As an artist, or a creative person- or quite frankly as any kind of person in the world- you will inevitably face failure- in some form, at some point in your life.
If you're like me (and most humans) - failure terrifies you. Fear of failure is the thing that holds it's hands tightly around your motivation and excitement, its the thing that prevents you from starting projects, finishing projects, choosing a bold or brave new color or letting yourself even think about making anything creative in the first place.
If we are going to be successful at creating in this world, then we're going to have to learn how to cozy up with our failures. Instead of seeing failure as a demon force we must battle with, we need to learn to see it as a cautionary but unsound (and annoying) friend that we need to keep around in our life.
Lately I've tried allowing failure to be a positive influence in my life and work. I've learned to see failure as a starting point for where the work really lies. In my opinion every good artist has learned to take their failure like medicine, and allowed it to make them better every time.
Here are 5 ways that I've learned to make friends with failure:
1. Forgive yourself - for all the perfectionists out there; begin by forgiving. Maybe you wont be the best artist there is, maybe your work won't win awards, maybe it will actually suck- but if you don't forgive your imperfections, if you don't see yourself as a flawed, imperfect but wonderful human then you will always struggle, you will always hold yourself to a standard that doesn't exist.
2. Stop comparing: this is the worst thing to do. In a day and age when social media paints a perfect picture of everyone else's life- this one is really dangerous, especially for us creatives. You are here to do you; to make your messes, to have your triumphs- so stop paying attention to what everyone else is doing. Delete Instagram and Facebook and anything else that destroys your sense of self worth if you have to! Do whatever you need to do, but remember to do you.
3. Do your best and forget the rest- when it comes to art making (and other things in life), all you can do is make your thing, paint your picture, do your drawing. The rest isn't for you to worry about- once it's finished and out in the world it is no longer your business- people are going to love what you do and they will also probably hate what you do- but either way, don't waste your precious creative energy wondering and worrying about it. Just get to work already!
4.Give yourself credit- making is hard. Whoever thinks it is easy is wrong. We have to get vulnerable and real and raw in order to create. We have to stand aside from the critic that lives inside our head and constantly tell them to shut up. We have to do weird experiments that defy logic, we have to come up with ways through and around problems that we couldn't have even imagined, and a lot of the time it really feels like we are alone in our creation making- because we mostly are. None of that is easy. Someone once said to me that getting an art school education was the best kind of education that you can get because through the process of having your work critiqued you are put in the crossfire of everything that is painful to a sensitive human.
"You don't like the shade of pink I chose?"
"Well I don't like your face OR anything that you make."
It's painful, it's hard and it makes us look at ourselves in ways we don't know if we want to.
Please! Give yourself a break- you're venturing to do this work, it is hard and you know it. So pat yourself on the back for even considering to do it, and then get to work!
5. Dispel your fears before they destroy you- whatever it is that is eating at you, gnawing it's way through the heels of your shoes you need to take a look at it before you have no shoes left. Something that has always helped me is to sit down and write down each and everyone of my fears. It's a process that feels like an exorcism. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes it makes me cry- but once you have physical proof of what your fears are you can go ahead and dispel them.
Fear= People will hate my work
Dispelling of that fear = Some people will hate your work and some people will love your work. Not everyone has to love your work, in fact the work wouldn't even be good if everyone loved it because it would be bland, boring and would have no personality. So don't create work to please your critics, create work to please yourself.
This is a method of talking yourself back from the edge, it helps. Do it.
P.S This is a list that is just as much for me as it is for you. We all need reminds as we work and progress in our craft. We may have to face fear and rejection and terrible failures on the daily- but that's what you sign up for when you decide to be a maker.
It's just as much part of the work as creating is (unless you're some kind of unfeeling super human artist and in that case you don't need help- why are you here?)
So face those fears, set forth and CREATE
We need you and we need your makings that only you can make.