Failures Give Us Something to Write About by Claudia Mills

I wrote my first book when I was six years old.
Although there were barely more than a dozen words in the entire text of the book itself, at the end I included several pages of advertisements for promised future publications.
I wrote the "thick book" of "100 pages" about "My life" when I was in 8th grade. Typed on a manual typewriter, with a second copy made via carbon paper, it was titled T Is For Tarzan, as my nickname in 8th grade was Tarzan (don't ask!).
The book chronicled various events in my life during that momentous year, but it was really a detailed record of my failures. I ran for class president against three boys, and not only did I lose, but when the votes were counted, it was a three-way tie, with the three boys as co-winners and me as the only loser. I challenged the fastest boy in the class to a race around the track at lunchtime, and not only did I lose, but he ran backward for the last stretch. When we had a girls-ask-boys dance, every single boy I asked turned me down. All horrible!

But the stories I wrote about these failures, with utter candor, and my best attempts at humor, made my book the sensation of the junior high school, with an actual waiting list where kids signed up to get their turn. Even decades later, a boy from high school sent me an email with the subject heading, "T Is For Too Long Since We've Talked." And - my life's biggest bragging point - one of the episodes from the book became a question on a high school reunion trivia quiz: "Who was the boy who beat Tarzan in the famous race-around-the track?"

Failures make the best stories. When I visit schools, I ask the kids, "Which makes a better story, good things or bad things?" The younger they are, the more likely they are to answer "Good things!" But the older they are, and the greater their experience as readers, the more likely they are to answer "Bad things!"

So I'm grateful for that 8th grade year of failure that gave me my first success as a writer. Yay for failure!


  1. I love your resilience in response to your failures. Yay you!


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