Art and Failure
I’m in a strange place artistically. I feel as if I’m simultaneously drowning and soaring. When I say drowning, I mean it, I physically feel under water and like I’ve completely lost the surface. Fight or flight has kicked into overdrive and I’ve only got the option to fight, because if I don’t do my art, I’m not alive.
You see I was made for art. When I was really young, I started putting on theatrical versions of video games that I would play. Lucky for me, I had an extremely patient and supportive family to draw on. I would write and “produce” (keep in mind I was four or five), my grandfather would help me direct, my grandmother was a seamstress and helped me make costumes, my parents and sister would perform with me.
Eventually I wrote my first original piece, Monsters on the Mountain, about monsters who lives on a volcano. It was a smash hit (in my family, and my mom still has it). All I’ve ever wanted to be was a writer and I was lucky enough to have an entire family who supported and encouraged that. When I moved out of my parent’s house, my mom told me to never stop writing. I write every day.
So back to the drowning/soaring thing. When I’m honest with myself and honest with my art — and if you aren’t going to be honest in your art, why bother doing it — it comes from a deep-rooted fear of failure. But fear of failure is the worst, because it goes against art itself.
Art is all about failure — drama, comedy, whatever — you go to the theatre, movies, wherever to watch people fail and fight. Failure makes comedy funnier and drama, well, more dramatic. Failure needs to be embraced and encouraged. You can’t be an artist unless you are honestly more-than-willing to fail.
And I’m lucky enough to find myself in a wonderful position in 2012, my writing is getting traction. And now I discover even minor success brings a whole new level of terror with it. And suddenly the fear of succeeding at something that for so long I felt lost doing is a lot like drowning. And soaring. Which is of course extremely frustrating, but also exceptionally rewarding — how will you ever appreciate anything unless you know the opposite?
In the end, it helps to remember one incredibly important thing. When I feel like I’m in the water, all I need to do is open my eyes and I’ll see that the people I respect, the peer group that I’ve chosen for myself, who’s work I admire and inspires me, are actually in the water with me, and then suddenly it’s not so bad.
As Sondheim said, “Art isn’t easy.”
And really, would you want it to be?