Monday, February 25, 2013

"Creative Habit": #11 Failure and the Validation Squad

Well, we are nearing the end of Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life".  And in my opinion, no book on creativity is complete without a chapter on failure.

Let's face it, we are all going to fail at times.  Its par for the course.  However. what Twyla is talking about in Chapter 11 is not simply failure, its the difference between private and public failure. 

"The best failures are the private ones you commit in the confines of your room, alone, with no strangeres watching.  I encourage you to fail as much as you want in private.  It will cost you little.  Private failures are the first drafts..."

She goes on to states that the more you fail in private, the less you will fail in public.  It's editing.  It's exercising your judgement.  It's setting the bar high for yourself.  "If you forget this--if you let down your guard or lower your strandards or compromise too quickly or leave sometihng in that should have been rejected--you'll have to deal with the other, more painful kind of failure, the public kind."

So, how can you ensure you have more private than public failings?  One way is to make criticism part of the process.  As Twyla says, "build your own validation squad."

Frequent readers of this blog have heard me say over and over again, "JOIN A CRITIQUE GROUP!"  And I am going to say it again.

What is a Validation Squad?  Its a small group of people that you invite to see your works in progress.  You trust them to look at your crudest, clumsiest noodlings and reward you with their candor. And yes, these people are as easy to find as a soul mate.  Take time and be selected.

Some criteria for your Validation Squad should include:
  • people who you admire their talents and therefore trust their judgement.
  • people who have your best interests at heart
  • people who are not competing with you so they have no agenda
  • people who are capable of brutal honesty
Bottomline, you want honesty.  I recently met a wonderful addition to my Validation Squad.  I knew right away she would be a wonderful addition because her response to one of my recent manuscripts was "I didn't find the ending satisfying".  YAY!  Honesty!  And in continuance to show her my work, I have felt stretched to higher heights.  What a great feeling.

Look around you.  Who are the brightest, most talented people you know?  Choose them, "qualify" them and then get them involved. 

It takes time to find these people, but its worth it.  Expect to shop around. 

For those of you in the NYC area, I will be participating on a panel regarding Critique Groups at Book of Wonder on Sunday, March 10th from 4-6pm.  An RSVP is required, as space is limited.  Find out more info at

1 comment:

  1. I like the term Validation Squad. I love general critique and enjoy a good line edit. But I almost want every critique to end with a more direct question, like "what 3 things would need to improved for this to be publishable?"