It’s Okay to Fail

January 23, 2011

by Leslie Zeigler

In light of the fact that today is the first day of the new year,  I wanted to blog about something that would be both inspiring and supportive to anyone who is yearning to be creative but afraid or for someone who is afraid to go to the next level in their creative process. I decided to be counterintuitive.  I listen so often to many people who report that what stops them from bringing their creative dream out of hiding, is somehow related to a fear of failing.  It may not be explicitly stated in that way, but that is what it relates to.

I was actually moved to write about the value of failing after listening to an interview Oprah had with J.K. Rowlings. In that interview, J. K. Rowlings, in a humble and earnest tone of voice, revealed  that it was when she hit rock bottom that she experienced the freedom  that really helped her to begin to write. And we know the rest of the story from there. Now it is not likely that any of us will  achieve the level of creative and commerical success that she did.  But that is not the point.

We live in a culture that dramatically emphasizes product over process. Being creative may never lead to external success or exposure.   But wouldn’t you feel freer to at least try to begin to write a poem, take a photo, ponder an idea for a short story, novel, non-fiction book, sign up for a singing, pottery, or dance class if you could accept that failure is an essential ingredient  of the gig?  And it really doesn’t have   to be so scary.  It does mean that you will have to learn how to strengthen your muscles of resilience and persistence.


Chicken Soup

January 9, 2011

Posted by Deborah Atherton

We talk a lot about creative blocks, the internal forces that keep us from realizing our ideas and visions. But sometimes life offers external blocks that keep us from doing what we want to do most.  Sometimes we confuse one with the other.

Several writers and artists have recently mentioned to me that a bad bout of flu had kept them from doing anything but watch mindless TV for over a week.  We are very intent sometimes on our schedules, our daily practice, the amount of words we get on a page or number of hours we have practiced on our instrument, and it’s hard to accept that external forces may prevent us from reaching our goals.

But life has a way of handing us obstacles on a fairly regular basis, and they may vary in severity from the loss of a job or a serious illness to a bad cold or visiting relatives.  And I think sometimes we are so used to trying to catch ourselves in slacking off (and let’s face it, we creative types do have an enormous gift for slacking off) that when real things happen, even when they come with temperatures of 103 or slings or severe lack of paychecks, we dismiss the reality of the obstacle, whatever its severity, and just start reproaching ourselves for not accomplishing things.

Sometimes it’s okay not to make your five hundred words a day or not to sit down at your easel or drafting table (especially if the smell of paint is making you sick.) Once in a while, yes, there will be a deadline that can’t be missed, a curtain that is going up or a book that is coming out and you will have to make a heroic effort, whatever the obstacles, and just resolve to pay for it later. But you don’t have to be heroic every day of your life (or no more heroic than every person is when they commit to pursuing their creative dreams.) Heroism is exhausting, and depleting, and not required from us all on a regular basis.

So pick up an undemanding book or the remote control, and get through your personal flu season (or whatever the obstacle may be) as comfortably as you can.  You’ll be back on the front lines soon enough, and one of these days, some heroism may well be required. But in the meantime, maybe just acknowledge that some days the blocks aren’t of your making, and the best thing you can do for yourself is go and find a nice bowl of chicken soup.

Much gratitude to Claudia Carlson for her thoughts on this issue. Check out her blog The Elephant House to follow an artist/poet/fiction writer/book designer on her adventures in and out of New York City!