I swing by Anthropologie every month or so, searching for inspiration, and I never fail to find it. Usually it’s some pretty beaded thing or an elaborate wall display that catches my eye, but this time it was a pencil case. A pencil case with the most extraordinary message printed on top. “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” What a wonderful message to have before you every time you pick up a pencil.
It’s a powerful question, and it has been instrumental in my creative life. I used to shy away from things that I couldn’t do perfectly, or things that I didn’t think I had the time or energy to master. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail–that’s true. But I robbed myself of a whole lot of joy in the meantime by denying myself the chance to dabble, to experiment, to make messes and play without the pressures of perfectionism on my shoulders.
It took quite a long time for me to overcome that pattern of thinking, but, oh, the fun I had when I did! I scrawled with pastels and took on hefty projects in the kitchen. I started learning Turkish and knit to my heart’s content. I got a sewing machine and started making necklaces out of buttons and beads. I scoured through junk shops for interesting supplies and coordinated the wackiest of outfits (just ask my friends). Once I got started, I was totally intoxicated, and the breadth of my creative experience is ever-expanding. This year I’ve taken up cross-stitch and quilting. Who knows what next year will bring?
Am I perfect at any of these things? Absolutely not! I suppose in that sense, you could call my efforts failures. But I am having so much fun. I don’t necessarily expect that I’ll ever reach mastery of any of my favorite activities, but there just cannot be any sense of failure there for me because you cannot fail if you are having fun.
There are so many things in life we can fail at. I’ll never be a ballet dancer or a singer. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pirouette around the living room and belt out my favorite songs in the car. Don’t let the notion of failure follow you into your creative life–replace it with a much better F word: fun.