Friday, November 11, 2011

Inspired by failure

I'm sure some of you have already read this guest blog post from Sara Zarr on being inspired by failure, as it seems to be making its rounds...

What this made me think of was a post Janice Hardy wrote on art and writing (my link from which you can get to the original discussion).

The short version is, I claimed that I believe the entire revision process (even up to copyeditors, if you are an agented, soon-to-be-published author) IS part of the act of creating.

So, where's the line of failure?

When  I was in the process of making demo reels (basically the equivalent of a resume -> to showcase my animation and storytelling abilities) I would literally draw hundreds of sketches while deciding what a single character would look like and what possible adventures I might take them on. After that, you don't even want to know how many sketches I would do to practice getting the character *on model* in a number of different poses, expressions, etc. You have to know the character inside and out, from all angles to draw a character that stays on model, which is something Disney can't even do, and if 'The Little Mermaid' is hailed as one of their masterpieces, then really... you have to know that pass/fail doesn't have a whole lot to do with being perfect.

So, how is that different from writing a consistent character? Knowing them and how they will function/act/react in different situations, how they show their emotions, what choices they make, etc. Most of the time, all that is explored while you write the first draft and, like an inconsistent sketch, you know you're going to have to toss some of those mistakes in the end, but you're still closer to what your Ideal is.

When is a story actually *done* or at a point you can say, *I failed*?

Personally, I think a story fails the moment you give up on it.

The first draft isn't the end. Your first round of revisions isn't the end. Querying and nabbing an agent isn't the end. Acquiring a publisher isn't the end. That final stage of copyediting before it goes to press... is that really the end?

As soon as it's in printed form, can it truly be judged as *fail* or *pass*?

When you think of how many writers and artists were considered untalented hacks during their lives and are revered as masters twenty, fifty, a hundred years later... where is the end? Is there one?

You can't please everyone, and if you try to, you'll never please yourself, so I agree when she said to have fun.

When you start thinking negatively, all you're going to do is get disheartened and want to give up. I think it's healthier to say, 'This isn't quite where I want it yet...' and view it as an evolutionary process rather than thinking about a virtual pass/fail chopping block.

The article is good, but I think it's more of a jumping off point.

What do you guys thing? Do you get hung up on the idea of *failing*? Think about anything in your life... anything you're learned how to do... can you really *fail* at any of them? Do you tell your 5 year old kid, you *failed* at learning to tie your shoes, I guess you'll be in velcro forever? How about your teenager struggling with Calculus? What about a marriage, is there a point where you say, *I failed*? How about your job, raising kids, being a friend?

There's a big difference between making a mistake, not being correct, and failing.


  1. great post and insight into what 'failure' is.

  2. Excellent points. For all the reasons you specified (and maybe a few more), the word "fail" isn't one I use very often.

  3. I've only truly failed at one thing. Everything else is something I can keep trying, or find a different way.


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