Thursday, October 28, 2010

Failure Can Be Fun

"There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by instinct. And you have to be brave." --Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt

There is a creature who resides in my three year old Livie's room. My husband believes he is some incarnation of the Loch Ness Monster. My friend calls him the Turducken. Only I know what he really is, and still see him that way. He's a deformed turtle.

Nessy, as he is now called in our family, is not the offspring of a Turkey and a Duck (thank you very much, friend). His mother is Creativity and his father, Bravado.

You see, Livie's older sister had a big pillow shaped like a sea turtle in her room, made for her by a Hawaiian cousin. Liv was always stealing it, so I thought I would make her one. Can't be that hard, I thought. Big round pillow, add turtle head and flippers. I had the other one to work with as a pattern. And I truly thought mine would be even better because I would use wonderful vintage chenille and batik fabrics. Well, you can see the results: a kind of turkey head and duck tail, and no discernable shell shape. Livie loves him, however, and the colors are nice. So though I don't choose to bring Nessy to boutiques as an example of my fine work, she's a success of sorts.

This is a common tale in our home. I see something homemade by someone else or produced by a factory in China, and I almost always think, "Hey, I could do that!" I'm often wrong. Another fine example is the scarecrow I made with the kids last fall. I was tired of seeing all the cookie cutter scarecrows at craft stores, and thought, Well, farmers used to make theirs, why not me? Well. Mine is probably more authentic looking that the mass-produced one, but it's not really very cute. I used an old floral onesie and some fabric scraps, a handful of hay and some felt. Her hay arms are always falling off. So are her legs. She's rather barrel chested. And the dye of her felt hat ran so she has dye streaks down her face from the rain. My daughters like her, however. So she stays, albeit behind in a back corner next to a broken birdhouse and an old gnome torso that we call No-Leg Gnomen.

There are quilters and crafters who like to do things exactly by the rules, follow the patterns, and buy all the exact materials they see on the sample in the store. I never do that. I like to draw my own things with the help of clip art from google images search. I like to pick out fabrics from all different lines. And I like to move things around and change the sizes. But I throw a lot of stuff out, or at least hide a lot of stuff from my more skilled quilting friends. Gosh, I have fun though.

You have to be brave when you want to be creative. Because inevitably you will fail some of the time. Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity, because it presupposes a "correct" outcome, and that's not actually truly creative, or at least not in the liberating, joyful way that I experience it. It's not that I'm totally pleased when something comes out screwy, when I birth a Turducken when what I wanted was a turtle. But this is how mythical creatures get born! This is how discoveries are made. Great chefs produce a lot of inedible dishes, I'm sure. But sometimes they come up with something grand, like California fusion cuisine, or Reese's peanut butter cups.

I consider this blog as Part II from yesterday, my calling to Halloween creativity. I know that not all people need to create to clear their heads the way that I do; just like some people thrive on running while some people's bodies (mine) are just not made to do that. But a little creativity is good for everyone. I believe it's one of the ways in which we were created in God's image. We invent; we experiment; we create beauty out of the mundane; whimsy out of the scraps of life.

So carve a pumpkin. Pick up a brush. Grow a flower. Decorate a cupcake. Failure can be fun. Failure, in fact, can be its own kind of success.


  1. Good, good, good advice! Many people aren't creative because they fear failure... they don't write because they expect perfection from themselves.....they don't step out & meet people because they are afraid of rejection. And the list goes on. You are inspiring. Thank you!

  2. I agree with Judy! And your post yesterday inspired me to make our halloween costumes - I bet there are not many moms out there that make tombstones for their husband (maybe some actually do) and their 10 year old son. But I collected cardboard from work, borrowed Garrett's crayons (he has out grown them now I get to enjoy!), received some large fake cockroaches (still curious who keeps a baggie full of these lying around as my friend did) and pulled some funny headstone sayings off the good 'ole internet - viola, zero cost costumes that I KNOW we will be the only ones sporting!