Sending Out An S.O.S.

Choice, chance, change
(Courtesy of Zig Ziglar)

They say that failure is good. That it builds character and allows us to grow. It helps refine us.

You know, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.


I wonder if that’s how Sting feels at the moment.

Failure is never easy. Especially, if you’re in the public eye.

A couple of months ago, I watched an interview with Sting on NPR/Ted radio, “How to Get Over Writer’s Block.” During the discourse, Sting talked about his horrible bout with writer’s block that stretched for nearly a decade.

Now wait a minute. This is Sting. We’re talking about a legendary singer-songwriter. A member of the iconic band The Police. A ten Grammy, two Brits, Golden Globe award winner who has sold close to 100 million albums and was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Yes, that Sting! Writer’s block? Are you kidding me?

I guess if it can happen to Sting, it can happen to anyone.

But here’s what he had to say—

“Creativity is the ability to take a risk. To actually put yourself on the line and risk ridicule, being pilloried, criticized, whatever. But…you must take that risk.”

So what did he do?

He sent out an S.O.S. He took a risk. He dug deep into his past and found inspiration. He channeled stories of shipyard workers that he knew from his childhood. And voila! A Broadway musical was born.

An Englishman in New York?

No silly. The Last Ship.

It became his 14th solo album and a new play bearing the same name with music and lyrics by Sting. And it debuted at the Neil Simon Theatre at the end of October.

Then it sprang a leak.

The Last Ship was set against the downfall of the local English shipbuilding industry. It tells the story about a group of unemployed shipyard workers who want to take back their pride and build one last ship—not for their employer, not for the government, but for their own self-esteem, for humanity.

Of course, there’s more to it. There’s a love story that’s also weaved into the account. But the story really resonated with Sting. He felt that this story ran parallel to the narrative of many hard working people today who had lost their manufacturing jobs. Which in turn made him more determined than ever to bring his story to life.

Alas, the musical didn’t quite come across as well as Sting had envisioned. So much so, that by mid-December, Sting jumped into the fray and took on a supporting role in hopes of bolstering sales. But with all the lukewarm reviews, even though some thought that the story was seaworthy, it still didn’t help.

The Last Ship sunk.

On the eve of joining the cast onstage, the singer acknowledged his show faced a tough future: “This was never going to be easy. I didn’t anticipate a shoo-in at all. I expected a battle because I want to succeed against the odds.”

Send out an S.O.S. Sting!

Unfortunately, it was too late. There, amongst what was Broadway’s highest grossing year, Sting had failed. His story didn’t inspire audiences to tell their friends that The Last Ship was a must-see. It was a lack of word-of-mouth that had caused the show’s demise.

The lack of word-of-mouth that caused a 15 million dollar ship to go down.


Yet, this is his message in a bottle:

Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
More loneliness
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair

The Last Ship’s final performance will be on January 24th. If you wanted to see Sting’s musical, you better head over before it sails off into the sunset.

Yet, somehow I don’t think this will be the last thing that we hear from Sting. He’s too willing to make a choice, to take a chance, so his life will change!

And so should we.

Here’s Bruno Mars covering So Lonely/Message in a Bottle at the Kennedy Center in honor of Sting.


So what do you think? Have you ever seen a live performance by Sting? Did you know about Sting’s Broadway musical The Last Ship? Have you ever taken a risk and failed? If so, how did it make you feel? What did you do to pick yourself up? And what is your favorite song by Sting?

Cheers everyone! I hope that life is treating you well. And as always, thank you so much for all your support and wonderful comments!

26 thoughts on “Sending Out An S.O.S.

  1. Denise D. Young

    Great post, Karen. I think writer’s block usually springs from some sort of fear–fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being judged. So overcoming it is all about pushing through fear–just like Sting did. He took a risk, even if it didn’t pan out, which is what living a creative life is really all about. This story is an important reminder that our past successes don’t mean everything we do will be a success–but it works the other way, too. Just because we took a risk and failed doesn’t mean that’s how every project will turn out. Thanks for sharing this story!
    Denise D. Young recently posted..World-Building for Writers: Creating a world readers will loveMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you Denise. And thank you for your insightful comment. I appreciate your though on writer’s block and have never thought of it that way. But I think you make an excellent point. Fear is so crippling, isn’t it? Good to know from Sting’s experience that we can overcome fear even if faced with failure. 🙂

  2. Kelly Byrne

    I’m sorry I couldn’t get to your post sooner this week, Karen, but it’s kind of nice I didn’t because it meshes so well with Jenny Hanson’s post from Today, “Thoughty Thursday” about taking the leap off that cliff (creatively speaking of course!).

    If you don’t jump, you’ll never fail, but you’ll also never soar. Sting didn’t soar with this one, and I’m sure it stung, but I bet he’s got a few more in him. Just like we all do. We just have to take that leap, send out that SOS and know that if it doesn’t work out, we move on and try it all again with something else. Another story, another book, another project, another show. Always moving forward.

    Great post and a nice reminder to ‘just keep swimming.’ 🙂
    Kelly Byrne recently posted..What’s Love Got To Do With A Dirty Rotten Thief?My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hey there Kelly! No worries girl. Jenny wrote a most excellent post. “If you don’t jump, you’ll never fail, but you’ll also never soar.” Love, love, love that Kelly! So true. Always keep moving forward. You betcha. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts girl. Take care. 🙂

    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you so much Debra! Love “Fields of Gold!” You know, I couldn’t help think about what we’ve learned about promoting our work. Word-of-mouth. To me this was sad news after putting so much effort into that project. But as you said, Sting will keep on keeping on. And so shall we! 🙂

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Coleen! Yours too? I’ve always love Message in a Bottle. One of my favs. But it is so hard to watch someone fail, no matter who that are. “There’s huge inspiration here about taking chances and no regrets.” Thank you Coleen for saying that. I cannot agree more. 🙂

  3. Ginger Calem

    I’ve always loved Sting but have never seen him live. I will occasionally belt out a convincing Roxaaannnee!! 🙂

    I saw him on the Today Show talking about this play. He spoke very lovingly about it. Sad to hear it didn’t do well. But like you said, he took a chance.

    Success against the odds far more satisfying than a ‘sure bet’. A great reminder to keep stepping out of that warm and cozy comfort zone where all the true magic lives.

    1. Karen Post author

      Oh thanks a lot Ginger! Now I have Roxxaaannnneee in my head and can’t get it out! Yes, I watched an interview back in early October on CBS about this musical. It is sad to see something fail that you’ve put so much effort into. “A great reminder to keep stepping out of that warm and cozy comfort zone where all the true magic lives.” Well put my friend. I couldn’t have said it better! Thanks Ginger! And I hope your writer’s butt class is going well!!! 🙂

  4. Julia

    I have always liked Sting, and really liked the Police way back when, but haven’t followed his career and knew nothing about the play. His “failure” does seem to have helped revive his career. I’ve seen him a couple of times in the last few weeks.

    Doing something close to your heart does mean taking risks though — I like the way he, and you, put this.

    Fun video. Michelle looks untouched by the White House years!
    Julia recently posted..Travel in 2014My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Julia! Glad you enjoyed the video. I though Bruno Mars did an excellent job. And you’re right. Doing something close to our heart does take a certain amount of risk. But it’s tough to fail in front of millions of people when you’ve put your heart on the line. Knowing Stings track record, I think we’ll see him again. He’s not going anywhere. And besides, I want to hear more of his music, don’t you? 🙂

    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you so much Louise! Lol, I totally understand where you’re coming from my friend. Balance is a toughie. But I think we can all appreciate how important it is to take risks. It’s all a part of life, right? 🙂

  5. Susie Lindau

    I’ve seen Sting live a couple times. The last time, his son performed with him. I wondered where he’d been. Before the musical, he tried combining orchestra and rock which I think failed as well.
    I think it goes back to writing for your fans. His fans aren’t theater-goers. They want an upbeat song to hum along to.
    Susie Lindau recently posted..Becoming New and Improved Bionically in 2015My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Susie! How cool is that? I think Sting is one of the few singers that I haven’t seen. You bring up a good point. We need to write/play to our audience. (Ten Summoner’s Tales) And unfortunately, this musical wasn’t it. I think people, those who could afford to see a Broadway production, couldn’t relate to the story. But for whatever reason, he’ll be back I’m quite sure. Thank you for your perception Susie. It’s always appreciated! And I hope you heal quickly and back on those slope soon! 🙂

    1. Karen Post author

      Oh my goodness Kathy, “Ten Summoner’s Tales.” I had forgotten about that CD. When was that? Hold on a minute, I’ll look it up. lol. Wait! I have that CD too! Ready for this? Try 1993! Yes, I know. Still a classic! And I’m sure he’ll recreate the wheel again. But what a risk, eh? But it does help to keep in perspective what we do. Keep going Kathy. You’re on a roll my friend. And I’m proud of you!! 🙂

  6. Jennette Marie Powell

    I liked the Police a lot way back when, but never really followed Sting, so this was news to me. I don’t believe in writers’ block, unless it’s caused by something else, like health issues, depression, or other stresses. Project block? Sure – time to switch projects. Sting’s situation sounds more like one where fear and public pressure created a huge burden on him, one he handled the only way we can: by just pushing past it. As for me, whether I fail or succeed (whatever that is LOL), no one seems to notice, so I just keep on going. 🙂
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..New Year, New ROW80, New Goals!My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Jennette! I really appreciate your viewpoint on this. How insightful you are. Fear and public pressure could very well be the core issue with Sting’s lack of creativity. I can’t imagine that kind of pressure. And then to fail in front of millions. Ack! That’s a lot to carry. But I am so proud of your persistence! Keep going girlfriend and don’t ever give up! And thank you for your comment today! 🙂

  7. Kristy K. James

    Nice article, Karen! No, I’ve never been to a Sting concert, but I do enjoy some of his music – especially the song he did with Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams (All For Love – The Three Musketeers).

    Have I failed? Countless times. What do I do in response? Sometimes I have a pity party, sometimes I’m annoyed with myself, but I always, always try again. What’s the point of life if we don’t keep trying?
    Kristy K. James recently posted..Puppy AlarmsMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you Kristy! Ooh, that was a good song. I think sometimes we need to have a pity party. The trick is knowing when to stop. “What’s the point of life if we don’t keep trying?” Wonderful statement girl! So true. We cannot give up. And you have lots of stories still burning to be told. “All for One and One for All!” ((Hugs)) 🙂

  8. prudencemacleod

    Hey Karen, this is all news to me, except for the part where writer’s block can mess you up for years. Been there, hated that. I’ve also put my heart and soul into a book that flopped too. The thing is, you never expect that to hit the top people, right? When you say, Sting, failure just does not come to mind. Gives the rest of us hope, ’cause, you know Sting will rise again.
    Great post, Karen. Keep them coming.
    prudencemacleod recently posted..Starting Over Yet AgainMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Prudence! Oh girl, that had to have hurt big time. Good for you for not giving up! Yes, Sting will rise again. He’s too much of a creative not to. I will do my best to keep them coming. Thank you so much Pru! See you soon! And stay warm! 🙂

    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you Kassandra! Yes, we all need to take chances. But wow, that was really putting yourself out there in a big way. This one had to’ve hurt. Make it a great week and a wonderful year! 🙂


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