The Importance of Failure

One of the things I have found was failure (for example: not making back the cost of having a show and even not selling a piece and perhaps having bad reviews) GETS EASIER TO TAKE. But that comes after it has to be so familiar that it is no longer the single criteria that determines if you are going to do the hard work of being an professional artist.

Nevertheless, failure is the end of some really talented fledgling careers. The hard part is building with quick silver; having the accumulated experience that the work is finally substantial enough to stand up to real scrutiny on its own merits. In the beginning of a career there is so much out there to look at that it is hard to tell what is “good’. Sometimes what gets recognition is only what is novel or trendy. It therefore does not mean that failure is the real measure of talent, only that it should be expected. Creating the work is an isolating endevour at times. Learning to take critique and listen to your own voice when it is really true comes largely from appreciating failure.

Failure is like a tuning fork for the voice of the muse. It is this blending of the possible and the impossible that gives rise to enduring art. 

There is nothing in life that does not have a certain amount of failure as a necessary part of growth. Children who start early with a skill have years and years of “not getting it right” under their belts before they get to school and often as soon as they get out of school, they start learning it some more.

J.K. Rowling gives a wonderful and moving talk that touches on some of this:

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Failure

  1. I liked your thoughts. They mirror my own. I notice that failure makes us stronger and more able to deal with-well-failure. I have succeeded many times but failed many more. My failures, though, especially in teaching, make me see my way through to success. If the students yawn their way through a lesson, we don’t have that particular style of lesson ever again. I haven’t lectured, for example, in years. Anyway, well done!

  2. Thanks for commenting.

    I taught an art class to kids at a community center and I found it really stressful. We did some paper mache and when I got home a had a skunk stripe down my back from the kids flinging paste at my back. (I am quite sure I hugged my own kids very hard and told them how wonderful they were that night!)

    On discussion I learned that these kids were in one activity after another from dawn to dusk, and they had chosen “art” because it meant they didn’t have to run around. They were “dumped” kids. I decided that art was too important to force it on any one and that they had every right to some rest so I told them they could bring their books, magazines and I would bring in a stereo and they could just “hang out” and only IF THEY WANTED could do the project I planned.

    In the end it turned out to be a strong class. We had a little “show” for the parents. When I was asked to teach the next year I said no however. I was a single mother and what I learned from the experience was kids need a significant adult involved in a way that allows for unstructured play and “down time”. In my case that was me.

    I think teachers are truly wonderful. As for lecturing, have you tried joining “Toast Masters” they are great for learning public speaking.

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