How I Failed And What Was The Lesson[ creative projects + perfectionism ]
I don’t like the title of this post. Here is why: I’m not much concerned with “failure”:
Failure is relative. Who can claim they succeeded in everything without compromising anything?
Failure is not personal. It’s neutral – just like air – it’s everywhere.
Failure doesn’t exist without success. If you don’t know what’s light, how will you know it’s too dark?
Failure doesn’t exist without comparison to something / someone – and comparison, as we know, is pointless.
Failure is irrelevant. Unless we give up completely. But who is there to point fingers? The only true failure is to die with what we desired to sing or say – still inside. And it doesn’t have to be perfect.
“Defeat ends when we launch into another battle”- Coelho.
The short story below (written by the ‘drama queen’ part of me, while the ‘zen monk’ part patiently observed) shows how things that “supposed to help” actually contribute to a slowdown. So how did I fail?
If you start a lot of things and have hard time to finish them – you may relate.
Over a year ago I promised you a book. Many of you hopefully don’t remember. I had it all done 95% all this time. And I was hoarding it. Which doubles the failure. The truth is – I have about 10+ projects I’m working on simultaneously (plus about 50 unfinished blog posts) and, and, and…
“There is nothing more powerful than an idea which time has come.” Victor Hugo
So what do you do, Victor, when the ideas jam the outlet?
The failure – itemized.
1. Public Accountability. I said I will do it. I announced it. I thought this is what’s going to “make me” finish things. This is how “they” say it works, don’t “they”?
Lesson learned: Public accountability exists just to create more stress and is a potential for shame. Assuming that anyone is even paying attention. For me – it did nothing.
What really helped: working with a coach. Having an unforgiving accountability partner. And a good role model who often stepped on my heels to push me.
2. Crossing the boundary of self abuse. We want to (or must) keep deadlines so badly we will often forget about self care. But see no. 3 ..
3. Being reasonable… is overrated – especially in the field of creativity. (Which for me is fine art and writing.) Too many things and people call for our attention.
But the creative time needs to be guarded. Solitude needs to be protected. To finish something one needs to be obsessed with the work. ( because the word “dedication” is not enough)
Lesson learned: it’s a constant balancing act between those two necessities: self care and obsession.
4. Underestimating time. Time is faster than we realize. My brain often doesn’t keep up. Again I overestimated the speed of my thinking.
Lesson: when I think something takes a month it actually takes 8 months. Because often I put things away.
5. Believing that discipline is enough. Discipline is important but once you have it you realize it is not everything. You can sit at the desk all day long, but when there is no focus, no vision – the discipline is dead.
Lesson: play more.
6. The trap of the “one thing”. It’s been said: the best way to accomplish anything and make progress is to focus on “one thing” and work just on that.
So I did. As soon as I focused on “one thing” it turned it is a monster; mythological hydra with 8 heads. Every time you finish one – another 8 shows up.
Lesson: be prepared. Expect the unexpected. Oh, yes, that’s just another 16 heads of hydra I need to fight with.
7. Overworking it. If you wait at a bus stop in winter, you just step around in one place not really going anywhere. This is what writing feel like sometimes to me.
Many times I stepped around in snow for a long time, only to find out later, that what I wrote has to be rewritten, or not needed at all.
Lesson learned: You want to make it good, and in the end it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s “good enough.”
8. I developed “mind chatter.”
Lesson learned: I learned how to stop mind chatter within 24 hours of the onset. We get silent by submerging in silence. So I went to my favorite chapel where I could be alone for an hour. I closed my eyes and asked for guidance. Then I followed it.
9. Trying to change nature. I was expecting that all the advice will work. Some was a very good advice and it worked, and other was good and it didn’t. When we try to force our creativity to follow some rules and the creativity rebels, who do you listen? I’m open to change my working habits to be more productive and efficient, but what’s wrong with this: 1. venting all the time about how slow I am with work. 2. finishing project one after another “out of the sudden”.
Lesson learned: I understood my creative process, “this is how I work.” And I love it.
I thought I failed because I believed I have to work at certain speed and the work needs to look in certain way. When I have no expectations and no limitations – the failure doesn’t exist.
So in the end I finished a second ebook as the first and the second which was the first right after the second.
Do you have a project that you have hard time to finish? Write to me if you want a creative assistance.
If you are an artist or a writer or a composer – what is the nature of your creativity? How did you make friends with “failure”?