The Importance of Failure

J. Carson Black @

So I was wandering around The Huffington Post, which often turns up some very interesting stuff, and I discovered an illuminating article regarding creativity in human beings: 18 Habits Of Highly Creative People.

Having written twenty-odd books, I consider myself “creative” (also, a pretty good liar, at least on paper).

I could relate to every single trait “creatives” share, but one of them stuck out. At first glance, the one that stuck out would be kind of embarrassing to admit:


Failure. I’ve done plenty of that. Writing a book. Cutting it in half. Rewriting the book. Cutting THAT in half. Sending it out to friends. Having THEM cut it in half.

Trying to get a literary agent. Getting a literary agent. Despite the efforts of the literary agent, not selling a damn thing. Getting dumped by a literary agent. Trying to get another literary agent. Finally getting one, selling a book–and the book goes nowhere. Dumped by the publisher. Trying to get another literary agent. Rinse and repeat.

All of those were opportunities for me to get better. To go back to my little workshop and craft a better book.

So the line in this article that resonated with me was this: Creative people “fail up.” Here is what the article says:

“Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that “sticks.”” And this: “Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.”

Failure is how you learn. Failure gets you closer to your goal, because you have to try other ways to get the result you want. You have to go back to the drawing board and really throw yourself into getting better at what you’re doing. I know in my own life that failure has always preceded success (okay, it could be two-and-a-half years of preceding, but…still).

Failure and Success are two sides of the same coin. The failure part isn’t fun, but that’s the engine that makes you strive to get better at your craft. Failure is the little engine that could.

At least that’s what I tell myself on those occasions when I cry myself to sleep.