We must fail

It is highly improbable that the greatest creative works in history were the first things made by those who created them. For some people who find their true calling I am sure their first creations are superb, but potentially still only their best work at that time. With hard work they could create even more wonderful things. Art must be practiced to truly find where our talents lie and bring our own unique style of creativity to the surface.

It is almost a certainty that we must fail sometimes to improve our skills in the art of creating. Since the invention of white-out pens, erasers, and word processors there has grown almost a reticence to even look at something which did not work out as we intended. These tools, for that is what they are, encourage us to remove the very designs that show the progression of our creative process when the product of our toil has not turned out how we wanted. There is a time and a place for removing something from existence. Reusing paper in boardgames to save printing costs. Removing pencil lines when we are into the finalisation stage of an artwork. Deleting words and documents from our computer hard drive when we need to free up space and are certain we don’t need them anymore. Destroying something which by its existence harms people. But, we must remember each of our so called mistakes and failures. They are our learning opportunities. We gain information from these attempts at creating wonderment. This knowledge we can funnel into our future attempts to create spectacular things. We can pass this knowledge onto others to help them avoid making the same mistakes in their search for greatness.

The design process

A slight diversion. At high school one of my favourite classes was graphics and design. Early on we were taught a version of the design process. Most people will have knowledge of this in some form. It is a useful process to follow and works for all sorts of things where we want to make the best thing happen that with can with the resources we have available to us. Our version learned in school looked something like this:

So you’ve decided you want to start Project A.

The Design Process (greatly simplified) (1).jpg
Infographic created in Canva.

Now you can decide the next steps; improve project A or think start Project B.

NOTE: Evaluation is an ongoing part of the process, not just a “one and done” type thing.

Two personal examples

1. Writing songs. This is at times a deeply tortured, individual process. Some of the first songs I composed are almost painful to listen to now. Both because of their primitive sound and some unintentional dissonance between instruments. These were failures in terms of creating something I thought others would want to hear, but they were successes in that I learned more about what sounded pleasing when played together. When I began writing music fourteen years ago my knowledge of theory was limited. It was mostly by trial and error I found chord progressions, and guitar and bass lines that sounded harmonically pleasing. With consistent development, repeated listening to what I’d written, and making small improvements, the songs I was writing got better. My overall affinity for musicality is also improving as I go. Write a song. Listen to it. Evaluate and make adjustments. Repeat as many times as needed until the song sounds finished.

2. Writing stories. The first few adventures I embarked on made it to fifty or so pages. I fell in love with the worlds I was creating but my writing skills were not yet refined enough to bring them to life as vividly as I wanted. I’ve kept these stories and still love the characters within their pages. When I am ready I will return to them in the future and edit them, continuing to craft the beauty amidst and between the lines. I have spent literally hundreds of hours writing and re-writing scenes of my book, searching for the right words. Learning new words is one of my favourite things. (Google dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary have been my very good friends over the last eighteen months!) Sometimes I leave my stories for a while and let them ruminate in my brain. When I come back to them I often have a fresh perspective which helps me evaluate and develop them as I want. The design process in action.

An important part of creating music and writing stories is to let others listen to the songs and read them. If we create with the intention for others to enjoy what we’ve created then their opinions and feedback are incredibly important. People who look at things with a different perspective might offer improvements that didn’t occur to us.

Go on, get out there and start failing

There will be things we create which we don’t like. There will be things we create that are almost abhorrent to us even though we’ve created them. There will be other things which are so wonderful we are surprised it is us who created them. All creations provide opportunities for us and others to evaluate and hone our creative design process.

So, get out there. Get failing. Sometimes we’ve got to sift through seemingly endless pieces of coal to find our diamond. But we can find it.

I believe in you. I believe in me. Keep on keeping on being awesome. Peace.


16 thoughts on “We must fail

    1. Hamish says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. I picked up and a pen and paper for the first time to properly write some notes and build out more of one of my created worlds. I love the tactile feel of pen to paper and believe there is a different type of creativity awakened in the brain compared to typing. Unfortunately after I dislocated eight bones in my wrist five years ago writing for long periods of time is difficult. Your comment has encouraged me to get back into writing with a pen, and persevere to build strength in my wrist again!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Natalie Bullut says:

    I am not the best at taking failures positively but after reading this I’ll definitely view failure as a another opportunity to better not only my projects but also myself.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hamish says:

      Thank you Natalie. Failure is such a difficult thing to accept as learning sometimes, especially if we have the desired end result in mind. I find identify expectations before an event (playing sport is a good example) helps to have the alternative idea of success in mind from the start. Keep on keeping in being awesome. 😁


  2. AP2 says:

    Great post Hamish – I can see your writing is getting better! That’s the idea isn’t it? Keep doing it over and over – refining and refining till you’re happy with it. The first attempt is almost always terrible. Certainly is for me with my writing. I liken it to climbing Mount Everest. You have to rewrite something several times (as you have to climb Everest several times to acclimatise) before you can reach the summit. It takes a lot of work but it’s worth it when you get there! Thanks mate.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hamish says:

      Thank you for your kind words! The progress is difficult to see sometimes, especially when agonising over a particular word or phrase. At the moment I’m struggling with imbuing the penultimate scene of my book with the right kind of emotion. It really is like Mount Everest, requires practice, sometimes leaving it for a while because we’re not ready – yet. Peace to you as you go into this week, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. AP2 says:

        Thanks Hamish. Keep on keeping on! You’ll “know” when you’ve got it right. Don’t settle for good when you can be great. Peace back you πŸ™

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hamish says:

      One of the most confusing things I heard from my favourite lecturer at university was, “I hope you fail early and I hope you fail often.” Until he explained that he meant for us to use those ad experience to improve the project we were working on and future projects.

      Thank you for your wise words chief.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sundaram Chauhan says:

    Amazing post Hamish. πŸ‘πŸ‘ I related to it so much. I’ve experienced it all while writing. All the little lessons we learn from the first of our creations, however crude they might be, serve us so well ultimately in something we attempt years later. It all connects. It all matters. Thanks so much for such a wonderful post. πŸ™πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ€œπŸ€›πŸ™

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hamish says:

      It really does all connect. Sometimes so well when we finally realise it that we wonder how we didn’t see it all along!

      Good luck with your current writing, I look forward to reading more of it. Peace to you, my friend! 😊


  4. PoojaG says:

    Really great post! I think failures should be seen more as opportunities to grow and better ourselves. Yes, it hurts to fail at something you really want to win at but at the same time it allows you to do better next time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Evan says:

    This is a great article, Hamish!

    The part about learning to write music and reflecting on the learning process is huge. I play poker and an unwillingness to experiment and reevaluate spots explains why most people don’t improve. They find something that (kind of) works and just continue doing that.

    Giving yourself the freedom to experiment, fail, make mistakes, or just plain suck is an important part of the learning process. Learning what not to do and why. And the best way to learn is through experience! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hamish says:

      Learn from ourselves. Learn from others. Learning together is the best way to find as yet unknown ways of doing things. Sounds like you’re always on the lookout for alternative ways to solve problems!

      Thank you for your comment. 😊


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