Thanksgiving is a time to contemplate gratefulness and reconciliation. I am both thankful for, and recently reconciled with, failure and its cousin perfectionism.
I just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It wasn’t a book I was drawn to by the subject—living the creative life—but rather by the author. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, Committed, and The Signature of All Things has an extraordinary way of peeling back the layers of the human experience and getting real. So I read it and a big take away was sense of partnership with failure. Sit right down Failure and have some turkey.
You see, writing a book about weaving is all about failure. You have this perfect vision about what you want in the book and a tidy outline showing it in glorious detail. You see in your mind’s eye all the projects you will make, the lessons you will impart, and the contributions you will make to weaving literature. In order to make this a reality though, you must fail, fail, fail, particularly when faced with the crushing realities of deadlines. You can’t afford to dwell on the failures. You must keep moving and figure out how to fail faster if you aren’t going to have the big professional/public failure. (Even this, you can live through, I have.) You must carve out enough time to fail, assuming you won’t get it right the first time.
This process applies to everything, not just writing a book. Creativity is required for all work—accounting, cooking, business management, teaching—every single profession needs some big magic.
Like everyone else, I don’t like to fail. I’ve heard all the conventional wisdom about failure being part of the process—heck I teach the conventional wisdom—but that doesn’t mean that failure isn’t still very, very hard and very, very personal.
For whatever reason, I keep failing at weaving (and writing about weaving and teaching weaving), but I don’t abandon it because this is what I do. Big Magic brought a Thanksgiving gift of being reconciled with failure; partnering with it to do what needs to be done—to get on with it. I am very, very grateful for all my failures and even when they stood me still in my tracks for a time, sometimes a long time, I keep going.