Editing as evidence of failure

I have been listening to a series on creativity on Freakonomics. One episode was on failure, and there was a notion that caught my attention.

They repeatedly referred to drafts as failures.

I write a lot nowadays. I’ve done more years of formal schooling than I care to count (but would be a professional student if I had the opportunity!) that all included various degrees of formal, written work.

Likewise, I have avoided potential opportunities because of fear of failure, of looking stupid, of embarrassing myself.

I suppose, because there is no overlap in those two, I had never considered writing that needed revision as a failure. Quite the opposite—sharing with others writing that was unedited would be a fail, because I’m not putting out my best work. (With the understanding that “best” is on a sliding scale.)

Yesterday’s post, for example, is completely different than the original draft. I think there ended up being two or three sentences that stayed in. It’s much better than the original. Was the first draft a failure?

I feel it was more just a step in the process. (Maybe failing is a step in the process.) I had a lot of thoughts and I got them down in a largely cohesive way. How those thoughts ended up looking was different, but the life breath of the post was the same.

Maybe that’s it for me—creative projects have a life to them, and as long as that exists, the project succeeds. (This ties in with the Elizabeth Gilbert quote that maybe was part of me before I heard it or maybe it became part of me because it was so delightful.)

The blog is a project. Each post is, too. Each photo and the whole experience of learning to take photos. Each route climbed. Each race run. Each song learned. And on and on.

But failures? I’m not so sure.

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