The Fear of Failure

I read an interesting article today about how the way we see failure affects creativity.

The article mentioned a study done by a ceramics teacher. The teacher divided the class into two groups: quantity and quality. At the end of the year the quantity class would be graded by how many pounds their pots weighed and the quality group would be graded by how beautiful their best pot was. The teacher found that the group that focused on quantity produced more beautiful pots than the quality group. The reason being that the pressure of failing, of producing something ugly, was off for the quantity group.

You can read the full article here.

The main idea of the article was that when you give people the freedom to fail then creativity thrives.

This same idea can be found in National Novel Writing Month. Anyone who’s had to write a paper, a poem, or a story can understand looking at a white computer screen willing something to come out. Many writers want to write but when it comes to actually writing they may spend years stuck on the same project. Fear of being imperfect, of their work sucking so bad that no one will ever want to read it (even themselves), of not being good enough, holds them back from what they really want; to create.

The idea of National Novel Writing Month is to push back the voice in your head that thinks everything you write sucks and just to focus on the love of it. This idea has turned unpublished writers into bestsellers. It’s given 300,000 people all over the world, whether they ever want to publish or not, a drive and excitement to create something special. Whether it’s something that other people will ever see it’s a gift they give themselves.

It is the gift to create without self-judgement.

But in reality National Novel Writing Month isn’t free of total judgement. It’s hard to turn off the little voice inside that wants to criticize everything. And the challenge of creating 1,667 words a day can sometimes seem impossible. Failing to complete the word count or failing to see the worth of the words being written because they are not perfect often stops people from continuing. It’s the biggest NaNoWriMo No No.

When you stop creating you let fear win.

Don’t fear failure. Fear never actually trying.

By today, November 15th, I should be at 25,000 words according to NaNoWriMo’s goal of 50,000 words in one month. I have 9,257. I’m OK with that. Sure, I wish it was better. I wish I was writing at a faster and more consistent pace. But giving up isn’t something I’m willing to do right now.

Whatever you’re trying to create, don’t let the fear of failure stop you.

You are going to fail.

You get to control whether failure is the end of the story or the beginning.

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