That enfant terrible which is the bane of your existence – that bad creation – which we’re so paranoid about, which we wish we had killed before it reached maturity, might actually turn out to be somebody’s favorite song, painting, book, whatever. And dont forget that at a certain point you were OK with it, it originally met certain minimum standards, some criteria, however base it all now seems. So in many ways, that creation is also a record of you and your development, it is a reflection of yourself at that time period. That alone has some value, but “failed” creations are so much more important than that. “Bad art” is the bedrock upon which all successful art is made; they are inseparable, the later depends on the former for its very existence.
The act of creation is an act of failure. Failure is laser etched into the concept of creative production, embedded in the code of active creation. Creating is failing. It is our central challenge, our constant companion. Failure is painful; being a creative person is like a type of masochism. We have embedded failure, and it might be at a very high rate, like if you’re a stand-up comic or a street photographer.
We fight to get the failure rate as low as possible, we’re put in extra hours to leverage the law of large numbers, but it is failure we have for breakfast, a mini-fail for lunch, and giant epic fail for dinner. What’s on the menu for tomorrow? Another healthy spread of fail, with a possible sprinkle of success, but it might just be a success that is alluded to and not directly achieved, or even worse, an illusion of success. Imagine a cupcake that disappears the moment you put it into your mouth. Terrifying.
So why bother? Life surely seems a lot simpler if you abandon art. It could even be considered a distraction. For me, it functions as a type of escapism for my existenial anxiety – fear of death supersedes all. So in creating, and also failing, we’re also acknowledging, cofronting, and fighting the finite nature of our existence. We cast spears into the void.
Imagine the act of creating as climbing up a mountain. The mountain is completely flat, devoid of any features, and extends as far as you can see in every direction. As you approach the mountain, you see a tiny little crack, maybe just big enough to wedge your foot into, and a nub you can just barely reach. You grab on and are only a few inches off the ground but now you can reach the next crack in the rocks. As you reach up, you latch your gear onto the next hole in the rocks.
Like a diligent mountain climber you keep scouting for cracks and nubs and inching your way up the mountain, but sometimes these cracks fail. Sometimes you fall back down and lose progress. You cant even see the top of the mountain after immense progress and repeated failures and recoveries. You arent even sure if its really a mountain anymore. You’re exhausted. Self doubt creeps in. But if in this moment, you let the dire nature of your situation color your thoughts, if you doubt the endeavor whilst in the middle of it, if you become paralyzed with fear, you will lose your grip and fall all the way down the mountain (and die, as in death). While there is a giant pile of dead bodies down there for you to fall on, they dont soften the blow.