Monday, September 28, 2015

Failure IS an Option

by Carol
(with lots of help from Elizabeth Gilbert)

It's everywhere - in gift shops, on bumper stickers, on corporate desks. It's burned into wooden wall hangings, painted on decorative boards, engraved on little brass desktop name plates - 
"What would you do if failure were not an option?"

I don't know where or with whom this quote originated, but it's suddenly unavoidable. I have always had a fundamental dislike for this saying, without really knowing why, and I recently found out that Elizabeth Gilbert does too - but she knows why!

If I know our FOL family as I presume to, I can assume that they are aware that Elizabeth has a new book out called Big Magic - Creative Living Beyond Fear. You may not be aware however, that she also has a new podcast called Magic Lessons. It's a fascinating approach to discussions on creativity. She has chosen five creatives working out there in the 'real world'. Initially, she calls them up and talks to them about their creative process, their blocks, their fears, their paths and then she gives them some advice. On a later episode, she will invite a friend of hers - usually a successful creative in the public eye (like Cheryl Stayed, John Hodgeton, Brene Brown) and elicit from them advice for her student. The podcast becomes a wonderful mix of intellectual discussion about creativity brought down to personal stories of living the creative life from people slaving away at it without recognition, money or fame.

Why, you may wonder, did I cross out the words "successful" and "slaving" in the above paragraphs? It's because of two (of many) points that I really related to in podcast episode #12, where Elizabeth interviews Brene Brown. Together they make the point that the saying above should really be:

 What is worth doing EVEN IF you fail?  

So I ask you, do you really want to go on making things? Because this is the alternative, according to Elizabeth: the people who shut down their creativity for whatever reason accepted that they "were never allowed to be makers again. They were never allowed to be participants in creation again. They could only be consumers.They are not allowed to contribute to the evolving story of the universe that's in motion. (they) just get to watch and buy."

Doesn't that make you glad that you have chosen to be "a maker?" The days when your creation disappoints you are the days of practice and learning. They are the days that show you what doesn't work. They define for you your special talents, and allow you to concentrate your work there. Most of all, on those days you are expressing your soul - 

"The only unique contribution that we will make in this world will be born of creativity."
                                                                                                        Brene Brown

{See you in our galleries -  show us what you are creating these days....and by the way, support the arts for our children, won't you?}


kelly said...

wow carol! what a fantastic way to rethink an old saying and an awesome way to start the week. thank you for sharing! can't wait to check out that podcast!

Dotti said...

This is so wonderful! Permission to fail! And really such a necessary thing. It is from our failures and mistakes that we learn. I keep trying to help my granddaughter learn this each day as she practices her piano. You've also given us some great resources today, Carol, a great way to jumpstart our week. It would truly be a grim world if we could not 'make'.

terriporter said...

I have always thought that, if failure were not an option, we wouldn't dare to try at all! Ask any creative person and I'm sure they'll tell you they learned far more from their failures than from their successes. So we try and fail and try again. I'm far prouder of the things I failed at until I finally succeeded than the ones I succeeded on the first try. Thank you, Carol, for this thought-provoking post.

leigh said...

I just discovered the podcasts last week and listened to the one with Brene. I felt like my eyes were opened after hearing her take on creativity and how we must share it. Like she says our creativity makes us unique!

Carol said...

Wasn't it great Leigh? I loved it!

Sarah Huizenga said...

I am all caught up on the podcast as of today, except for the Brene Brown episode. I am saving that for tomorrow, to savor all alone. I loved the Rayya Elias episode, that one right hit me.

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