Ff: Fear of Failure

During April, I will be blogging about how creative people can practice their craft every day and what rewards will come from the daily effort.

Ff: Failure
Fear of Failure

It took me years to realize I feared failure. I was so afraid of it, I avoided any situation that might lead to it.  When people talked about failure, I imagined Big Epic Fall-Apart Catastrophe and knew that would never be me, not realizing this was true only because I avoided sticking my neck out at all.

Most likely, you fear failure too. The trick is to recognize what failure looks like to you. While a Big Scene of Humiliation seemed unlikely for me, I started to notice the many the small worries and threats that held me back.

For example, I’ll put off starting a project by telling myself I’m waiting for a Big Block of Time, or the Right Day, as if I need a particular humidity in order to sit down and write or draw. The truth is, I’m afraid to start creating because projects take a lot of time and energy. What if I spend all that time and energy, and it doesn’t work out? What if all that effort results in one more project that sits in a drawer, closet, or hard drive? I want to know it will be successful before I even start because why bother doing it if it goes nowhere?

What I know now is that there’s really no such thing as Total Failure. Yes, it’s true that if your work does not meet the goal you’ve set, you’ll be disappointed, hurt, your confidence shaken. There’s no way to avoid some pain unless you completely avoid your craft, and even then there will be the pain of longing and loss. So, accept this fact—failure sucks. However, it’s not a total waste. Far from it.

I used to roll my eyes at ideas like this, but it’s true — even if your project does not meet the mark you’ve set, even if it seems to fail in the eyes of others, as painful as that is, you’ll have gained significantly for having created it.

Here’s my check list to prove Total Failure does not exist:

Did I learn some new skills in the process? Did I sharpen some skills? Build some muscles?
Did I meet any new people or connect with others in talking about/creating this project?
Did it inspire other ideas for me to pursue?
Did the project leave some scraps I can pick up and spin into new work?
Can I break down Failed Project and use parts for new projects? **
** Maybe a sketch for failed painting becomes the inspiration for a logo or card design. Or a paragraph becomes a prose poem. Or part of your screen play becomes a one-act for a summer festival.

Will time reveal that this Failed Project brought me to the exact right people, skills, ideas, and situation to excel in a Future Successful Project? Yes, probably, as long as I don’t let this one failure, or the fear of this kind of failure, derail my daily practice.


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12 Responses to Ff: Fear of Failure

  1. Alex Hurst says:

    I “fail” a lot… but it’s always progress, so I seem to never realize I’m failing. I’m still further than where I was yesterday, and that tends to be enough for me. 🙂

    • TRISTA says:

      EXACTLY!!! That’s a very pithy way of saying what it’s taken me many years to fully understand, believe, and actually apply to my creative life.

  2. Rose L. says:

    I try to attempt several things in one day and often never complete a single one! It makes me feel like I failed. I used to be rather organized, but since hubby died, had to sell home, and moving, I find my daily life always rattled.

    • TRISTA says:

      I bet you’re doing exactly what’s right for you at this time, Rose. There’s no failure in starting a few things each day, especially since that means you’re being creative! You’ve had a few huge transitions and transformations in your life, and you’re finding your new self, habits, and inspirations. As long as you’re still writing and taking photos, be as much of a butterfly as you wish!

  3. I was going to write about fear today for A to Z, and my brain went in another direction, which it often does. Now, I know I was meant to come over and read your post. Good post. Cheers.

  4. Rose L. says:

    I do not fear failure as much as letting others down.

  5. EcoCatLady says:

    I love your approach here. I definitely suffer from this syndrome, though it usually doesn’t stop me from delving into a project – finishing it though… that’s where my trouble lies!

  6. Debs Carey says:

    Fantastic post and a wonderful series of questions to ask oneself.
    I have a favour to ask – I’d love to link to your post on my coaching blog. If you think you might be willing, please email me and I will point you at the website and fledgling blog so that you can review and decide. Whatever you decide, I’ve enjoyed your blog so much, I’ve read all the way through to here. Will stop off on the way to sprinkle the odd comment …

    • TRISTA says:

      Thank you, Debs! I’d be happy to have you link my post to your blog, and I will email you promptly. (I just visited your Bunny and the Bloke blog and am now reserving Aaronovitch books from the library.)

  7. Pingback: #AtoZChallenge 2015 REFLECTIONS | All But The Kitchen Sink

  8. Pingback: Storybook Update, Or: Try it again, and again, and now one more time … | All But The Kitchen Sink

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