Bouncing Back After Failure

Hello all, remember me?  I don’t blame if you don’t, it’s been such a long time and writing this post was so hard for me.  I think it always is when you know you failed.  But learning to come back after failure is one of those important lessons in life.

So what happened in the last couple of months?  At the end of May I completed my “Make a Splash” challenge to make 50 watercolour paintings.  50 paintings!  In less than a  month!  I felt thrilled to have done it, it was a genuine accomplishment for me because of the effort it took to make each one, sometimes two or three in a day.  One day I might show you the rest of those paintings.

But after it was done I could not bear to pick up a pen or brush.  I was completely burnt out.  I thought I’d just give myself a day or two to recover but even after that I couldn’t bear to look at a blank sheet of paper.  I sewed, knitted, baked, photographed, but drawing was the last thing on my mind.

I had failed my daily art challenge in a big way.  I lasted 6 months before dropping completely off the wagon and that reality pushed me away from art even more.  I figured that was it, no more drawing for me.  Ever. I’d just let my art accounts die a quiet death, nobody needed to know what happened other than I failed and never posted again.  I was sad and bitter about the whole thing and tried to push it to the back of my mind.

But after a month something strange started happening.  Relieved of any responsibility or obligations I felt the urge to draw come back.  I’d doodle a little bit here and there, and play with paints with my children.  I started feeling excited about art, something I honestly never thought would happen.  My sketchbooks started coming with me again, my art books reread, blogs followed.  The last week I have been following the Urban Sketching Symposium in Singapore with interest and envy.  I dreamed about being there amongst so many inspirational artists, workshops, lectures.

Yesterday they announced that the next symposium would be in Manchester, UK, a mere 4 hours away by train.  My breath quickened, this could be it, my chance at being there.  Not just imagining but doing.  And the excitement of sketching flooded back, and I knew, as hard as it was, I wanted to get back into the fray.

This time I don’t have any specific goals, I don’t want the pressure of having to do something everyday whether my heart is in it or not.  I want to keep practicing, learning, and hopefully gain more confidence in my own drawing.  Will I be going to Manchester next year?  I really hope so, it’d be the scariest and most exciting thing I’ve done in my adult life.  Whether I go or not, I’ve come to understand that art will always be apart of my life but my interest will wax and wane, and going with the flow is the best way to ensure that it will come back to me.

So, I hope you will join me once again in this art journey, I look forward to catching up with old friends and hopefully meeting some new ones along the way.  If you have any stories of losing your mojo or coming back after a break I’d love to hear it.

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17 thoughts on “Bouncing Back After Failure

  1. I totally understand how you feel! I used to give myself ‘challenges’ but now just draw when I feel like it. Days and weeks pass and then I’ll feel the urge to draw. And as for Manchester – I’m excited as well. I’m going to try to get there – I hope you can too

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  2. Hi, Mel – I’ve missed you. You have been an inspiration to me on WordPress, and I admire your work. I think you are extremely talented in art. I know burn out very well in several areas of life. In regard to art and blogging, I feel that the pressure to produce and post every day can make the process very much of a grind and work-like. It is good to work and have discipline, and challenges are just that – challenging our usual/norm. However, when it strips out our heart and passion and soul and drive from the creation, we are at a loss and so is our creativity and the results of that creativity. I find producing things for WordPress on a timeline is unnecessarily quick for more serious works and can often adversely train us to work too quick, too shallowly and without the benefits of taking our time to think things out. That can make one feel poorly about one’s creative results. However, there is a joy in making things easily, quickly and with joy to post and I find those things I do on WordPress in that way are usually little “gems” with one or two things I feel good about (as with the soft watercolor hues I used for my little journal page yesterday, and the way the white of the paper worked in one of the shells before I added black ink – post called Nautilus Neutrals), or maybe it’s the way I handled a shadow in something or a shape. I use my watercolor journal that way. Things I do on paper tend to be more composed and take longer. And I like to mix it up like that, so I don’t feel too pressured. Lately, I have a lot of business on the home front to take care of with moving. But drawing and painting will keep me sane. Manchester Urban Sketching sounds amazing. Something nice to look forward to. In the meantime, you can sketch your town. Cheers to you, dear Mel!

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  3. I’m so pleased to see you back posting. You know failure is when we don’t challenge ourselves. You had a go and succeeded and now you are taking a different approach. I see no failure there.

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  4. I could be the poster child for losing the mojo, getting the mojo, losing, getting it back….when something that you should enjoy doing becomes a chore then it is time to step back and re evaluate….great to see you back, but I totally respect the need to create on your terms….the everyday thing got to me too…..I find I create more when there is no demands on it. And “failure” is the wrong term…too harsh….or at least I don’t think you failed.

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  5. Welcome back! I fell off my daily drawing challenge too – seems lots of folks here have had the same experience. Doing a challenge like this helped me learn about making art “on my own terms”. As a friend of mine always says, “no pleasure, no point”. And woo hoo about Manchester USK – I may save my pennies to go next year too!

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  6. I wonder how useful those sort of challenges really are. Perhaps they improve your technique or loosen you up, but if they sap your enthusiasm what good is an improved technique? I used to worry if I didn’t draw for a couple of days, or even a few days, but now I know it’ll return – it’s too important to me NOT to do it. It’s good to have goals, but make them your own, ones you want to achieve.

    Lovely blog, by the way!

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  7. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I think at the beginning of the year I was still wasn’t sure how I was going to take to drawing so I felt a commitment was needed to make a lot of progress. But now I feel more confident knowing I will always be coming back to it even after a break 🙂

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  8. I’ve seen a few people who have fallen off the wagon and it’s been really encouraging to hear from them and see that they’ve come back to it too, will definitely prioritise pleasure from now on 🙂 Hope you can make it to Manchester!

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  9. It’s been so reassuring to hear so many other people having the same troubles with everyday challenges. Sometimes I read articles of those who done it and they emphasise the importance of committing and finishing that it’s hard to think of what to do when it doesn’t work out.

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  10. Well I am still waiting to get my mojo back, a couple of really difficult and sapping months personally has left me with little energy to draw. Like you I have turned to other creative outlets and lay low. I know I will get back into the swing again. This is not a failure, but a hiatus caused by pushing myself (or being pushed) to hard. I also had to have a stern talking to myself about art being my creative outlet, it should bring joy to my life, and if for a time it doesn’t then do something else till that spark returns, if not then the creativity will come out in another way, cooking or gardening and that is also a joy. I am so pleased you are back, but it certainly wasn’t a failure, drawing every day is a great joy but not doing so is not a the end of the world or your art career. X

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  11. Thank you Karen for sharing your own experience, I totally think you are doing the right thing in following your heart and doing what brings you joy right now. It’s amazing when inspiration hits you and you feel the urge again and not forcing it seems to be the key. Hope you enjoy your break and find your energy again someday 🙂

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  12. Yep, what everybody said! I’ve been toying with the goal of using up my current art supplies within a year. Not sure about that, since I’m wanting a Stillman & Bern sketchbook and I already have a couple of Moleskines and a few cheaper ones that I don’t like much. Oh well.

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