A PassionArt Life

The Failure Trap

I'm having a hard time writing this post. As I sit here, I have writer's block. I don't know how to approach the subject of creating music, and not falling into "the trap". My wife who is sitting next to me told me, "Just write until it is something." 

Beethoven's Manuscript

Beethoven's Manuscript

And that's kind of the point. When we start creating, we have expectations of what that finished product will look like, what that song or composition will sound like, be like. That expectation can really derail us when it comes to finishing any work. 

I work with students who have writing assignments, who really struggle with actually getting notes down on the paper. Even when I give them permission to "write the worst song in the world", something is still stopping them.

Adults seem to have a little harder time with this than teenagers, teenagers are worst than kids, and young kids absolutely love it. I can't get them to stop writing new songs.

I think that tells us something. Young students are learning to read, they are learning to write. Everything at school and at home is a brand new experience, and each child is encouraged to try everything. To succeed at everything. To fail at everything. Failing is part of the educational experience.

As we grow up, failing becomes less and less of an acceptable option. There are lots of reasons, including embarrassment, expectations, and higher stakes. In order to be free to create, we have to become like preschoolers. We have to allow ourselves to both succeed and fail.

I tell my students, "When it comes to composition, you're a baby. You've never done this before, and you've got to allow yourself to fail." It's only when we have this attitude can we start to create something new.

We work within the rules we know, we try to break the ones we feel comfortable with, and each stage has the same feeling. "What if this is no good?" Well it might be. It really might be terrible. That doesn't mean it doesn't need to be written. For your sake, it needs to be written.

I finish with a quote:

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley


Copyright 2015 Art Moore