So I did something I rarely do.
I opened my notebook and wrote for fun (gasp).
At first, the words came slow, like a clogged sink. But as time went by, it started to feel like my pencil was moving without me. When my wrist could take no more, I put the pencil down and looked at my notebook: I had written almost five pages.
The funny thing was, taking all the goals and rules away had an unintended, dare I say blasphemous effect on my writing: I had written a self-help piece.
At first I felt embarrassed. What would my journalism professors think? No sources, no qualifications. Cheesy, generic transitions!
Still, the business side of me saw opportunity. This piece was pperfect for one of those viral, self-help Facebook posts. Maybe I had been wrong about this armchair psychiatry, I thought. Maybe journalism school was suppressing my future as a self-help guru.
So I broke all my rules and turned the scribbles into a self-help article, with an authoritative tone, impersonal writing, and a catchy gimmick. I even added some illustrations. Here´s what I came up with:
Whether you want to be a freelance writer, a comic book illustrator, or a famous movie director, we all know that practice makes perfect.
But for many creative people, especially those at the beginning part of that journey, the “failure” of a creative project can seem more like evidence of you sucking, rather than a necessary step towards learning a skill.
And unfortunately, the more you believe your failures reflect your artistic worth, the easier it is to ignore your ambitions completely, a surefire way to not get better at anything.
The only way to get better at something is to do it. You might be saying “No duh” as you read this, but what are your actions saying? How many times has the fear of failure stopped you from opening that word document, or putting that pencil to your sketchbook?
So next time you find yourself stuck in a Netflix k-hole, remember this: each failure teaches you a multitude of juicy lessons, which if listened to, could be the key to your next success.
That’s easy to say, but harder to put into practice. In order to keep working toward our artistic career goals, we have to learn to see our failures differently: as a treasure trove of valuable lessons.
A simple way to visualize this is to make a failure Rolodex. Keep a box of index cards in your workspace, and every time you feel overwhelmed by a creative project, write down a past failure. Then underneath, write down a couple things the experience taught you.
I sent it to a popular self-help website to see if they would publish it.
I never heard back from them.
At first I was bummed. Why had I even written this thing? It wasn't in my voice, it felt fake. My gut reaction to failure is self-deprecation, and this incident was no different. I beat myself up like a bunch of trolls on a stupid Youtube comment.
But then the irony of the situation hit me.
I was upset that my piece didn’t get published. But that piece was about reframing failure, a point that I wrote about, but apparently didn’t take to heart.
So I decided to take my advice and write another index card: