I read this post over at Scoutie Girl all about how to deal effectively with criticism. It’s smart, helpful. You should read it. But there were two sentences in particular that struck me. In discussing fear of failure, Tara Gentile wrote that if our wildest dreams succeeded, we would revel in those successes and plan for our next ones.

“But,” she says, “creative people fail. A lot.”

I read that, and it was like the sun breaking through a cloud bank for me. It was the beginning of an epiphany, one of those very cool, very rare, soul-shaking sort of realizations that usually only happen when you sell everything you own and travel to a foreign country with little more than the clothes on your back.

Creative people fail. A lot. They fail because they are willing to try things. Scary, inadvisable, evolutionary, unconventional things. New things. Creative people spend a lot of time as beginners. Over and over again. They take risks, stretch themselves, reach for something more, leap.

For a long time I’ve been struggling under the weight of my mistakes. I’ve made some big ones, and I’ve spent a lot of time feeling guilty and lost and self-conscious because of them.

What I realize now is that I’ve been focused on the wrong thing. It’s not about the mistakes I’ve made (and learned from), it’s about my willingness to make them in the first place.

Creative people fail. A lot. Sometimes spectacularly. I suspect the potential for colossal screw ups is directly proportional to the amount of time one spends leaping into unfamiliar territory. Creative people do that a lot too – leap into unfamiliar territory. Because they know that’s where all the real learning takes place, the real challenges, excitement, passion, joys, successes. They fail because they’re willing to fail, even though it sucks and it hurts and sometimes it’s devastating. They know, eventually, it becomes the next jumping off place, as long as they’re willing to jump.

You can only get somewhere new by going somewhere new – in your head, in your heart, in the world. Instead of punishing myself for my missteps, I’ve decided to start loving the girl who seems so willing, always, to step off the beaten path, convinced, despite the more-than-occasional floundering, that that’s where her best life is.

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