So after hearing a friend’s success story, and after taking my own advice from that Creativity class I taught last year*, I decided to bite the bullet and give Kickstarter.com a try. For those of you unfamiliar with kickstarter, it’s one of those sites that will make you grit your teeth and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
I’m a planner, for those of you who haven’t been around me long enough to figure that out. I like to have certain parts of my future lined up. That is, I like to know things like where I’ll be living, where I’ll be working, approximate times I might leave for work and get home. I like to know when I might have days off, when direct deposit happens, and have an address that matches the one on my driver’s license. But this is that time of year–post graduation–when all of that is predictably thrown into the wind and I go through a period of not knowing anything. I’m sure 99% of you know what this is like: that gnawing feeling that bites at you during the day, in the middle of the night, and while other friends are telling you about their day at work. It’s the one that, late at night and after certain movies, causes me to second guess everything and think, “Why couldn’t I be an engineer, or a doctor, or be a financial advisor, like my Dad said?” What in the hell possessed me to be an artist?
And then I remember. I have to be one. I can’t pretend to be something else.
I have to move through those moments of fear–you know, the ones where you think, “What if this doesn’t work out? What if I don’t make any money? What if I fail? What will everyone think of me?” I have to remind myself that none of that matters. What matters is that I spend my days doing what I love, doing what makes me (and if I’m really lucky) other people happy. So what if it doesn’t end the way I expected? Sometimes it ends better than I could have hoped. Sometimes I fall flat on my face, and something else incredible happens. I think it helps to take a long hard look at the word ‘failure’ and how we define it. Is it not getting the Hollywood ending we wanted, or is it being so crippled by a fear of the unexpected and unpredictable that we stop ourselves from fulfilling our dreams?
Here’s the point where I refer you to the text I used in that Creativity class–“Uncommon Genius” by Denise Shekerjian. A bit old, yes. Outdated? Not entirely. In it, she interviews winners of the prestigious MacArthur prize, aka the “Genius Grants.” There is one chapter that discusses this idea of failure, and our fear of it. It changed the way I thought of this whole life that happens when you’re an artist–and it made me realize that the only true failure comes when you stop yourself from finishing before you ever start.
But I can’t lie: as I was planning this kickstarter project, I stopped myself several times, thinking, “What if I launch it and it doesn’t get funded? What if no one backs it at all? What will people say if it doesn’t go?” It seems this habit is hard to break–this fear of failure is as ingrained as a muscle memory. But then I thought back to things my friends and family have said over the years, which were varied versions of this one thought: the only way you can insure that it fails is if you never try it.
So here’s to Denise, and here’s to all you folks moved by the creative spirit. Let’s give it a go.
check out the project at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1201741110/not-just-another-roadside-attraction-a-letterpress
Why in GOD’S name did you list this under “failure?”