Creativity and Failure

colored booksThere is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period. – Brene Brown

The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark. Agnes de Mille

If you’ve been resistant to engage your creativity because you are afraid of failing, I’d like to share my experience to illustrate that when you are really playing with the creativity process nothing really feels like failure. You value everything as part of the experience. It’s more like spiritual practice where you learn, grow and expand.

I’ve been playing with creativity for a long time. Starting with modern dance and art design in high school, then moving to black and white photography in college and then embracing writing as my primary form, first essays then later adding poetry.

In my years doing photography, I had my own darkroom and rolled my own film in bulk. Even after I became skilled in both the art and the craft, I understood, as did my fellow photographers, that I’d be lucky to get one good image from a roll of 36 exposures. I was always grateful and excited for that one and instinctively saw the others as something to learn from.

In developing as a writer, I had countless notebooks filled with writing practice exercises and pieces of writing that never went anywhere. Yet I somehow understood as Nobel Prize winning Canadian short story writer Alice Munro said of her own experience, “I threw away all my early work, and it wasn’t because I was the mother of three small children, it was because I was learning my craft and it took a long time.”

I experienced my early writing as a process that I enjoyed playing with. It helped that I worked as a biologist and environmental educator so that I wasn’t seriously identified with being a writer or expecting to make a living from it.

When engaged in the creative process, I feel like the act itself is its own reward. I am certainly aware of all the things I try that don’t work, but that’s just part of the dance. In experiencing the intrinsic sense of satisfaction from the work I’m not really attached to the outcome.

In essence it’s about reclaiming our childlike sense of joy and pleasure that comes from creating and understanding that it’s a process, a journey that leads you to surprising and expected places. So give it a try and discover all that being creative, in whatever form calls to you, can add to your life. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out the way you think you would like. Just keep going.

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