Learning to Fall/Fail

I don’t usually post on Saturdays, but I promised I would post this week. So here we go. . . .

I learned to ride a bike when I was eight. I wasn’t one of those kids who had a bike with training wheels. My first bike was sky blue and had a banana seat and a white basket. Kinda like this one. (This is not my bike, however.)


My dad held on to the back of it and coached me to balance and pedal. Ha. Easier said than done. Those of you who learned to ride via this method will know that I immediately crashed into something, especially when I realized that my father no longer held on to the seat nor was he providing the balance my brain told me I lacked. Oh yes. I became well acquainted with trees, the grass, the concrete sidewalk—you name it. I fell countless times before something clicked and I was able to ride without fear.

Learning to use a pair of inline skates was a lot easier. For one thing, I took a class from a traveling group of people who taught in a parking lot. The best thing I learned during that class was how to fall. Knowing that falling was part of the process made learning easier. I still fell many, many times. Yet the attitude of my teachers toward falling was the thing that kept me going. They were so cheerful and matter-of-fact about it. “Keep your knees bent,” they said. This advice made falling easier.

Inline Skate

It’s interesting that in our society, we see the success stories. The stories of failure are usually less intentional and more along the lines of, “So and so was caught doing something wrong and here is that story.” We’re taught that failure is something you shove at the back of your closet and shut the door to prevent anyone who comes to your home from seeing it.

That’s why I love stories of authors who talk about the many rejections they have had, and how those rejections were part of the process that took them from point A to point B. They knew how to fall and get back up again.

I also appreciate advice I was given from advisors: to experiment and freewrite. This was their way of teaching me how to fall gracefully. Because once I realized what didn’t work, I could try again until I found what did.

Mary Winn Heider can certainly relate to try, try again. Click here to read the interview with her concerning her latest MG novel, The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy. The winner of that wonderful novel is Laura Bruno Lilly. Laura, please comment below to confirm.

Losers1Jacket Pic MWH

Bike photo from somewhere online. Skate photo by L. Marie.


43 thoughts on “Learning to Fall/Fail

  1. In-line skates were funny. I was great when I was a kid. For some reason, I’m terrible at skating as an adult. Maybe it’s this massive center of gravity I’m hauling around, which turns me into a faulty weeble-wobble.

  2. I agree with you. I’ve learned more about how to live a better life by contemplating failures and screw-ups, than by insisting that the world is all rosy and perfect. What’s the saying? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Subtext of my life!

    • So true, Ally! I was going to look for a quote on Einstein and the number of failures he experienced. But I forgot to do so. I do recall Kate DiCamillo stating that she had over 400 rejections before someone accepted a manuscript from her.

  3. My bike looked exactly like yours, except it was purple. I think failure and failing are two different things. We can fail when we try something over and over, but you’re only a failure when you quit trying.

  4. Yippee – it’s me! Thank you so much, I’m excited to pass this on to my baby cousin’s baby!

    As for the learning to bike ride adventure – Dad was so patient running alongside me. When I’d check to see if he was still holding on to the bike, I’d fall and crash. But I think I learned way faster that way. My bike was a blue Schwinn – I remember it well. One Christmas, I even got baskets to put on either side for all my stuff like school books, Mom’s grocery items and picking up pop bottles for deposit money.
    Big secret though: I thought your style of bike was way cooler than mine.

    • I wonder if blue is the top color for Schwinn. Because so many people seem to have had one!!!
      Will have the book sent to you!

      • Your post made me think of the bikes we used to have over here in the 70’s and 80’s before the advent of the BMX. Choppers, Strikers, Bombers. Mine was a proud red Grifter. With a yellow horn that imitated the different emergency services sirens.
        Thank’s for the time transportation!

      • Those were the days, huh? I loved my bike. And with many things that we love, it was stolen by a neighbor. There were some neighborhood suspects. My father discovered the culprit. Life in the big city!

  5. I love that bike. And your story on learning to ride it sounds so similar to mine. Every time I fell, though, I was more determined the next time not to.

  6. I like how you mention “Keep your knees bent,” when learning something new. In other words “Be flexible.” Being stiff and starchy about failing and falling will certainly lead to broken bones. Or, in the case of writing, broken dreams. You and the writers who comment here are examples of the can-do attitude. I’ve seen Mary’s book promoted on another website, perhaps another nudge to explore the contents. You’re kind to share!

    Think of babies, how many times they fall down on their diapered bottoms. Yet not a one at two has said, “It was too hard to walk; I just gave up.”

    This is coming at a good time for me, L. Marie. Right now, I’m going through a dry spell, but this feeling has happened before and I’m sure I’ll get past it. THANKS! ((( )))

    • Marian, I’m sorry you’re in a dry spell. May the well be refilled. I can’t help thinking of Isaiah 58:11 for you!!! Water is coming!

  7. Your learning to ride a bike led by your father reminds me of my own learning.
    Finally, learning falls and the ability to get up is very formative, a good school of life.
    . What memories, Linda!
    Love ❤

  8. Congratulations to Laura! My first bike had a banana seat as well and it was purple. I don’t remember learning how to ride a bike, but no doubt it was trial and error. I love to hear about people having to try and try again. I love stories where an author/artist/singer/actor is hailed as an “overnight success” after only 20 years of trying … lol. It’s so human. 🙂

    • Ha ha! 😄 😁 So true! I remember a woman being called an overnight success who said the same thing, She’d been working for 20 years!

  9. I don’t know how anyone could appreciate success if they hadn’t failed a time or two. Enjoyed the post. Stay dry this weekend. ☔

  10. Congratulations, Laura! And that bike looks familiar, although mine was pink. I rode it to school every day, except when it rained, but if it started raining while I was at school, I’d have to ride home in the rain. I lived about a mile away.

  11. I remember teaching our daughters to ride a bike when we were in the Philippines. They didn’t have training wheels either. My husband ran along beside them, I took skiing lessons when I was in high school. The first thing they teaching you is how to fall. My husband said that his martial arts classes started with how to fall.

    Writing is certainly a good way to learn a lot about failure before succeeding.

    • So true, Nicki! That’s why I don’t show many people my rough drafts (with the exception of my critique group). We need time to “fail.”

  12. If I want to try something new (e.g., learning to play Bridge or paint watercolors or paddle board), I am almost never going to let the learning curve stop me. I expect it’s because my “ego” isn’t tied up in new pursuits just for fun . . . so I don’t care if it takes me a while to get the hang of things.

    That said, I do NOT like falling or hurting myself. Bruised ego = fine. Skinned elbows and knees = no thanks!

    Congrats to Laura!

    • Nancy. you are the role model I wish I had had when I was in my 20s when I was making mistake after mistake. Not that I don’t make them now. But I remember floundering through life. Definitely driven by ego!

  13. I love when authors tell their stories of failure and success. Kate DiCamillo had over 470 rejection letters from agents. When she finally had one who liked her book…it won the Newbury. Yes, stories of failure are are the foundation for stories of success. If we experience failure, it’s an opportunity.

  14. Loved your humour in this post. Your bicycle lessons didn’t sound…too fun lol. Actually that was how my dad taught me how to ride a bike too. I didn’t end up learning to ride a bike well at all. Even after many years of trying I couldn’t find my balance. It sounded like inline skating was more your kind of activity. Growing up, inline skating was what the cool kids did 😛 I agree that we don’t usually talk about failures and tend to look towards success stories. We can always take something away from failure and better ourselves. Anyone can try again, anytime, anywhere. Hope you are doing well 🙂

    • Hi, Mabel! Thank you! 😊 I wound up loving my bike. My friend and I used to go on long bike hikes in our neighborhood. Inline skating was something I learned as an adult. I decided to do it–to not be afraid and just go for it. I’m so glad I did! Normally I give in to the fear and avoid the activity. But not that time!

  15. Yes, I had the same kind of bike, with the banana seat and high handlebars. Mine was electric blue and had tassels streaming from the ends of the handlebars. I loved that bike and rode it for miles and miles on the country roads near my farm. What a great memory you sparked.
    And yes, failure is for sure part of life’s process. The astronaut, Chris Hadfield, talks about preparing to fail. Planning for it, expecting it, and using every failure as a building block. It’s a great approach – especially when writing.

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