Art Works Blog

Nine Thoughts on #Failure

We've gathered some of our favorite quotes on the idea of failure and creative practice. Click the names to read the full interviews.

“Vulnerability and humility are what we look to art to provide, pulling us back to our human selves when we let our energies, our thoughts, and our to-do lists pull us in many directions. But to pull back to something very true and honest is a great value of the arts. And sometimes, you can’t do that without showing some cracks and some flaws. So in the end, failure can be inspiration.” -- Sarah Kaufman

“I think ultimately it takes a certain amount of courage to get anything done. Failure is always going to be nipping at your heels [with] every draft that you do, even the final draft. There are going to be pieces that are failures. There are going to be pieces that are not as good as they could be. I think a lot of what it means to be a writer, a lot of what it means to be a creative person, is learning how to confront that and push through it.” -- Gene Luen Yang

“So failure’s crucial; it’s just that there’s no other way. You can’t escape it. It’s constant. The trick is to not let your failures affect the emotional experience of the audience in terms of getting what’s going on in the music is the bottom line. If you really go for it and fail, it’s okay. If you don’t go for it and fail, that’s all people remember. So that’s really important and interesting in the balance as well.” -- Geoff Nuttall

“The best advice I received as a young singer is that you have to follow your own path and not try to be on anybody else’s. You just have to trust that your path is what’s right for you. Every setback is a huge learning experience, and means that some other door will open. Have faith and trust in that. I want to make sure that the new generation of young people, especially for opera, understands that failure is not a bad thing. It’s a huge learning experience. Your failures still open doors for you.” -- Janai Brugger

“If you’re creating things, you’re doing things that have a high potential for failure, especially if you’re doing things that haven’t been done before. And you learn from those things. No matter how you cut it, you say, “Well, that didn’t work,” or, “Well, this didn’t work,” or “That was not the best idea.” And you use that information that you’ve gotten which is experience… Failure is another word for experience.” -- George Lucas

“The anticipation and the anxiety around possible failure or possible embarrassment, in my experience, has always been worse than the actual thing. It’s always good to remind yourself that.” -- Perry Chen

"I remember hearing a quote somewhere about the fact that as a composer you're always ready to write the next piece, or the reason you write the next piece is that you didn't quite say what you wanted to say with the last piece. Or you keep thinking of a way to say what you were trying say better in the next piece. If you apply failure to that I don't feel like failure is necessarily a negative thing. I don't think about failure. I think more about “fail until you complete an idea.” – Jonathan Bailey Holland

“As a writer, a failure is just information. It’s something that I’ve done wrong in writing, or is inaccurate or unclear. I recognize failure—which is important; some people don’t—and fix it, because it is data, it is information, knowledge of what does not work. That’s rewriting and editing. With physical failures like liver, kidneys, heart, something else has to be done, something fixable that’s not in one’s own hands. But if it’s in your hands, then you have to pay very close attention to it, rather than get depressed or unnerved or feel ashamed. None of that is useful. It’s as though you’re in a laboratory and you’re working on an experiment with chemicals or with rats, and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t mix. You don’t throw up your hands and run out of the lab. What you do is you identify the procedure and what went wrong and then correct it. If you think of [writing] simply as information, you can get closer to success.” -- Toni Morrison

“I think it’s the hardest thing to teach, that within each thing you’re creating, no matter how you feel like you’re failing within that particular exercise or that particular framework of what you’re working on, that there’s something in there that’s opening something up in you. That’s a very hard thing to teach, but I think it’s also something that is incredibly valuable, not only in artistic creation, but in all endeavors that involve some level of creativity.” -- Carlos Murillo

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