Ever tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again.
Just love that quote, don’t you? It gives us absolute, unconditional permission to fail and fail again on our way to wherever we’re going. What could be more liberating and motivating than knowing that it’s AOK to take a flyer now and then? Or as my mentor Rob Gilbert puts it, “You can mess up, but don’t give up!”
This Sunday my friend Sally and I had a cup of coffee and a chat. Sally and her husband, Will, own the wonderful Bread Company Montclair (see Baking Bread). Sally is also a gifted artist. Right now she’s working on two paintings, one for each of her sons, both of whom are living in Australia. She described her painting technique as being something like this: I work a bit, make a little progress, then make a mistake and have to paint over it in order to fix it. Every once in a while, I create something that has real energy and life. When that happens, I try not to overthink it, because whenever I do, it loses its energy.
As she said this, I kept thinking, Wow, that’s exactly what I do when I write! I make a little headway, then hit a style bump or word logjam and have to free things up so they flow in the right direction again. And whenever I overwrite, I suck the energy out of what I’m trying to say.
Musician, painter, choreographer, set designer. All these endeavors are very different, yet the creative process involved seems to be fundamentally the same. We take two steps forward, three steps back, fail, get up, fail again, get up again. It’s that willingness to fail better — to fail forward, as another friend puts it — that enables us to keep moving toward our dreams. It’s a messy style of working, but that seems to be the artist’s way, doesn’t it? We strive to create beauty and wholeness out of chaos.
Does this “fail, fail again, fail better” way of working sound familiar to you?