teapot set at focus exhibition bowling green state university
A pot from the FOCUS Exhibition at Bowling Green State University in 2008…or 2009.

As I’m writing this blog post I can’t help but think of all the posts I have written that have been scrapped. I have written and scrapped well over 20 blog post since I started updating consistently. I also made a video blog today, and scrapped that.

And it makes me feel like a failure because I’ve made these things and none of them work.

But there are little ideas within those failures that I feel like I want to revisit and build upon.

Today I want to talk about failure.

Failure is something that not a lot of people like to talk about. Some people actively encourage failure but they don’t talk about how that feels, and I’m going to say yes, it does suck.

It makes you feel like everything that you make is terrible, and if this thing you made is terrible then maybe everything else that you have made is awful too. It’s a quick path to beating yourself up and thinking you’re not good enough.

But you gotta take that energy (or what little you have left of it) and keep moving forward.

I’m actually (this will sound banana pants crazy) grateful that I failed today. Because even though I did fail in writing blog posts, I got an idea out of it, out of the things that I failed to make, and hopefully that will lead to a successful blog post or video blog.

It reminds me of the adage that was coined in my time as a caricature artist at Cedar Point. It was based off of the 10,000 hour rule.

There is a rule coined in the book Outliers that said if you practice something for 10,000 hours then you’ll become a master of it.

The caricature department took this and said when you start drawing caricatures you will draw 10,000 terrible faces before you draw a good one.

So get those 10,000 faces out now as quickly and as creatively as you can. Learn from them. Keep making terrible faces. And after 10,000 times you’ll start to get good.

I’m still making comics. I’m still making blog post. I haven’t quite reached the 10,000 benchmark yet for either of them but I have noticed that the more often that I do something, the better I get at it.

So the more blog post that I write the better I get at writing them. The more comics that I make the better I get at making comics.

Not every comic or blog post has to work, but you have to get it out of your system. Because once you get the bad work out of the way you move on to the next thing. And maybe the next thing will be good.

This conundrum of failure, and making 10,000 of something before you can get good, reminds me of a scenario from the book Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. The scenario took two sets of pottery students. The professor told the first set of students they had a whole semester to make one very good pot. Then they told the second set of students they had to make as many pots as possible. This was done to see who would make the better pots – the students who focus on one pot the whole semester or the students who made as many pots as they could.

teapot from FOCUS exhibition bowling green state university
From the FOCUS exhibition at Bowling Green State University in 2008…or 2009.

They found that when students focused on making the perfect pot, the pots actually turned out worse. Because the students spent all of their time agonizing over how to make the pot perfect, artistically and aesthetically, and didn’t actually make it until the very end.

However, when students were encouraged to make as many pots as possible, they found that the more pots students made, the more great pots they had at the end. Not every pot was a masterpiece, but they had more great pieces than the students who made only one pot after agonizing over how to make it perfect.

And if you take anything away from this, I hope it’s that: that torturing yourself over making something perfect is not worth it.

Because there’s another masterpiece waiting for you, within you, already.

So make as much work as you can. Make as many mistakes as you can. And keep creating.

Because with every mistake you make, you’ll also make something brilliant.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow.