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Print of inspirational Woody Allen quote from Marcelo Salvador

There are few identifiable things in this life that I fear more than failure, but one of them is complacency. In my nightmares, this complacency takes the form of me ten years from now sitting in a field of antique dolls (don’t ask) with a giant smile on my face, despite the knowledge that I’ve not only failed to build any kind of artistic career but have also neglected to even try. Granted, trying in a meaningful way to succeed at something that the rest of the world deems impossible involves intense labor. Labor the likes of which aches the bones and sucks away all vestiges of restful sleep, creating a sense of sacrifice that makes failure seem unbearable. I’m sure we all have moments of this kind of achingly hard work when failure seems both inevitable and painful beyond belief, but when I feel this paralyzing fear of failure I just imagine my nightmarish field of dolls. I envision myself with a painted smile having to explain to my five-year-old self, “Hey, I may not have tried to achieve my dreams, but at least I lived comfortably without ever failing.”

Whenever you find a similar fear of failure slowing your productivity, I suggest imagining your own field of dolls (or whatever complacency looks like for you). If complacency is hard to visualize, I say ponder this Woody Allen quote: “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” I love the way Allen nullifies failure by stating that it is a normal part of the creative process; not only is this thought soothing, but I think it’s also true…Not every bold thing we think up will work, but we can never achieve success in our endeavors without trying out several dozen unsuccessful ones. Following this advice, I say fearlessly go forth and fail boldly. Innovative failures can only get us that much closer to success. And, heck, even if we never succeed, at least we’ll have tried and will have a lifetime of effort behind us when we find ourselves lying in that doll-filled field one day.

Image from Marcelo Salvador via Pinterest.

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  • Reply L. Harter March 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Bryson was in town this past week for SXSW and we fell into this discussion topic many times. I think it behooves us as artists to remember that we don’t just have one shot to “make it.” If you are always producing, always evolving, then there will be opportunities. There will be failures, but when you find yourself continuing to produce material in whatever form, you will also find that you more prone to remembering the successes and laughing at the times that you slipped. Besides, most of the time hindsight allows us the perspective to look back at those slips and trips realizing they weren’t that bad in the first place. So fail away, I know I do!

  • Reply Jennifer R. Coté March 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    You’re so right that failure is in the eye (and rear-view mirror) of the beholder. Even if someone deems a piece of work a ‘flop,’ I think anyone who manages to continually create and produce is a massive success.

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