Creative Failures

E and I just finished watching Elton John on Inside the Actor's Studio. (Why exactly he was on the Actor's Studio we still aren't sure, but regardless.) At the end of the show, when the audience is allowed to question the guest, one of the students asked about Elton John's song writing process. As way of illustration, Elton John asked the audience for a book, any book, and proceeded to sit at the piano. He smiling said "now I'm going to make an ass of myself," and put some random lines from a play to music, singing them as he made up the melody.

This reminded me of one of my favorite Actor's Studio episodes, the one with Robin Williams. At the end of the hilarious show, a student asked how Robin Williams could stand to risk so much. And he asked, "but what I have risked?" In awe she replied "everything," but Robin disagreed. They were just playing around, having fun with the craft, with humor.

And this got me thinking. Here are two brilliant professionals, at the top of their game. Their creativity and imagination seem endless to me. I love watching people like that. The athletes at the Olympics have the same effect. They make everything look so easy, so effortless. To watch them making their art, there is none of the blood, sweat and tears that I feel go into whatever I create. Yet I'm sure that Robin Williams would say that the jokes he made up that night were not his best. And that Elton John would think that little tune to the play was crap.

How much is that ease and lack of effort a result of not being afraid? They are so comfortable with their skills, with their tools and in their medium, that they are totally free to just... see what happens. They aren't worried about everything being a hit. They know some things will suck. But who cares? In going through the process of creating something less than par, they are finding something that they can take and turn into the next perfect piece.

I think it is their lack of self censorship and inhibitions that I find so inspiring. So often when I sit to make something, whether it's sketches for a design, a piece of knitting or a new recipe for dinner, I freeze up because I'm afraid it won't be any good. Rather than trying, and seeing what I come up with, I horde my ideas until I feel "ready" to bring them forth in all their brilliance. I have this innate tendency to only want to bring forth things that are polished and finished and brilliant. But that day hardly ever comes.

I know from my own past experiences, and from watching others like John and Williams and even others at Adaptive Path, that my work is better when I grow it, making it better over time. I start with something, and working it, shaping it, tweaking it until finally it is what I intended. Or even better, it has surpassed the initial idea and turned out more wonderful than I could have predicted.

I wish I could cast aside the drive for perfection out of the gate. To give myself the permission and the space to try, just try. Just put something out there. I think I would surprise myself with what I could accomplish.

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This page contains a single entry by Chiara published on August 29, 2008 9:29 PM.

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