“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
The above quote is one of my favourites, often used and often heeded.
What stops us from flying?
Simple. The Fear of failure.
There is even a rather long and academic word for this problem… ‘ATYCHIPHOBIA – a fear of failing. When we allow fear to stop us doing the things that move us forward to achieve our goals.’
A fear of failing can completely stop us in our tracks, installs doubt in our every move, makes us reluctant to try new things, is self sabotaging, confidence stealing and is often wrapped up (neatly) in perfectionism.
But what if we learnt to look at failure as an ever-present, permissible and dare I say, REWARDING part of our art journey?
What if we accept that failure is an inevitable part of being an artist? As inevitable as the need to buy more art supplies on a regular basis…yep, that often.
It would change everything.
We would enter those scary big art prizes that all the big shots cruise into. We would try new art mediums, play with new techniques, email galleries for possible representation, post our work on social media and regularly exhibit our work.
We would subsequently achieve, grow and tackle our art head on, with the failures as just another part of the reward process. We would wear resilience as naturally as a favourite pair of paint splattered jeans.
We would still receive rejection letters, bin failed paintings, get unfollowers on Facebook and Instagram, waste time and money trying new ideas and methods…none of this would change…except that we would fail gracefully, knowing failure will eventually reward us with success.
6 Ways to Fail Gracefully
Change Your Mindset
Changing our mindset to failure is the key; it’s not the failure that matters, it’s the learning that comes from it. Find the opportunity hidden inside every failure. It’s how we handle failure as an opportunity to grow and learn, that will bring us success and keep us on the path to achieving our goals.
I’m writing these words from experience. Oh Yes. I’ve had so many rejection letters, I’ve lost count. I’ve been selected for gallery representation and not sold a thing. I’ve got an attic full of ‘never to be seen again whilst I’m living’ paintings and a huge pile of empty stretchers that have had their canvas removed and binned. In fact, I’ve received two rejection letters in just the last few weeks…one of these for a major exhibition I’ve been in for the last 7 years.
I will survive.
Does it hurt? Of course.
Will I try again? ABSOLUTELY.
These Failures will not stop me from pursuing the joy and passion of living a creative life and literally hanging my soul on the same wall as my paintings.
The thing is, for every rejection I’ve received, I’ve been accepted into five times as many. For every failed painting, I’ve got ten that worked…the positives far outweigh the negatives if we are mindful to notice. Gratitude plays a big part in keeping focused on the good side of our art journeys.
Don’t Take It Personally. Art is so subjective. If a piece doesn’t make it into one prize, try it in another…and another…and another. If it doesn’t sell, try another venue…Bluethumb art is my go to venue after I’ve finished the prize circuit. You can find my Bluethumb Gallery here. I’ve surmised, through 8 years of my Artwork Archive records (I seriously couldn’t live without Artwork Archive…here’s a link if you want to try it too) that it can take roughly 6 months to a year of art prizes, exhibitions and gallery viewings to sell a large painting. A year of finding the right pair of eyes to fall in love with it. Remember, art is a luxury item, not an everyday commodity. Give it time and don’t take it personally.
Ask yourself ‘why’ you are failing…and do NOT blame this on someone else. If you are not getting into art exhibitions and art prizes, is it because your paintings are lacking skill? Do you need more education in your chosen field? It took me 5 years of weekly lessons and hundreds of hours of practise before I called myself an artist and even then, its taken me another 6 years of working as a professional artist, to get where I am…which still isn’t as far as my goals are set! Learn your craft inside out, then more…then break all the rules you just learnt. Always be open to more learning and lessons, stay humble.
Are you marketing yourself enough or expecting too much too soon? It takes time and patience to develop a following. I’ve plugged away at my Instagram and Facebook pages for many years and they are still pretty small, which really isn’t a big issue in my head. I read an interesting thread on FB recently, where an artist was frustrated and disappointed with his FB and Instagram growth and was questioning giving up…he then said, he’d only been on social media for a few weeks. A few weeks??? Oh boy, give it a few years…or decades. Seriously. If you want more eyes on your work and to sell regularly, patience really is needed…and tenacity. Work your flipping tail off. It’s up to you.
Feeling Stuck? Then Change. Are you failing because you are trying to do something that isn’t authentic to you? Are you trying to be a landscape painter, just because landscape sells more than whatever it is that really makes you happy? Make your heart sing…people will respond to art from the heart.
Shake things up, try something new. Heck, dress a dog in a suit if that takes your fancy. Do whatever it takes to invest in your joy and find a voice of your own.
Think its been easy pursuing the crazy notion that someone might like my animals dressed as humans this year?
WAHAHAHAHA…the doubt I’ve had; the fear of failure I’ve carried with me this entire year has been immense…but it hasn’t stopped me.
Don’t fear failing. Failure to one person can be a learning experience to another…learn to be the other. If you fail, get up, shake off, allow yourself a few tears if that helps. We are only human, we bleed when we fall down. Build up a supportive network of peers in your field that will totally understand your disappointments and frustrations. Have a little whinge, pop a band-aid on the bruises, then let it go and get ready for the next bit of excitement in your art journey. If you are moving and shaking, living and breathing…failure will be your art buddy. Luckily and thank fully, so will reward. They shadow each other.
Failure is Not a Nasty Word. Own your failure but don’t let it define you. Remember Failure is a verb, not a noun. Failure is temporary and the only way we can avoid failure is by doing nothing and being nothing. Regularly look at your achievements, your sales, the paintings that work. Notice anything? Yes…success. It’s the opposite of failure and comes through doing. Something. Anything.
What Something are you doing today? What are your tips to do failing gracefully?
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