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How To Fail Creatively

How to Fail Creatively

What’s the big deal about failure anyway? Who gets to determine if something is a failure or not?

The answer is: you. You do.

Because failure, by definition, is basically not meeting your own expectations. So a failure for me, might not even be a failure to you. Because you might not have expected things to go the way that I did. Which means, failure is all in our thoughts. Which means, we get to determine if it’s worth getting upset over. Which means, we can choose to see it differently.

If this seems confusing, let’s break it down further.

Failure = Not Meeting Our Own Expectations

Say, for example, that you’ve set a goal for yourself to make your next quilt out of linen fabric. And as you begin to sew, you realize that linen has a different hand than the quilting cottons that you’re used to working with. And your points aren’t matching up perfectly and your seams aren’t all 1/4″. As you continue to sew, you realize that you might need more spray starch when working with linen. Or you have to accept that it has an organic look rather than a crisp aesthetic.

At this moment, you can CHOOSE to see this experience as a failure because your quilt is not turning out the way that you had expected it to. OR, you can choose to see this creative experimentation as a learning experience. You’ve now learned to work with a new fabric. You’ve learned that you don’t particularly like the “organic” look. And you’ve learned how, in the future, you can be more intentional with your fabric and project choices.

There are far more benefits to taking the risk — and “failing” — than there are to avoiding trying something new at all. It’s all about how we frame the experience to ourselves and how much grace we show ourselves when things don’t work out as planned.

Grace is Essential to the Process

The best way to encourage yourself to take the risks, which could potentially lead to failure (i.e. not meeting your own expectations), is to promise yourself that you will be kind to yourself regardless of the outcome. If you promise yourself ahead of time that you will show yourself the same kindness that you would show to a friend who struggled on a creative endeavor, then you don’t have to worry about how you will feel if your expectations aren’t met.

Risk = Reward

At the end of the day, the feeling of pride that we get from achieving something new — or meeting our expectations when we weren’t sure that we could — is far greater than the feeling of safety and staying in our comfort zone. If we play it safe because we let fear determine our creative process, we never get the chance to grow. We avoid feelings of discomfort, but we remain in feelings of stagnation.

When we “fail”, we learn something new

So, let’s flip the script on failing.  No longer will it be about us doing something “wrong”.  Instead, it’s about us having an opportunity to learn and to grow as creatives. Now, go out and fail! I know I will.


Want more creative encouragement? Check out What Does It Mean to “Create With Intent”? and Finding Your Unique Creative Voice.

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