A great read in The Chronicle about failure and the humanities:
“Perhaps of all the humanities, the creative arts come closest to valuing failure. Poets and painters don’t expect to get it right the first time. That’s the idea of workshopping as a pedagogy, right? Still, there’s a real difference. I’d be willing to bet that most creative writers bring a piece of work into a workshop secretly hoping it’s a success. Sure, they know they need help on aspects of their story or poem, but that’s not the same as failing.
A computer program that doesn’t run is a failure. A program that produces no usable data about the text it was set up to analyze is a failure. Why don’t those failures devastate the developers? Because each time their efforts fail, the developers learn something they can use to get closer to success the next time.
That’s what we should be teaching humanities students—to look at what went wrong and figure out how to learn from it. OK, that didn’t work. But my next try isn’t then going to be a complete ground-zero beginning. I’ll be starting with the knowledge that my last try didn’t work. Maybe it worked up to a particular point, and I can start over from there. Maybe it didn’t work because I took on too much, so now I will start smaller. Maybe it can’t work at all, and I need a new text from which to begin—a text in a different genre or a text in combination with something else.”