I say it here a lot, but failure is part of the creative process and a necessity to creative success. After all the only people who never fail are God and people who never try anything new. Since we’re not God and creativity is all about trying new things, failure is inevitable. PERIOD! Since failure is part of the creative life, we creatives need to learn to fail forward.
The first step is to start ,and fear of failure keeps more people from starting than any of us will ever know, largely because these great things they should have started never made it out of their imagination. Once you have started, the next step is to finish, but before you’re completely finished, it’s a good idea to take the idea far enough so that someone else can see it and share it. This might be a drawing or a mock up, maybe even a prototype, depending on what you do. The idea here is to get some feedback before you’ve invested tons of time and money in something that is not going to work, because nothing crushes the creative spirit faster than an epic fail (especially if other people’s money is involved.)
Please note I am not necessarily talking about sharing this half formed idea with the world and certainly not with people who are consistently nay sayers, but with a couple of visionary people (you should be building this group if you haven’t already) who can look at an idea and see potential. The main thing with this group of people is that they can be constructive. In some cases one or two will not see it yet. Most of the time, this is not yet time to put on the brakes. If everyone sees too many fatal flaws, it may be time to scrap the idea, but more than likely, it’s just time to go back to the drawing board and work out through the flaws. By the way, I am not a fan of scrapping any ideas. There are some ideas that may just be miles ahead of their time and the rest of the world, technology, etc. may just not have caught up yet.
Now suppose everyone thinks your idea is the best thing since sliced bread (what did they say before sliced bread was invented?), what do you do next? The obvious answer is to finish it and make the thing real. Here we need to set a deadline. When will you release your project? Set a realistic deadline and stick with it. Here’s why. Fear of failure is still out there and at this stage it manifests in endless tweaking rather than what must be done. What’s that? It needs to be released, It needs to be shipped. It needs to be shared with the world however that happens in your world. You send the manuscript to the editor. You release the song. You perform the play. You hang your painting in the gallery or wherever you put your work.
Here’s the thing, even with all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted, there will still be times where your work will flop. You will still fail. What to do then? Learn and move forward. If your work is flawed, fix it and try again. If it feels hopeless, put it aside and start the next thing, remembering you’re not a failure, you just tried something and it didn’t work (for now). For scientists, this is called an experiment. Thank God they don’t quite when one of those fails because they fail by the millions daily. They learn from what didn’t work, and try something new. We creatives have to do the same thing. While focus is huge, you should always have another idea on the back burner. The reason is simple. We get invested in what we do, sometimes so invested that we will wallow in a failure and give up. The only fatal failure is the one that makes you quit. Don’t do it. Get right back on the proverbial horse and start again. Fail forward until eventually you succeed…
and you will succeed.