Perfecting The Art of Failing
“In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we were asked to endure...”
- Madeline L'Engle from "Walking on Water"
Some of you may recall my 100 Day Project I started last September. If you weren't around, the gist is that you spend 100 days creating. I chose to create art from different mediums I enjoyed.. namely my photographs. My hope was to be able to journal my journey with chronic pain and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome through art. To tell the story of the invisible, and to stretch msyelf as an artist.
On that same note, you might also recall me totally not finishing that very same 100 day project.I made it all the way to day twenty and then some major changes happened. I unintentionally quit the project, and simultaneously excused myself from social media for following four months. Where did the project go? No one knew, including myself.
Twenty days into the project I unintentionally quit creating. It was one of my first big public failures. I had announced that I was going to start this project and in so was holding myself accountable by the "public eye".
Those twenty days were perhaps the twenty most creative and soul-changing days I have experienced in my adult life. While I will admit that I failed at my initial goal of creating art for 100 days, I succeeded in allowing my spirit to find parts of itself during that process of creating art daily.
It's been five months since those twenty days, and I can finally admit out loud that I failed. And, also, not feel like I have to excuse or defend myself for said failure.
Making art changes you. I don't believe that anything I created during those twenty days were necessarily life-changing works of art from a critic's (or even viewer's) standpoint. The important thing about those works created were the things the process of creating was stirring within me. One of my favorite authors, Madeline L'Engle wrote a beautiful book titled, "Walking on Water", that says it so well..
“When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.”
I was not creating the art to be changed. I was creating the art to change my craft and the perception of invisible illnesses. I had hoped to learn to work within different mediums, and to combine some of my favorite creative disciplines during the 100 days of creating. While that may have happened in a sense, the growing actually happened WITIHIN me..not in my finished pieces. Maybe that "growing" was more like a re-birth? A re-awakening? Coming home to myself again. Yes.
“The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort towards wholeness.”
While I may have not learned how to use oil paint like I would have liked, I DID learn how to fail. Through this whole process I failed super-duper hard. Some failings were seen by the public eye (like not finishing my 100 day project and having to ask for help in ways that were pretty damn humbling) , and some were privately and quietly. I disappeared from social media for four months because the failure was so huge for me. Being a first-born and type-a and perfectionist makes it even harder to admit failure. I EXPECTED to finish this 100 day project.
And now, I realize that it's even better if I admit my failures and accept myself for them. I allow myself to say, "hey, I didn't finish and that's ok! the project served the purpose it was meant to serve and I am grateful for that." Its ok to fail. It is ok to admit failure out loud. It's embarrassing, and sometimes soul-crushing and most of the time it hurts like hell. The important thing is that we can admit our failure, learn from our mistakes and pick ourselves up and try again.
I'm learning and looking to find my voice this year. To share more stories. It is going to be a slow and possibly painful process as my stories are birthed and written poorly. But, it is my hope that it is a beautiful process. I'll most likely fail at times, and that's ok. I'll most likely start another 100 day project that risks failure again. I'll move forward set on my goal while trusting in the process of it all.
I leave you with this beautiful manifesto by one of my favorite authors and researchers, Brene Brown.
“MANIFESTO OF THE BRAVE AND BROKENHEARTED
There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers
Than those of us who are willing to fall
Because we have learned how to rise
With skinned knees and bruised hearts;
We choose owning our stories of struggle,
Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.
When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we run from struggle, we are never free.
So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye.
We will not be characters in our stories.
Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.
We are the authors of our lives.
We write our own daring endings.
We craft love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.
Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home.
Truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong.”
- Brene Brown