Excerpt from “Failure is Not an Option,” by Allison D. Carr.

WRITING PROMPT: Below is an excerpt from “Failure is Not an Option,” by Allison D. Carr. (Pronouns for Allison D. Carr: she, her, hers.) In this excerpt, Carr considers popular conceptions of failure, and how these conceptions relate to learning to write.

Please read the passage, then compose an essay that both summarizes Carr’s argument and connects that argument to another, similar idea, using another piece of evidence familiar to you. You may draw connections to another text from your college coursework, a moment in your own lived experience, an image, video or podcast, or whatever piece of evidence helps you to make an interesting and novel connection to the idea’s in Carr’s text.

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Your essay should be well-crafted and demonstrate a facility with English grammar and syntax, as well as an ability to analyze texts and synthesize ideas.

Note that use of online resources is NOT permitted. You have 60 minutes to complete this writing. This is the last (and only) question on the exam.


“Failure, so goes the dominant cultural narrative, is a sign of weakness. Of laziness. Of stupidity and bad breeding and busted bootstraps. Failure will ruin your life. In action, suspense, and sports films, failure is not an option. In real life, failure only happens to bad people. Or, more to the point in this context, to bad writers. Failure in writing betrays dullness of mind, smallness of imagination. The failed writer—the one who cannot learn to write well (which is to say, according to accepted conventions of good writing)—is discounted as dim, unprepared, non-serious, wacky, or weird, distracted, behind.

“No. Stop with this. This is stupid, and the opposite is actually true: Failure should be welcomed, if not actively sought out, signaling as it does both the presence of creative, risky thinking and an opportunity to explore a new direction. To writing especially, failure is integral, and I will go so far as to assert that the best writing (and the best learning-to-write) happens when one approaches the


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