Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Be Creative, Just Don't Make Any Mistakes

Ya gotta be wrong to be right. This maxim doesn't apply to every situation, but it does apply to creative work. If you've ever had a boss who wants you to "try something new, just don't mess up," or if you grew up with authority figures that loved creativity as long as you didn't go "outside the lines," it's time to learn how to fail.

There, I said it, the "f" word. Fail. I love that word. I used to be terrified of it. Like the bogeyman-under-the-bed phase, it took me awhile to outgrow my fear of failure. I used to invent scenarios about what I would do if/when things went wrong, then invent solutions to save myself. What a waste of creative energy. Most things we worry about never happen, and if they do, the details are always different that I ever could have imagined, so none of my safety-scenarios would have helped.

So how did I cure myself? I really didn't. One day, I noticed that I didn't worry much about failure anymore. Looking back I see that there were some things I was doing that got me to my new place. Here are some tips I gleaned from that life experience. Use what works and ignore the rest:
  • Stay in the moment. If that isn't working mentally, hold your breath. There is nothing like waiting to breathe to get you into the moment. I learned this doing water sports.
  • Fail at something you're doing that's teetering in the direction of failure. Let it fall consciously and with intent (also called "letting go") and surprise yourself with what you do next.
  • Think about your failure as one of the launch pads to success. Even Tiger Woods doesn't make every ball he hits. Look for the lesson in the failure and use it to build your next attempt. With every failure, you'll be that much closer to your goal, or know when you've tried enough.
  • Be willing to quit. A thoughtful and considered ending is wiser than sticking with something just so you won't "lose".
Take my art class this summer with Art in the Mountains.

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