It happens to every single one of us. We get fired up to create something. we sharpen our pencil, tune our guitar, open our laptop, clear our throat, and then…we suck.
How, or better yet, why does this happen?! And at the very least, shouldn’t the creative block, or the slumps, or the “what the crap did I just make?” days become less and less frequent over time as we refine our art? It seems, to me anyway, that the more that I design and write songs, the more confused I get at how the “system” works.
As I sit here processing this blog my brain is in a million places contemplating the simplest way to share what I’m thinking. The best answer I can find is that the problem begins with our thinking. Songwriting is a perfect example of the larger subject at hand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve landed in a songwriting session with the goal of writing a hit and hoping to finally find that mysterious formula that “hits” are brewed from.
As I repeatedly discovered, the formula is called authenticity and dedication. Trial and error. Work. Work. Work. And some good timing.
The sooner we realize this reality, that there is no magic formula in art, the sooner we can realize that like life itself art is a process. And if art is a process, then every part of the process is not only essential, but also valuable. Just like inspiration, discipline, and talent (all key players in creating beautiful art), so too must failure be viewed as a valuable asset rather than an intimidating enemy.
If we are serious about our art, we must embrace failure as one of our closest friends.
Easier said than done, right? But think about it. What does failing do? Does it make us weaker? Or less professional? Not at all, only if we are viewing it in such a way that we crumble when it happens. But it is bound to happen so why don’t we instead treat failure as new information? It can be painful, but if there is one thing messing up does well it’s showing us what doesn’t work. When I put my car in drive instead of reverse in the garage my busted bumper is going to quickly tell me that reverse will undoubtedly be the right choice next time.
Likewise, I have had a lot of clients tell me a logo or an album cover are the wrong direction. Does that suck? Yeah, it does. Do I want to nail the design right of out the gate? Absolutely. Does that ever happen? Occasionally. But what is more important, getting something right the first time through? Or getting something right? The more common story is of a client liking the overall direction of a design, but wanting to walk down the road of revisions and fine tuning that forces me to re-approach my art and trim the fat that my initial pass may not have caught.
You might be sick of hearing me talk already, but this concept of embracing failure is so necessary in our field, friends. I truly believe that a change in perspective about imperfection and falling short is a game-changer for all of us.
As artists we need to celebrate being losers.
As odd as that sounds, I simply mean that we more than anyone ought to understand the beauty of process. And the beauty of the artistic process is the wonder of imperfection. Heck, how often is that accidental brush stroke the very inspiration that changes the entire course of our project? Or the screwed up guitar line that changes the entire energy of a song? I believe the beauty of art is truly found in our errors. Likewise, I believe that the impact of the artist is found most in his or her ability to rise above, or rather to wade straight through the fault in their art in order to be refined themselves.
Let’s just remember that life and art are curiously similar. They are a process and a journey. And we are all on the journey together. So let’s celebrate the terrible days, and the hilarious do-overs. Let failure reveal new information which will only refine and improve our art in the end. It’s all part of the process. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves.