Failing. We hate the thought of it. We often don’t do new creative things because we’re afraid of failing.
If you’re going to be a creative, though, failure can’t be avoided. As a matter of fact, it shouldn’t entirely be avoided. When you try something new or when you want to develop a new technique, you’re not likely to get it “right” the first time. You fail. But in that fail you learn something. The next time you still may fail, but maybe now you can see the beginning of a new direction you wanted to explore. Several failures may be required to get all the bad ideas out and determine what you really wanted to do. That’s OK.
You don’t, generally, need to share all of your failures with your audience. I don’t agree with the philosophy of throwing everything you do out on social media for comment. Maybe that works for some people, but I am a more private person. You only see my images that I want to share.
That could be a small set of them! I will usually show less than 10% of the images I take. And when I am experimenting on new abstract techniques, you may see much less than that. So maybe overall only about 1-5% of my images are for public viewing.
That huge percentage of ones I’m sitting on won’t all be failures. Many may be variations of an image that don’t make the grade. But there are also some spectacular failures. Sometimes I have to say “what was I thinking?” Sometimes I have to say “that didn’t work and I don’t think it ever will”. But sometimes there’s the “that’s not very good, but I like the idea. I will look for opportunities to explore that space more.” Those are wins, not failures. They’re exciting; they lead me in a new direction.
Michael Jordan said “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” Good words. Failure hurts and it may be embarrassing. The little voice in us that tries to keep us out of trouble tells us to never do that again. But if you don’t take the chance of failing, you will never advance your skill or do anything new. I believe you cannot advance as an artist unless you are willing to accept failure.
So expect failure. You can’t avoid it. Failure can be a sign that you are growing. Fail big; fail little; but pick yourself up, learn what you can from it, and start again even more motivated to create things that please you. Because you are the only audience that really matters.