The fear of failure came waging war against my creative endeavors, big time, this week.
It’s a fear that is common among creatives. Well, the thing is, geometric abstraction is one of my favorite things to do in art. For some reason, I like geometric shapes. They come easily to me when I’m doodling in my sketchbook. Somehow, I just seem to be drawn to geometric shapes – especially circles and triangles (diagonals).
The Fear of Failure Can Wear You Out
This week, I had to battle with “doing what I want” i.e. creating a design with geometric abstraction and “doing what I needed to do” i.e. creating something, anything for Stitch The Sketch. It’s a battle that wore me out and took quite a lot of my precious time to fight. In fact it took an entire day to regain peace. I don’t know about you but every now and then, I find myself fighting this same battle. Do I do what I feel like doing creatively or do I do what I need to do? I’m constantly in a fight to either go explore an idea, go to that place where there are no guarantees or to stay where it is safe, tried and true.
The Temptation to Give in to Failure is Strong
I must confess that it’s very tempting to stay with what is tried and true, especially when no one else will know but you. I’m not the bravest person that ever lived. I often struggle with which of these two paths to take. This week, I thought about choosing one of my simpler designs and repurposing them. That’ll have gotten the job done and I’ll have episode 34 taken care of. But I’ve been wanting to do geometric abstraction for so long. Truth be told, the fear of not being able to successfully execute a good geometric abstraction in stitch is what has been the underlying reason for my resistance. Of 34 episodes of Stitch the Sketch, this is only the second time that I’ve tried geometric abstraction.
Why is that so? How can you be so afraid of something you love, you may ask? It’s the fear of failure. The fear of not being able to replicate success. What if geometric abstraction is not well suited for thread sketching? The negative questions abound.
So finally, I decided to face my fears. I faced my fears in the way that’s worked for me in the past. I asked myself, “what if I succeed?” , “what if I developed a new and interesting technique for creating strong abstract compositions”? The author of this article explains that failure is not an endpoint. It’s the beginning of something new. He says when you think about failure in a more positive way, you not only become more creative, you also become more resilient.
The Thought of Success, Pales in Comparison to The Fear of Failure
As I started creating images of the possibility of success in my mind’s eye, the fear of failure started to fade into the background. Slowly, by slowly, as my mental picture of creative success increased, my fear of failure decreased.
I then scrapped the “tried and true” piece I’d been working on and started to work on the possibility of a creative success – a geometric abstraction executed in stitch. The result is “Circular Blocks #2”. And now fear of failing with geometric abstraction is a thing of the past. I’m looking forward to creating more in the weeks to come.
Video Showing How I Created “Circular Blocks #2”
In conclusion, whenever you face the prospect of a creative failure, stare down that fear of failure, by creating an image of success in your mind’s eye.
Question: Do you sometimes have to fight the fear of failure? What have you done to deal with fear of failure? Join in the discussion below.
I found I love straight and curve lines in things (like a piece of furniture) and you have both here. I especially liked the spiral lines around the thick ‘loops’. I appreciate your talking about the fear (fear paralyzes) and pushing through it. I’m on a journey to push through to being truly creative myself and undo a life time of not thinking I had it in me.
Clara Nartey says
Shauna, fear is a part of our lives. There’s no one who doesn’t experience it. You can push through it, though. Be good to yourself. Embrace your creativity and you’ll begin to bloom in it. Since you know what you love, start there.
Patsy McManus says
Hi Clara, I am so grateful for your writing on ‘fear of failure’. I am a ‘retired’ professional photographer attempting to create textile images of my photographs. I’ve found all sorts of reasons ‘not’ to get busy and start creating. I think its because I don’t fully understand the techniques. I don’t know what to do first. I have beautiful images that I want to make into art.
Your article hit the nail on the head for me.
Letting go of what was and reaching out to what can be is scary for me.
Today, I am going to begin moving forward by watching your Thread Sketching Video series. I am sure I am going to move forward.
Once again, thank you.
Clara Nartey says
You’re most welcome. I’m so glad you decided to share about your fear of failure. The beginning of everything is hard. You should read my post about beginnings.. For you – switching from a career in one field and starting another is understandably hard. But as I explain here, all you have to do is get a start, any start. It doesn’t have to be a perfect start, just a start. When you get over that inertia, you’ll find it easier to keep moving.
From experience let me say, although the beginning is hard when you get a start, it does get easier.
Lela McKee Friel says
Thank You so much for sharing this and your process. I love your thread work! This is so timely for me to read this. I have been in a creative slump for some time. I feel like there is something brewing inside that wants to come out but I am just not there yet. I am caring for my ailing mother so my energy gets tapped out which does not help. I feel like I need to change the way I view this time, although special, it is emotionally draining too. It seems to me a time to let the art flow. I am dead in the water as they say! I need an ore and reading this was helpful.
Thank You again for sharing,
Clara Nartey says
I’m sorry to hear about your ailing mom. I know taking care of aging parents and more so an ailing one can take a toll on you. Sometimes, what holds us back from creating is the quest for perfection. Don’t try to create any master pieces now. Focus on using creativity as a form of relaxation. Start a sketchbook practice like I did. Get a book, sketch and doodle whenever you have the chance. It’ll do two things for you. You’ll be relaxed and you’ll have designs you can develop into artwork later when you’re ready. That’s how I started stitch the sketch – with a sketchbook practice – and now look where it’s taken me.
Wishing you all the best.
Lela McKee Friel says
Thank You so much for your kind message and giving me some good advise. I have a stack of sketch books waiting to be filled. Carrying one around with me is a great idea. And yes, perfection does get in my way… the fear of failure or failure as we see it. It was inspiring to see your sketchbook practice page. I love your drawings. They are so expressive! I took a drawing/painting art class for two years working with only still life props in the class. Before this much of my art work was drawing from my imagination. The cup in my mind versus on the cup on the table for example. I think keeping your imagination alive is part of what feeds us. Always drawing from what is in front of you can start to feel really confined. Maybe this is partly why I am feeling so stuck. I had to take a break from this class for the summer and step back.
Thanks again for your wonderful feedback.
Clara Nartey says
You’re most welcome. Talking and especially writing are great ways to synthesize our thoughts. Now that you’ve zeroed in on your need to use more of your imagination, you’ve got your starting point right there. Start there and you’ll make progress.
All the best,
You are inspiring me to go beyond my fears . Whenever I feel “not good enough” I remind myself you say you took 6 months of practice before your thread stitching was really good. I love your work but also your heart for sharing and your courage to share your fears. I cannot draw but will have a go doodling lol.