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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Writing Failure Lesson #4: Put It in Perspective

art and fear book“The artist’s life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because s/he imagines it to be fast.”

David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear

A corollary to Bayles and Orland’s observation is that creativity is frustrating not because we fail, but because we think we should always succeed.

Failures are not stop signs; they are detours or signals to change lanes. They are milestones that mark your progress. Make no mistake, failing is essential in the creative process.

Ask yourself if the attempt truly is a failure. What looks like failure can be something new emerging. Sometimes things have to fall apart (aka fail) before we can put the pieces back together in a creative, new way. (This was a common theme among many of my coaching clients this week and I hope this is what’s happening with my lower back – an old pattern is falling apart so a new way of moving in my body can evolve. This is also why today’s post is short and sweet.)

frustrating and fascinating billy crystal quote writer's block writing habit

Remember that this draft, this attempt is what failed, not you. You are not a failure; you are a discoverer of what doesn’t work on the way to celebrating what does work.

Learn everything you can from every failure. What part didn’t work? What part did? Why? How could it be different? Ask these questions dispassionately and without judgment or regret.

Learn what you can and then Let It Go! Don’t dwell on the failure. It’s not that important. Really. So stop telling yourself the “epic fail” story. Identify how your next try can be different, but do not ruminate about what you should have done.

Your next try might also fail. So what? As long as it fails in a different way, you’re still discovering what doesn’t work on the way to finding what does work.

Make your next failure unique, illuminating and another step in the creative process, even when you’re not sure what you’re failing your way toward.

greatness (2)Trust the process. Trust yourself. Trust your failures have value. They teach you how to succeed. They might inspire other writers.

If nothing else, your failures might amuse someone. They can even amuse you if you have the right perspective.

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2 Comments on “Writing Failure Lesson #4: Put It in Perspective”

  1. Joel D Canfield March 31, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    comedy = tragedy + time


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