How To Fail Hard

How To Fail Hard. Lessons learned on my first Kickstarter, and self-publishing
How To Fail Hard. Lessons learned on my first Kickstarter, and self-publishing

This summer I successfully launched my first Kickstarter campaign. I also made many, M A N Y mistakes along the way. These mistakes cost me hundreds of dollars and a lot of time wasted. I don’t know about you, but I get discouraged very easily and deal a lot with Imposter Syndrome, the feeling that you doubt your accomplishments or feel yourself a fraud. Yes, Imposter Syndrome is very real. So these mistakes started to derail me! And yet, I know how important these mistakes are to the learning process. Let me describe few of the mistakes so you can understand what I was dealing with.

First, I did not know the difference in digital art formats and how to prepare digital art for printing. I am talking about knowing pixels, DPI, CMYK vs. RGB, margins and bleeds, etc. When I originally did the artwork for the book, it was formatted incorrectly (72 DPI, not nearly enough for printing!). This meant I had to spend hours going back and reworking a lot of the artwork for the book. HOURS! That nearly killed me, at least, killed my ego.

Second, because I was unaware of this, I began paying the processing fees to the publishers when submitting my work, only for the work to get rejected because of these formatting issues. I ended up having to pay fees twice, several times in some instances. Now, the project was costing me time and money.

Third, I wanted to avoid learning Adobe InDesign so I went with an easier software to format my book into ePub and PDF files. Big mistake! I ended up having to pay a formatting fee for that software, and eventually ended up having to pay for InDesign and learn it anyway. So more time and money!

Fourth, I applied for the wrong copyright (in my defense, the online application says children’s books applied for Single Application). I then had to pay again for the different application. Again, more money.

Are you getting the gist yet? Talk about a learning curve! But in all seriousness, I am very grateful that I learned these lessons on my first publishing project. I learned how to correctly format illustrations for future picture book projects. I learned InDesign, which is a very marketable skill for freelancers, digital artists, graphic designers, and anyone in publishing. I learned a little something about copyrights. And I learned how valuable my time is! Oh. My. Gosh. So valuable. All of these experiences and skills learned will benefit my current and future illustration or publishing projects.

I could have allowed those mistakes, failures and losses to derail me from my goal of getting my first book in the hands of readers. Instead, I realize that each failure and mistake was a huge learning opportunity. These mistakes are essential to the creative learning process.

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm – Winston Churchill

Successful people don’t fear failure, but understand that it’s necessary to learn and grow from – Robert Kiyosaki

Here are two specific lessons I learned through this experience about the creative process.

1. Redefining Creativity

I used to think creativity was what you do, and usually meant for the right side of the brain. For instance, musicians do music, they are creative. Artists do art, they are creative. Writers write, that is creative. But a mathematician is not creative. Or a computer engineer is not creative. So wrong! Creativity is simply the process of creating something, and I found that the more you chase what makes you curious, the more creative you become. Therefore, to me, creativity is not a thing you do, but an action of pursuing your curiosity. You can be creative in any field as long as you are curious!

If our creativity is rooted in our curiosity, you should view every experience as an experiment. An experiment is simply testing a hypothesis to see if it is true or false; in life that means whether it fails or succeeds. How does this apply here? I experimented with lifestyle blogging in my early twenties, and found in fact that I strongly disliked it. That hypothesis was proven false, that I would enjoy lifestyle blogging. With my art, I experimented with watercolors and found that I couldn’t keep up with it. Eventually, after experimenting with different mediums, I found the one that does work best for me- my good ol’ iPad and digital art. I found that I really enjoy blogging about my art and writing process. But it took several years to come to these conclusions! Creativity is pursuing your curiosity, and life should be viewed as a series of experiments leading towards your success. This way, you don’t take your failures personally, but as a stepping stone to your next success.

2. Embrace the learning curve

The learning curve is defined as “the rate of a person’s progress in gaining new experience and learning new skills.” Since it is a curve, there is really no point of ever “arriving”. The goal here is to continually be growing on this curve by gaining new experiences and learning. Enough is never enough. This requires a level of hunger. You have to be hungry to know more and grow more. This is opposite of conventional education, that teaches us once we have a degree or diploma than we know what there is to know in that field or subject. The degree provides a false confidence in your knowledge. With that mode of thinking, we kill our curiosity and hunger to grow and know more. Instead of reaching for the degrees, reach for growing on the learning curve. And allow yourself to go at your own pace on the learning curve.

Making mistakes can be disheartening, but you are always making advances if you learn from them. My hope is that you find what makes you curious, what keeps you hungry, and that you continue to grow!

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