Jenny, Jen, Mir, Ruth, Emilie, Jonathan, Kate, Roger & Nancy.

To find out more about Patreon, click here. become-my-patron-on-patreon

6 Responses to “Beautiful Failures: an essay”

  1. Qira Clarenbach

    Thorn, Thorn, Thorn! YES! I am working hard at my new writing/business/ministry/priestesshood with a special outreach to “freaks” — the sexradical freaks, the kinksters, the poly people, the trans* people of every stripe, the people who feel like my REAL people. (I’ll tell you about what happened with the UUA some other time.)

    I am afraid of failure, so afraid. And yet I am THROWiNG myself into this 5-month-old endeavor with everything in myself I can dig up. My hair is blue and purple. I wore a tiara to my free consultation call leading to a fee-based course. I am trying with all my might to be ME with authenticity and integrity in a way that was lost in institutional bureaurcracies for years. I WILL “fail” over and over. And may it be beautiful, glorious, real!

    Thank you.

  2. JoJo Razor

    I’m a beautiful failure who really needed your medicinal words. They have freed me to move in the world today. Thank you Thorn.

  3. Arek

    Your article reminded me also about the situation I heard quite some time ago. A singer wanted to sing a song from her new album and some people shouted at her that she should sing those songs they knew. I think it is about the artist what they chose to present.


Comments are closed.