Falling short: seven writers reflect on failure | Books | The Guardian
Oct 22, In my first non-monogamous 'relationship', I had spoken to this guy for a What beginner sources of non-monogamy fail to communicate is that it's .. one partner has a time consuming job like being a lawyer or doctor. For example, in a lot of non-monogamous settings I know, I see a lot of. Job applicants that know how to answer behavioral interview skills, as well as conflict resolution and failure reflection capabilities. Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. . Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or help .. / I had been taking the pill throughout my relationship with my . At the time I was in a relationship with a man who was black, and the pregnancy was the result of a contraceptive failure. . I had an abortion when I was 22 and in my final year of university. Advertise with us · Guardian Labs · Search jobs.
Mary, 85 The man I was going to marry was killed on a bombing mission during the war. I met Jimmy dancing. I was 19 and he was But then he was posted. Then one day I got a letter from his mother telling me that he was missing — his plane had been shot down.
All of them were killed. He is buried in France. You have to meet someone else. I always knew I would join the army myself — I served for 22 years. After that, I travelled, and that took the place of marriage. Jerusalem, Israel, Bangkok, Hong Kong. I even went round Borneo in a cargo ship once. I like to represent myself. I was in My Fair Lady once and the lead guy had the most beautiful voice.
However, due to a shortage of personnel, all teachers had to take various more classes. I normally taught sciences but after the reshuffle, I taught math as well. The upside was that I was able to revise my math knowledge, which is also important for science.
I adapted quite well to this change. Whereas I was more proactive and assertive, he was more reserved and did his own thing in his own way.
I did not want to tell him to be more assertive because he was very good at what he was doing, doing it his own way.
I toned down my type A personality traits and made him aware that although we were quite different, we could get along and get the job done. We successfully completed all projects and developed a good friendship. How was your transition from high school to university? Did you face any particular problems? How did you handle them? I knew my friends since elementary school, so I always had a tight-knit group of pals that were like my second family.
I was looking forward to university, because I could meet new people from various backgrounds. While it was daunting at first, I quickly introduced myself to others and got to know many great people who I can proudly call my friends. When the studying pressure was building up, I could rely on them to cheer me up and give me some encouragement. Tell me about a time you had to be very strategic in order to meet all your top priorities. In addition, I had to write a report of everything I learned at the factory.
To utilize my time efficiently, I jotted down notes in between breaks at the factory, since all of the information was fresh on my mind. As a result, I was already preparing the report as I was working in the factory. When I was at the head office, there were some breaks in between emailing and calling suppliers. That is when I continued writing my report.
I made sure to use all the time available to me to work and complete tasks punctually. Describe a long-term project that you managed. How did you keep everything moving along in a timely manner?
The semester lasted 4 months, so I segmented the entire fabrication process into several steps that had to be completed over the entire semester.
Each week, we dealt with one particular step, starting with silicon processing, moving on to pyrex processing, and finally ending with wafer bonding. Each week, students presented the results of their experiments in the form of a presentation. This was used to assess how much they actually learned. Tell me about a time your responsibilities got a little overwhelming.
I had a project plan that outlined what had to be achieved. After the first couple of months, when I faced a few hurdles, I realized that reaching every single milestone might not be feasible in such a short amount of time. I had to reassess which were the most important aspects to consider and focused entirely on those things. I still arrived at excellent results at the very end of the time frame.
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Now, after 8 months of training, I have developed an app already and am working on my own website. Give me an example of a time you managed numerous responsibilities. I am an English teacher by trade, with a degree in English. I wanted to hold spelling bee tournaments at the school to get students interested in learning new English words.
So I took on that responsibility and taught students the format. I myself am a very sporty person and I wanted to take charge of the sports events at school. I managed the entire event and coordinated with other staff members. Describe a situation that required you to do a number of things at the same time.
I have to merge all of these to create a great user interactive experience. Moreover, I need to keep checking for bugs on the back-end so that users can access a large database with ease, all while navigating through a well-designed site with great interaction. It is not easy to do both of these things, in a time when people are specializing in one portion.
However, I get to learn everything and I deliver excellent results, overseeing the entire project. How do you prioritize projects and tasks when scheduling your time? I complete the ones that take the least amount of time first, so that those clients receive their work as soon as possible. If a job takes more time and effort based on my estimation, I inform those clients and give them a complete breakdown so that we agree to deliver it on a later date.
As a result, I am never lost and always know what to do on which day. Tell me about a project that you planned. How did your organize and schedule the tasks? I outlined the entire project duration and segmented it into several parts — research the company, design the building, construct the building.
I worked with several other engineers and delegated tasks to save a lot of time so that I could focus on what I was good at — overseeing the entire construction process. We completed the project on time and the tech firm was pleased. When has a project or event you organized not gone according to plan? How did you feel?
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The inauguration ceremony of the concert was supposed to have a fantastic orchestra with fireworks and a video playing on a large screen. Throughout the performance, the music was playing and the fireworks were exploding, but the video never played. Due to technical difficulties, the audience never got to see the amazing footage we shot. I felt very bad at the time, because all that hard work went down the drain.
However, I learned from this experience and prepared extra hard for future concerts. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone to see things your way at work. When I was working under them before, I noticed there were some processes that could be streamlined and optimized further. Now that I was a line manager like everybody else, I presented my case to the rest of them and showed factual evidence on how to improve the production process.
They were initially reluctant but soon came around and saw things my way.
Describe a time when you were the resident technical expert. What did you do to make sure everyone was able to understand you? Since the recruits were fresh graduates, they relied on me to learn technical things of the semiconductor industry. I provided reading materials to all the trainees so that they can learn things in their spare time.
Whenever they had questions, I was open and ready to answer them.
I wanted them to feel welcome to clarify their doubts and since I have the knowledge, I wanted to impart it to them. Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to get your ideas across to your team. Emails can be a tricky medium of communication to get your message across.
I made sure to be polite and respectful while still being assertive in informing my team members why they needed to put in more time and effort. I did not want to come across as a mean boss that demands things from their employees. I expressed how I would also work extra hours with them to get the job done on time. Give me an example of a time when you had to explain something fairly complex to a frustrated client. How did you handle this delicate situation? They have complete knowledge of automobiles, but rely on us to deliver electronic components for their cars.
I had to convince a representative of Daimler why they required these parts from us. I kept thing very simple after I realized a lot of the technical information was going over his head.
I connected the components to the benefits that both the company and the drivers of cars will gain. They quickly realized that they required this circuitry in their cars and ordered a large volume of it. Tell me about a successful presentation you gave and why you think it was a hit. At such a young age, it was an excellent opportunity to display my presentation skills to many esteemed guests. Since I knew my topic inside and out, I wanted to guide the audience through the presentation with a story of how I learned about it.
This made my presentation of the results more personal and looking at the faces of the audience members, I knew it was a success. They appreciated my efforts greatly. When have you had to present to a group of people with little or no preparation? What obstacles did you face? I was responsible for working on a task in a particular sector but since I knew the language the clients were comfortable in, my company wanted me to represent them in a meeting. I had an hour to prepare, to look at the findings we had at the time.
After the quick research, I talked to the clients and made them well aware that I was the new kid on the block. However, I presented all of the results I knew with confidence and the clients were quite pleased. My company was quite impressed how I gave an impromptu presentation and since then, I was relied upon for presentations.
How did you do it? With social media platforms abound, my partners wanted to create another competitor in that sector. I convinced the team why it would be beneficial to society and how we need to manage money properly. They understood why this was necessary and we then started to create our first fintech app. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you or vice versa.
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Being very social, I love talking with people to get to know them. However, I understand that there are many people who are not as talkative and more of an introvert. One of my classmates did not necessarily like my personality because he thought it was overbearing. I tried to befriend him and wanted to get to know him, but he was quite reserved. I decided that it would be best to not be so forward but rather talk to him in a calm manner. He really appreciated that and he actually opened up more, expressing himself more.
What obstacles or difficulties have you ever faced in communicating your ideas to a manager? I gathered a lot of statistics and created charts and graphs of the data. I discovered that some products were selling well in particular areas, although the company did not market them heavily in those areas.
I talked to my manager about how we can improve the marketing of products in these areas to increase our revenues. My manager was quite hesitant to listen to me, perhaps because I was just an intern.
However, after I presented all of the evidence, it became quite evident to him that this is what needed to be done. Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across. To ensure excellent customer satisfaction, we always send an email to buyers who will not be able to receive their purchased goods. I explained very clearly why Amazon failed to deliver this particular product and sincerely apologized for any inconvenience the customer experienced.
As a gesture of good faith, I offered this customer a coupon of the same value to purchase another product in its place. When have you chosen to communicate a particular message in person as opposed to via email even though the email channel would have been a lot faster?
It would only be fair since I worked with them for years. It was difficult, but I explained the entire situation from the very beginning and outlined what would happen to the personnel in this division. Maybe an email would have been easier, but personally interacting with people you have worked with for years shows that you care about the working relationship. Tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment. As a stockbroker, I pick up phone calls every minute and secure the buying and selling of stock from big shot investors.
I once had a famous investor call me to potentially buy stock. I explained the stock, which company it belonged to and how the company was fairing.
The investor was hesitant as the company was fairly new, but I ensured him that tech startups are booming now and that they will grow exponentially. After several minutes convincing, I got confirmation to buy a large amount of stock. It was the biggest deal I made in my career and it set me up for success later on. Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
The next semester, I was hired as a teaching assistant to teach the exact same subject. I had many ideas to improve the teaching style of the lab course.
I suggested that instead of doing the practical work at the end of the semester, it would be more beneficial to work every week in the lab and implement the theoretical knowledge. Also, I recommended that students should deliver presentations of their results. This increases student participation and learning. Tell me about a time when you worked under close supervision or extremely loose supervision. It was challenging to learn things when my mentor was not able to tutor me properly.
I understood his predicament so I did not bother him much. Instead, I conversed with my colleagues who knew the trade very well and learned a lot from them. Since some of them were once interns as well, they gave me very good guidance and supervision to help me excel in this position. Give me an example of a time you were able to be creative with your work. What was exciting or difficult about it? I once had to design a background image for a website and I had complete freedom to do whatever I want.
I wanted to explore many different options and use full creativity to get the right design for this website. Sometimes it is difficult to know where to go when a client does not provide some instructions, but it is very rewarding when your own efforts are appreciated by the client.
Tell me about a time you were dissatisfied in your work. What could have been done to make it better? I had to write an article on a video game, but I did not play that game or was interested in that particular genre.
I had to read other sources and act as if I played that game passionately. Although my boss liked my writing, I was not satisfied with it because it felt pretentious. I then decided to only write articles on games that I played, because it feels more authentic. What has been the most stressful situation you have ever found yourself in at work? Many people have not yet fully understood this relatively new material.
I wanted to find something out but for months on end, I could not make any headway. I always kept on hitting a brick wall, which was very stressful. I was falling behind on my schedule.
I decided to cleanse my mind and refresh everything. I took a different approach this time around and I made a new discovery, making progress towards my goal. What have you done in the past to prevent a situation from becoming too stressful for you or your colleagues to handle? As a merchandiser, I need to know every single aspect because I need to find ways to reduce cost while still delivering an excellent product. It can be very stressful when the deadline approaches and you feel like you need more time.
I always find ways to meditate and find a place of calm when I think everything is going under. I reassess the situation and find ways to solve these problems within the time given. Describe the project or situation that best demonstrates your analytical abilities. On one of my tasks, I had to conduct market research for our company and determine where certain products sold very well and did not sell so well.
In addition, I had to found out if the advertising and marketing campaigns in those areas justified the sales generated. After careful analysis, I realized that some products were doing well without much ads while some products had many ads but did not sell enough. I suggested that we change the advertising on the products that were heavily marketed but not selling well, so that more units can be sold to offset the expenditure. Tell me about a time when you had to analyze information and make a recommendation.
What kind of thought process did you go through? After several sets of experimental parameters, I obtained many graphs. I had to analyze and scrutinize each graph along with their respective data set to find out if it was one or the other. Since the material was not well known, I had to make some assumptions in my inference.
After looking at graphs at other materials, I could finally arrive at a conclusion if my material was crystalline or amorphous. My supervisor liked my train of thought. Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem. What was the outcome? My team had to determine which divisions to merge and which to retain, while also deciding which divisions to axe from the company.
The company wanted to shift from motorcycle manufacturing to automobile, specifically car, production. We had many engineers who were experts in motorcycles but sadly, they did not serve much of a purpose for cars. On the other hand, we had marketing executives that could come in handy for our new products. It was difficult letting people go, but at the end of the day, the organization benefitted greatly from the restructuring.
What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision? When I was in charge of a team to design a new football shoe, I had to evaluate every single model that we were selling at the time and what they were missing. I got in touch with some athletes to get their feedback on the shoes they were and what they wish could be improved.
I took that feedback into consideration and with the design team, we came up with some designs for our new shoes. Whenever faced with a problem, I always ask others for their opinion and see if those are feasible in comparison to my own. What process do you use to check that you have the right details from a customer?
I ask my clients several questions to determine what they want from their website — the color palette, style, use of media, etc. I was astonished to find that it was possible to spend your life surrounded by great literature and remain or become paralysed by snobbery.
I used to whisper to myself, "Don't fuck up like X, don't fuck up like Y. There was a particular X whom I didn't want to fuck up like.
He could be charming company; he could be a pain in the arse to work with. Don't fuck up like X, I would repeat to myself. After one long, rambling, solipsistic intro, he finally asked me, "Why am I ringing you, love?
He got the sack from his weekly column. His byline appeared sporadically. I heard that he had quit the booze, and was trying to quit smoking. He was down to 17 a day, and to encourage self-discipline used to keep a note of each time he lit up.
Then there was silence; then I heard that he had died — alone of course. I went to the funeral. Some of his early, highly skilled poems were read out, and I was saddened again by the subsequent offence against his talent. They had turned out well; both were charming and intelligent. They spoke with proper roundedness and affection for their father; the daughter described how he had coached her to get into Cambridge, how patient and helpful he had been.
And I had been wrong, or had only partly understood. As I left the crematorium for the wake, I was saying to myself — and to him — "No, you didn't fuck up after all.
Eamonn Mccabe I have no problem with failure - it is success that makes me sad. I do it every day, I have been doing it for years. This is not an affectation, failure is what writers do. It is built in. And then redo it, so it reads better. The writer's great and sustaining love is for the language they work with every day. It may not be what gets us to the desk but it is what keeps us there and, after 20 or 30 years, this love yields habit and pleasure and necessity.
All this is known. In the long run we are all dead, and none of us is Proust. The zen of it is that success and failure are both an illusion, that these illusions will keep you from the desk, they will spoil your talent; they will eat away at your life and your sleep and the way you speak to the people you love.
The problem with this spiritual argument is that success and failure are also real. You can finish a real book and it can be published or not, sell or not, be reviewed or not. Each one of these real events makes it easier or harder to write, publish, sell the next book. And the one after that. If you keep going and stay on the right side of all this, you can be offered honours and awards, you can be recognised in the street, you can be recognised in the streets of several countries, some of which do not have English as a native language.
You can get some grumpy fucker to say that your work is not just successful but important, or several grumpy fuckers, and they can say this before you are quite dead. And all this can happen, by the way, whether or not your work is actually good, or still good. Success may be material but is also an emotion — one that is felt, not by you, but by the crowd. This is why we yearn for it, and can not have it, quite. It is not ours to hold.
Falling short: seven writers reflect on failure
I am more comfortable with the personal feeling that is failure than with the exposure of success. I say this even though I am, Lord knows, ambitious and grabby, and I want to be up there with the rest of them. With perfectly good lives. And you come to appreciate the ones who have figured all that shit out.
Some people like all that, but I, for reasons I have not yet figured out, find it difficult. I don't want to be an object. I find jealousy unpleasant because it is unpleasant. The writer's life is one of great privilege, so "Suck it up", you might say — there are more fans than trolls. But there are two, sometimes separate, ambitions here.
One is to get known, make money perhaps and take a bow — to be acknowledged by that dangerous beast, the crowd. The other is to write a really good book. And a book is not written for the crowd, but for one reader at a time.
I still have this big, stupid idea that if you are good enough and lucky enough you can make an object that insists on its own subjective truth, a personal thing, a book that shifts between its covers and will not stay easy on the page, a real novel, one that lives, talks, breathes, refuses to die. And in this, I am doomed to fail. Howard Jacobson Howard Jacobson.