Failure Supercharges Creativity


“The essence of creativity is not necessarily getting things “right”. At the heart, creativity is based on risk-taking, on being willing to make “mistakes”. – Dr. Jill Ammon-Wexler

I am reading a book right now called “Amaze Yourself” by Dr. Jill Ammon-Wexler. Dr. Jill says, “Many who say they are not creative say this because they have tried once, failed and gave up. Creative genius goes hand-in-hand with failure, there is simply no creativity without failure.”

If you dive into the arts, you know that logic uses a different part of your brain then creativity. I have found that when I live in that place where I want to do everything right, my creativity gets stifled because I am afraid of making a mistake. However, creation, by its very nature, is bringing into existence something that has never been done before. Therefore, we can not make a mistake when we work with the unknown. There is only exploration.

In a recent adult class I was teaching, I chose dragonflies as the subject to paint. I had just finished four small paintings of different color dragonflies for my sister and when my students saw them, they asked if they could also paint some. They were simple and looked easy to paint and they felt confident they could paint them too. I cut up 5×5 squares of watercolor paper and they began to paint, however, by the time their first dragonfly was complete they were discouraged because it did not quite look like they had pictured it would, like mine. That is when I handed them their next 5×5 piece of paper and showed them my first “failed” dragonfly painting. I then said keep going. After two hours and four paintings later, each one of them were thrilled with the way their last one had turned out. They soon discovered that each dragonfly they painted that they didn’t quite like, informed them of the way they wanted to make changes in their next painting. I see over and over when students reach a point in their painting where they are ready to throw it in the trash, it is at this point that failure can stop or supercharge their creativity. This is when I step in and say, “Well, since you are ready to throw it in the trash, then there is nothing to be afraid of anymore so just keep going and see what happens.” Nine times out of ten the painting ends up being one of their best yet!

Most of us get hung up when we start comparing. Our creative process stops when we begin to judge our own work because all judging is based on comparison. If you truly are creating, then there is nothing to compare, for it has never existed before this moment. You are about to create it. If what you create does not hit the mark you intended, it will always inform you on your next go around. So in a sense what appears to be failure, does in fact, supercharge creativity into an exploration.

Something to ask yourself: How could your life improve if you begin to allow yourself and others to be “perfectly imperfect?”

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About Colleen Sgroi

Teaching Artist from New England. View all posts by Colleen Sgroi

3 responses to “Failure Supercharges Creativity

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