I don’t think any creative person is immune to the fear of failure. Especially in public. It’s one thing to write a story that doesn’t turn out well, that’s jut for you and no one else ever has to see it. But to publish a story, or release a single, or make a movie and then to realize it’s a stinker … and the whole world knows it … that’s a hard pill to swallow.
But it happens to all of us at one point. At the very least, the act of releasing your art to the world leaves you open to that sort of scenario. But what’s the alternative? To write in secret and file them away, never to be read or enjoyed by anyone else?
That’s not why we do this. Sure, we SAY we’re writing to please ourselves, and that’s true to an extent. But secretly, we want nothing more than to be able to put everything we create out into the world and have it be loved and adored by everyone who comes across it.
So we release our work and, in doing so, open ourselves up to the possibility of failure, every single time.
Think about it, if you release 3 books a year and those 3 books are read by, let’s say 1000 people. That’s 3000 chances for you to fail, that’s 3000 chances for a bad review, 3000 chances for the entire world to see what a loser you are.
But we do it anyway. Why do we open ourselves up to that scrutiny? And how to we combat it?
First, we do it because, in our secret hearts, we all know we’re amazing creators. We know that this story, this is gonna be the one that touches people, the one they remember. This story is going to be studied in university level creative writing classes when I’m gone. They’ll explore the symbolism and subtext, they’ll talk about the themes and dissect the characters. How could I NOT write this one, it’s going to be important!
And then it isn’t, it’s just another story, just another novel, read by some, forgotten by half. And then that new idea comes and we know THIS one, yes, forget that last one, THIS is gonna be the one they talk about a hundred years from now, I owe it to the world to finish this one and put it out there for the world to enjoy.
So, yeah, we do it because we can’t NOT do it. The same thing that compels us to take the time out of our day with its work and family and friends and television and the carpet needs cleaned and the dog needs groomed and the laundry needs folding, that thing that makes us sit down and just TYPE??? It’s the same thing that drives us to put it out there into the world. Call it ego, call it confidence, it all amounts to the same thing.
The normies don’t get it, they wonder why, how, what are we doing with our friggin’ lives? But those of us on the inside … we know. And when we meet another artist, we never wonder WHY, HOW, WHAT ARE THEY DOING WITH THEIR FRIGGIN’ LIVES? Because we know.
Now how do we combat that fear of failure?
CAN we combat it? Look, we’re gonna fail. It’s the nature of the beast when it comes to creative endeavors. Not everything you create is going to be perfect and amazing, some things are going to be less than others, some are going to stink.
But we pick ourselves up and move on to the next thing. The next painting, the next song, the next novel. We HAVE to. To let that fear paralyze us into non-action is the same as death for a creative person.
So we fight through the fear and do it again anyway. Sure, this next one might suck. It might be great. We’ll never know. And it doesn’t matter anyway, because good or bad, this is the thing that you have to get out of you and into the world. This is the thing you’re driven to work on, and it’s going to succeed or it’s going to fail, but either way you have to do it.
So put your head down and lean into it, and don’t think for a second about what comes after. Focus on NOW, focus on GETTING IT DONE. What’s the saying in boxing, it’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up? The same principle applies here.
You are going to fail at least once. But you’ll dust yourself off, pop your knuckles, and say, “Okay, let’s try this again. Better this time.”
The REAL failure is in giving up.