Is it okay to be real with you all?

Okay, just checking.

Today I’m ranting writing about a tough subject — setbacks vs. failure, and artistic suicide.  All very sad things.

Personal disclaimer before we begin: I HATE sad things. I mean, I avoid them like the plague, whether it’s books (The Notebook, anyone?), film, or some news stories that I can just tell are NOT going to turn out well.  My husband edits his stories down because he knows it bothers me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m overly sensitive or not. Some people can dig sad things, not me. That said, let’s move on.

Confession Time.

Yesterday I attended a writer’s conference outdoors and decided to do some recreational shopping … in 110 degree heat index. So, when I got home, I was completely wiped and putting my words in for my 750words.com was the last thing on my mind.

This morning, I was talking with my husband about what a great time I had and then…

WHAMMY!

(Hmm, that’s actually not big enough.)

WHAMMY!

(Okay, that’s a little better).

It hit me that I completely forgot to put my word count in.

The Reaction Sets In

I had just blogged this past week about 750words.com and my monthly goal and here I just screwed up my goal in one thoughtless, completely accidental move. And the ugly head of FAILURE reared up, quickly followed by hysterics.

When I say “hysterics” what I really mean is a crushing disappointment where I cried my eyes out and was inconsolable for several minutes, followed by “alone time”, tears of frustration, anger, (some choice words) and despair.

You’re probably thinking, what’s the big deal?  It’s a silly 30-day goal. You can do it again next month.  It’s just a setback. You didn’t lose out on anything, right?

Or did you?

Well, technically, no. I didn’t BET anything on it. Nobody died. The point is that it’s not a setback, it’s out and out FAILURE.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Setbacks vs. Failure

Setbacks are acceptable for a Type P like me, (“P” is for “perfectionist”).

I can handle set-backs. It’s just a delay.

But failure? There’s no work-around for that.  750words.com doesn’t allow you to go back and edit past entries.  No “tweaking”, no “fixes”, no lies. No mercy. Back to Day 1, and that ugly word  — failure.

It’s around that time when I’m in “despair mode” that I begin contemplating artistic suicide. Before you start offering me hotline numbers or try phoning my mother, I’d better explain.

What is artistic suicide?

I don’t know if this is a real term but I’m going with it anyway.

Artistic suicide is a conscious decision to quit creating/practicing your art, be it writing or woodworking, music or mechanics, dollhouse-building or dancing, because you say, “I’m done.”

 What does “I’m done” even mean anyway? Let me ask you if any of these statements sound familiar to you:

  • “I’m not good enough.” / “I’ll never be good enough.”
  • “I can’t do this anymore.”
  • “I can’t hack it.”
  • “It’s not worth it.”
  • “What’s the point?”
  • “I’ll just put it off until tomorrow.”

#1-2 are signs that you’re frustrated and venting. #3 is self-doubt showing through. #4-5 are signs you’re experiencing apathy — watch out for that. That’ll kill your passion for being creative faster than frustration will. At least frustration is evidence of passion.

The last one might be the most dangerous.  #6 is procrastination. That “tomorrow” will be next week, next month, then… you’re not doing it at all.

Being an artist and not practicing your art is like saying, “I’m a Catholic but I’m not practicing.”

What the heck?! I don’t understand statements like that. Either you’re a Catholic or you’re not. Either an artist practicing your craft… or you’re not.  Hint:

Artists do, imitators just talk.

And guess what? It’s completely up to you what you do what that. But you might want to watch out. If you choose to ignore your art, someone else will start producing, and as Seth Godin calls it “shipping”, and pretty soon, someone’s done that idea that at one time captivated you, and possibly done it better.

Because you sat by and failed to do anything.

Because you weren’t willing to do the hard work. That’s why it’s called “practice”.

You’re gonna make mistakes and have out and out failures. So, how do you handle failure?

10 Ways To Handle Failure Without Committing Artistic Suicide

First, find a quiet place where you’ll be alone for a while. Then…

  1. Indulge in tears of disappointment, frustration or anger.
  2. Journal about how you’re feeling.
  3. Write a blog post about it (like I’m doing).
  4. Bounce balls off hard surfaces.
  5. Smash silly putty.
  6. Crush the life out of that stress ball you haven’t thrown out yet from your work/school’s health orientation.
  7. Vent.
  8. Scream.
  9. Use choice words.
  10. Let it out in your unique way.

Okay, feel any better yet?

Now turn the faucet off. Shut off that part of yourself. Do NOT allow yourself to dwell in that too long or you risk apathy, despair, and the very real (and dangerous) tendencies toward artistic suicide.

Guess what? You just handled failure like an adult. If you wanna make the argument that my list actually means handling failure like a child, I’m okay with that too. (I talk to my inner child at times, don’t you?)

Now, before you return to the rest of the world, stash the journal away, dry your eyes, restore order and apologize to anyone who may have witnessed your outburst. Then use those emotions and create some art. Go.  Imitators talk, artists do.

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