We think if we change the definition of failure, we cannot fail. Or if we change what creative means to us or others, we also cannot fail. One of the most definitive rejections of my life came after the rather cruelly worded rejection letter. Even as I was devastated by yet another perceived failure, the worst came from a loved one who said, “Face it, maybe you were not meant to be a writer. Maybe you never will be published. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is all you were meant to be. ”
Failure is never harder than when you’re a failure to a loved one.
I could tell you it was tough love, reverse psychology, a radical encouragement to take away the shoulder to lean on to see if I could stand, an attempt to kick me out of the nest, but I was there, I’ll be honest. That person really meant what was said, even if I paraphrase all of it. I had to consider what I was and could be and if that person was right. I had to face harming the relationship because even though that the person was more important than any creative endeavor, I didn’t know what else I could do or be instead.
Eventually I did write again, but I rarely ever again let the full extent of any hurt show, any kind of rejection. They say you get a thick skin, but even now failure can hurt. Of course it matters whom we are being creative for. Accomplishments or attitude are not enough to judge whether we are “creative.” Creative failure could have been not being who I was. Hiding, settling, giving up, playing it stayed safe and only sharing creativity with those who understood or appreciated it or us. That creative question is up to you. But for me, I couldn’t stop trying to share what I loved even if I sometimes get knocked down again and again. I have to get up and go on. I still believe we are created to be creative and have free will to choose the ways, the amounts and the frequency. I choose a lot.
Everyone can think creatively and they do if they want to or need to or decide to. Some will not do so in order to not be like everyone else. Some will not do so because creative can be seen as weaker than logical thinking. Past the emotion of the Eureka moment to whether the idea is as good the second time around, past the walls of rejection even by loved ones and through the tiniest gap between success and failure, there is something else. It’s like when it all clicks and you just are. Creative or maybe you will call it something else. Not trying too hard, but relaxed into a greater and higher working gear, a glimpse of potential, a rightness in it all. Some claim creativity just comes, some say you work until like “muscle memory” it kicks in, but it is being who you are in the moment and going ahead with the trust in that. Even if you don’t know who you are meant to be or what, one answer is you living creatively by living as you. We are the definition of creativity—something novel and unique, not like anything else, revolutionary, useful, new— that is the very definition of everyone, every single individual whose unique fingerprint and mindprint is transformative in the world. We are not a creative failure not just because that is an oxymoron. We are not creative failures as we have lived.