I am a perfectionist to a fault. I don’t like doing poorly, much less failing, at anything. Hence, I tend to not do many things that I know I can’t do at least well enough to get by. I have gotten a bit looser over the years ever since I failed my first test in 6th grade math class. Especially as a J-school student, I know that it’s not always possible to get the highest marks on every assignment that I do.
Yet, when we were asked to write a failure in my creativity class and put it on a Post-It note on the board, I reverted into 6th grade me and played it safe. Sure, I did “fail at doing my class readings,” but I had just two days prior hyperventilated and cried on my way home from church because I failed to make the Dean’s List. All because of the grade in one dumb Peace Studies class that I put minimal to less than minimal effort in because I was too busy working on, oh I don’t know, my capstone that positioned me at editing/producing a weekly city magazine. My mother thought I was injured or dying by the tone of my text of despair when I freaked out about the fact that I didn’t reach academic snuff for one semester of my otherwise pretty stellar college career.
But, much like my mom calming me down by saying how I have done so many more ~amazing~ things besides that, our class made us push pass our bad feelings with failures. Instead we had to scream and cheer joyfully about failing. We went around in a circle and exclaimed (with our own personal pizzazz) that we failed. It was the strangest yet most eye opening circle exercise I had done in a long time. It helped me reframe what failure actually means or needs to mean in the greater context of my life and the other successes I have. Failure helps you reframe how you attack the creative process and what ideas may work.
Besides just using failure to reframe creativity, sometimes you have to look at a problem piece by piece, or word by word. In class on Tuesday we were split into two teams and we had to work to go across the floor of our black box theater-turned-classroom 40 different ways. We hopped, we skipped, we jumped and we even whipped and nae-naed.
But, one of my group members named Lizzie pulled out the word “across” in our instructions for the activity and reframed it. Instead of continuing our lateral movement, she took us up the rows of seating for the theater and eventually diagonally across to the other corner of the room. Sure, our physical movements to get to those places were similar to previous ones we did, but we went “across” the room differently than anyone else. It was fascinating to see how changing what was perceived as the norm definition of that word in this situation could keep our variety going and keep our creativity afloat.
Sometimes you need ignore what your brain automatically frames ideas, objects or tasks as in order to reach a (possibly better) solution. Because, hey, a brick has at least 20 different uses and none of them have to do with building a house.