A different kind of failure

This blog has, yet again, like almost all of my projects, fallen prey to the yawning gap between my vision of what is possible – of what I would like it to be – and what I feel I can actually produce. I have watched with a combination of increasing admiration and personal inadequacy as people like David Mitchell and James Mitchie, who’ve been hanging around the edublogosphere a shorter time than I have, develop an amazing online presence for themselves and their students, which is also clearly having a transformational impact on their classrooms and schools. And there’s my problem: I have watched, and admired, but barely acted. With regard to this blog, the longer I leave it between posts, the more it seems that my next one should be a work of genius, and that I should fill in the gaps before I post it. Hence the months of blogging silence and the fragments of started blog posts in my Google docs and buzzing round my head.

Having started to read a little more about ‘productivity’ I increasingly recognise that this is a common (and deadening) phenomenon rather than something unique to me. Even this post itself was nearly derailed by the 10 minutes, otherwise invisible to you, that I just spent searching for the perfect quotation to illustrate that point (there are loads, it turns out: just google perfection+procrastination).

Recently, I shared with some of my students one of my favourite poems, Eliot’s Four Quartets. The penultimate stanza of East Coker feels as though it could have been written for me, and it rings even truer for me now more than twenty years (Twenty years largely wasted) since I first discovered it:

every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate

So I find myself at the beginning of the school holidays, at a time when I would normally still be in bed even on a school day, trying to make another start. Another thing I’m coming to realise is that starts are relatively easy. I’ve done loads of starts at all sorts of things. The tricky bit is sharing my starts with others, so I have the motivation to continue, even if I don’t know how to finish.

(So I’ll share this now, unfinished though it be