6/05/2017

Creative Work Relies On Failure


Everyone wants to be creative, yet many of us are too fearful to pursue our most creative ideas. Why? Our fearful reaction is not a matter of choice — it’s often a knee-jerk reaction that can be attributed to our biology.

According to Adobe’s State of Create report, “At work, there is tension between creativity and productivity.” That could have something to do with previous research indicating that there’s a natural association of uncertainty with ideas labeled as “creative,” and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

So when you’re pursuing a creative path, this hurdle can feel insurmountable. How do you tackle and, ultimately, dismantle it?

CREATIVITY VS. FEAR OF FAILURE

In my experience — and that of many creative professionals — the most familiar form of fear come is really that of failure. It’s a hesitancy to branch outside the norm and risk exposing yourself to the judgment of others. But that fear alone is not what inhibits your path to creativity. Not acknowledging is what’s truly damaging. Nelson Mandela summarized that notion quite well:

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

The traditional narrative about the creative process tends to leave out fear. We hear about and romanticize the lone genius’ bursts of inspiration but that isn’t always accurate. As David and Tom Kelley note in Creative Confidence, “A widely held myth suggests that creative geniuses rarely fail.” They go on to cite UC Davis Professor of Psychology Keith Simonton, who found that many of the world’s most famous creative people — like composer Wolfgang Mozart and scientist Charles Darwin don’t give up at the first sign of failure. Rather, they keep experimenting until they find what works....more