Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Creative Process - Failure


I'm knackered, burnt out, depleted, bereft of inspiration ( I could go on but I don't want to go bringing parrots into it*) . Another bout of creative failure has brought about this sorry state. And yet I am not sorry. Not sorry I tried and not sorry that, once again, I failed. 

Being self taught means there is a lot more trial and error than usual; I haven't had art college to help me define my ideas or style, it's been a wide ranging, on-going process of trying everything to see what works. And what doesn't. A lot of this process has taken place publicly, on my blog, website and facebook page not to mention the Etsy shops that died a death. Oh yes, I've put a lot of crap out there over the last few years.

There have been times when failure has been particularily hard - I have torn up and thrown out almost all my early paper based work. That  really really hurt and I confess to having cried but each time I did it I knew I was clearing the way for something new.

And that's the point right there - failure is not this isolated 'thing', it's part of a process. Obvious really but we tend to focus on the bit that didn't work rather than the wonderful, complex, evolving whole that it is.  

I once likened the creative process to wandering from a place you know to a place you don't know and possibly can't conceive of with a cardboard box on your head. To which I might add that there is a big element of going over the edge of a cliff as well. With the box still on your head, of course. Sometimes I make a mad dash for the edge and fling myself off just to see what happens, at other times I find myself inching closer and closer to the edge delicately feeling my way along. I am driven by curiosity and just enough fear and uncertainty to make it interesting.

I realized the other day that I loved this crazy process and was no longer that fazed by the possibility of failure - public or otherwise. The prospect of seeing whether I could fly off the edge of the metaphorical cliff or if I was going to crash and burn is just too damm exciting.

And in the spirit of possible failure I intend to blog more about what goes to make up the creative process, why artists are different from other people and how not to burn out . . .  that kind of thing. Stay tuned.

* Youtube search 'Norwegian Blue Parrot' if you don't get this reference.

** This picture isn't actually relevant I just didn't have a picture of a mad artist running off the edge of a cliff.


  1. A great post, Whitney! Failure is indeed part of the process, and without it we would never grow as artists. And I hate to tell you, but going to art college doesn't exempt us from the trial and error of the creative process. I do like your analogy of going over a cliff with a cardboard box on your head. I always say that it's like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces didn't originally start out in the same puzzle. I look forward to more posts about the creative process. Onward and upward, brave soldier!

  2. Most of that is just how I feel at the moment except for loving it. I am even getting to the point where I wonder if I want to do it any more. And if not...what then?
    (Flippin eck I've failed the 'captcha' 3 times)


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