Well, the evening before writing this instructional article, I failed wonderfully at making a new creative project.
I’d started this doomed project in order to shake myself out of the slight creative torpor that I’ve been in ever since I finished making the webcomic updates that will be posted here this month and early next month. It failed after an hour of planning and two hours of creative work.
It was partially based on an older idea I’d had and it was going to be an interactive comedy horror story (similar to the one I wrote for Halloween in 2015), but with comic panels instead of text decriptions. It was going to be a parody of classic survival horror videogames like “Resident Evil 1-3” and “Silent Hill 3” (as well as a few movies, like the first “Elvira” movie).
It would have looked a bit like this:
But, despite my initial sense of disappointment when I realised that this project wasn’t going to work out, I didn’t feel too bad because I remembered (from previous failures) that there are several ways to turn failure into winning. So, what are they?
1) Remember that it’s practice: Failing at a creative project is one of those experiences that becomes less stressful with practice. In other words, once you’ve failed (and succeeded) a few times, then you’ll start to see failure as just an ordinary part of the creative process. Without failure, you can’t have success.
After all, for every successful project idea you have – there are probably at least one or two previous failed (or abandoned) ideas that have helped to pave the way for your successful project.
So, see failure as practice. Don’t see it as a waste of time or a disappointment. Just see it as practice and/or preparation for the successful project that you will eventually end up making at some point in the future.
2) Learn to fail early: Generally, the earlier you fail, the better. This is something that you’ll only truly learn through experience but, if you’re able to spot the warning signs of a failed project early, then you can save yourself a lot of stress by either correcting the problems or by abandoning the project completely.
These warning signs will be different for everyone, but they’re something that you’ll learn to spot quickly after you’ve failed quite a few times. Yes, you might try to ignore them at first (like I did when I was planning my failed interactive comic), but you’ll hopefully still be able to spot them fairly early.
If you fail early then, although you might feel disappointed for a little while, you’ll also feel like you dodged a bullet. Not only that, you’ll be able to think of and start your next project idea even more quickly (and enthusiastically) than you would if you’d devoted days or weeks to a doomed project idea.
3) Do a post-mortem: This is a fairly basic and well-known piece of advice, and it’s well-known for a reason. It works! Basically, just take a deep and honest look at why your project failed. Even if you’re overcome with feelings of disappointment, then this is still worth doing for reasons I’ll explain in the next paragraph.
The trick here is to not only learn some lessons from your failure, but to also remind yourself that the project probably couldn’t have succeeded in it’s current state anyway. In other words, it also helps you to feel less disappointed for the simple reason that, with the flaws in the project, it couldn’t have succeeded anyway.
This is easier to do if you’ve failed a few times before, since you’ll know what kinds of mistakes to look out for. But, even if it’s your first time, then try to find as many mistakes (eg: with regard to structure, timing, planning, your motivations, what you don’t know etc..) you can and then try to work out how you can avoid them in future.
For example, one of the many reasons why my interactive comics project failed was because I thought that making interactive comics was similar to both writing interactive fiction and making traditional webcomics. It isn’t!
It requires a totally different approach to characterisation, storytelling and humour. Although I tried to work this out as I went along ( resulting in a two-dimensional, and constantly sarcastic, main character), I hadn’t really put enough thought into it.
4) Salvage: In order to reduce any feelings of loss you might be experiencing, try to salvage as much as you can from your failed project. Even if the only thing that you salvage are a few lessons about what to do differently next time, then your failure isn’t a complete loss.
For example – if you’ve got decent artwork from your failed project, then see if there’s any way that you can re-purpose it. If you’re project is writing-based, then see if you can turn any of the parts you’ve made so far into a short story. If you’ve got a blog, then write about your failed project (like I’m doing right now).
There are lots of ways that you can salvage something from the ruins of your failed project but, even if the only things you salvage are experience and knowledge, then your failure won’t be a complete loss.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂