THE YEAR IN FAILURE: Articles That I Didn’t Finish For Thought Catalog

Samuel Beckett once wrote the following words about failure —  “…Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better” — which I interpret to mean the following; if you’ve ever tried to do something, then you have also by implication failed at that same thing, failure being the universal prerequisite for success. …Everything fails. To attempt is to experience failure at some point; just as a baseball player must fail at hitting the ball seventy percent of the time, in order to succeed thirty percent of the time (if he’s lucky). To live is to fail, to love is to fail, because to live or to love is to die in the end — death being the ultimate thing, the thing we fail to defeat. If that’s not too profound, which it probably is.

Anyway, those are some wise words, Mr. Samuel Beckett! On the other hand, Samuel Beckett could afford to be somewhat philosophical about failure, since he won THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE. I, on the other hand, am less philosophical about failure, since I’m a freelance writer with a subpar income; a freelance writer who just the other day got an email from his mom suggesting that he try out an exciting new career in long-distance truck driving. …Thanks, mom! And for the record, I did get partway through the online application form for becoming a long-distance truck driver.

Anyway, life is the ultimate long-distance haul, if that’s not too profound — which it definitely is. We sit in the extended cab of life, heading down the road with the wind blowing in our hair, with our trusty dog sitting behind us, with a bandanna around his neck. And we try to make it to the finish-line. And sometimes we fail.

And so here’s a partial listing of the articles that I failed to finish for Thought Catalog this year. This hurts me as much as it hurts you.



Are you familiar with how libel laws work in America? Ha ha, well me neither until I tried to publish this racy little interview with a reader that I was having sex with! Anyway, in the end, the TC editors and I decided not to risk going to jail for the sake of publishing this interview.


“ME: ‘Can we have sex yet?‘”

Chances of finishing this article–




Someone or other paid me to go on the newly created East River Ferry in New York and then to write an article about that. I went on the ferry with my live-in girlfriend, then my girlfriend kicked me out of her apartment, and I lost all my notes for the article in a cab as I was fleeing the apartment. My “notes” consisted of me trying to scribble down conversations that I had with strangers on the ferry, and since I’m a slow writer, handwriting-wise my notes go like this (based on the one page of them that I still have) — “ALMOND CANDY NECKLACE WOMAN CROSSES RIVER ON CANOE.” Which made perfect sense at the time, but now less so. I guess I could fake all the dialogue, James Frey-style, but that seems like a terrible idea.


“At sea, you’re trapped, but you’re also free, free from the landlocked life and its demands — free from cable bills and dinner parties and your regular job. Or, as the playwright Tom Stoppard once put it:

GUILDENSTERN: I’m very fond of boats myself. I like the way they’re — contained. You don’t have to worry about which way to go, or whether to go at all — the question doesn’t arise, because you’re on a boat, aren’t you? Boats are safe areas in the game of tag… the players will hold their positions until the music starts…. I think I’ll spend most of my life on boats.

ROSENCRANTZ: Very healthy.

GUILDENSTERN: One is free on a boat. For a time. Relatively.

ROSENCRANZ: …I think I’m going to be sick.

Yes. Let’s all spend the rest of our lives on boats. And then let’s throw up.”

Chances of finishing this article–




This is, I think, a fairly f-cking funny idea for an article; just me giving a long-winded James-Bond-villain-type speech to all of my enemies in life. However, one of my major enemies in life is my step-mother, who is a resolutely awful woman. I stopped writing this article because I pussied out over calling my step-mother “awful” in print, which would upset my dad, but I guess I just passively-aggressively took care of that, so that increases my chances of finishing this one.


“Greetings, my enemies! As you can see, I’ve gathered you all into a single small room. A single small room with a collapsible floor that will drop you into a bottomless pit of endless flames — as soon as I press this tiny button here. Doing this required considerable, time, effort, and expense on my part. …Are you impressed yet?”

Chances of finishing this article–




This is an account of the life-scarring experience of seeing Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace in the movie theater on opening-day. I likewise wussied out on this one, because it would have involved including an chunk of my “fan fiction” rewrite of The Phanton Menance — which is, words fail me, embarrassing.


“Having a 100-page rewrite of The Phantom Menace stored on your computer is far, far more embarrassing than having, say, a huge cache of pornography stored on your computer. Pornography is at least explicable. Whereas there is nothing explicable about having your own rewrite of a terrible existing movie that featured a talking racist stereotype of a salamander (or whatever Jar-Jar Binks was supposed to be).”

Chances of finishing this article–




A different website confused me by offering a bunch of money for this article, and then I still haven’t finished it, even though I’m poor and could really use the money, especially if my new career as a long-distance truck driver doesn’t take off. Anyway, this is a good way to close out this column, because it leads me to the horrible topic of procrastination.

…Procrastination is my life’s bane. In fact, I was perilously close to not finishing this article, due to — you guessed it — procrastination. I think, for me, procrastination is a version of fear. …Why wouldn’t I finish an article in order to get money that I need? It’s not as if writing is that hard. I’ve had actual hard jobs. Like chopping trees on a farm for eight hours. That’s actually hard. I guess the reason that I fail to finish articles is my fear that they’ll be bad, which would be, again, embarrassing.

But fear that something will be bad is actually the opposite of the “failure” that Samuel Beckett describes — “…Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Fear and procrastination isn’t failure; it’s non-failure, it’s the failure to even fail; it’s the unwillingness to experience failure. We all have to fail sometimes, and there’s no shame in that. And so my New Year’s Resolution, which I invite you to share, is to fail more often. Fail again. Fail often. …For it is only in failure that we learn what we can and can’t do, and what we must work harder to do.

…Oh, right, and here’s part of the stupid masturbation article, which f-cks up the elegiac conclusion of the article, but since I just made a New Year’s Resolution, I must finish this f-ucking column and publish it. Sigh.


It takes a lot of determination to masturbate inside a Porta-Potty, or no, wait. “Determination’s” not the word I’m looking for. …Patheticness. That’s the word that I’m looking for.

Chances of finishing this article–

100%.  TC mark

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  • Tracey

    gah! I absolutely LOVED this <3

  • Erin

    Looking forward to reading about the worst places you’ve masturbated.

  • Ben Conner

    I also loved it, Oliver. And I’m going to share your New Year’s Resolution. Shining that Beckett quote on procrastination was actually brilliant. And I’ve been in that Porta-Potty too man. Right there with ya.

  • Tao Lin

    Copied from Tao Lin. Just sayin’.

    • Oliver Miller

      My editor pointed that out!  But stunningly, it wasn’t, since he sent me the link and I have never in my life read anything on “Vice,” which is a popular website of some sort.  Plus I’ve read them both now and my article is better.

      • Gmeben

        I would really appreciate a link to the aforementioned article as the past 20 minutes of googling i’ve done yieleded no results.

  • Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

    sweet dude. … would love to read that interview. you should do a psuedonym and print it on nerve or something. … I liked phantom menace… eek.

    • Oliver Miller

      It’s on The Faster Times.

      • Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

        It’s really hilarious. You should write a memoir. You probably know enough literary/publishing people to peak some interest. Like take little snippets of events and kind of maybe Jesus’ Son-like connected stories that are funny and shit like that.

  • Aleciahh

    Haha I looooved the one about the villain speech. I think I’ll do that now on my tumblr… :)

  • Guy

    Shit. I think I just found my New Year’s resolution.

  • Rishtopher

    Please finish the speech to the villains article! That one sounds like the best one, it’ll be awesome!

  • Aburgess

    Interesting article.  Have you thought of becoming a poet?  After all procrastination does rhyme with masturbation and all you’d have to do is engage your imagination.

  • EarthToNichole

    I took Media Law (twice!) and I still don’t remember how libel laws work, in detail. I thought about that Faster Times interview of yours that I read when the Marie Calloway piece was published.

    • Oliver Miller

      Right, I mean, the article wasn’t libelous, but you can sue over anything if you feel like it.  And even though I was like “the person in the interview reaaa-aally isn’t going to sue us,” the consensus was that it would be less stressful for everyone involved if I just wrote an article about, say, cat videos on YouTube instead.  Which I think is what I ended up doing.  Cat videos!

      I rea-aaaally don’t get why the Marie whatever thing is interesting at all, and can someone explain that to me?  So, she slept with a guy and then wrote a blog post about it?  What the fuck else is new?  Why is that interesting again?

      • EarthToNichole

        I found it sort of interesting, but probably because I just like reading about people’s personal lives, and there were parts of it I could relate to, I guess. And, I did enjoy her writing style.

        I think the main reasons others find it interesting are:
        1. The original blog post included photos of the author with cum on her face.
        2. It was “endorsed” by Tao Lin.
        3. Although it’s been around since…forever, confessional writing is “in” now.

      • maypo1

        She took photos with come on her face?  I am starting to infinitely dislike this person.

      • Oliver Miller


      • EarthToNichole

        “The piece was shocking for its explicitness—it included a photograph of Ms. Calloway that purported to show the writer’s semen on her face.” – The Observer

        Is it “artsy”? I have no idea. But I don’t think it’s a reason to hate someone.
        I will stop hijacking the comments and reply via email, instead. Before this gets “out of hand”.

      • Oliver Miller

        I hate pretty easy, in my defense.

  • Laura

    Procrastination is definitely led by a fear of failure. It’s easier to let people believe that you lack effort instead of talent.

  • anon

    fucking beautiful! thank you for not failing/failing.

  • Amanda

    I was going to go with something flirty about posting the interview so we knew how to get you into bed, but now I’m more fascinated by learning the odd places people masturbate. Finiiiiish. Pun entirely intended.

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