Why the People with the Most Talent Don’t Always Make the Best Work.

A student in the Film Storytelling class couldn’t bring him or herself to do an assignment.
He or she came to my office to tell me this.
Trying, in a gentle way, to help, I said, “Tough. Do it anyway.”

The owner of a sturdy & upright nature, the student went away to work on his/her project.
I was left wondering: what could make a person who came to school in order to learn to do this not want to do it?
This is what I figured:

A lot of people are held back from working by fear of failure.
They’re so afraid to make something that’s no good that they don’t make anything.

Failure is necessary.
Failure is important.
Failure is an irreplaceable ingredient in the creative process.
The right to fail is a right you are wrong to deny yourself.

There’s a ton of failure in creating advertising.
(Truly, a great deal of failure is central to the creation of anything in which quality is determined by subjective judgment)
There’s a lot of failure.
There’s a lot of looking foolish.
It’s part of the process.
You learn to accept it.
After a while you hardly notice it.

What’s terrifically good about the right to fail is it means you can try anything.
Here’s where you can help yourself.

If there’s going to be plenty of failure no matter what you do, try something that’s worth the trouble.
Instead of sticking to what you see others doing, make something that could only occur to you.
Make something you couldn’t describe to someone else without them looking at you funny.

Most of us have been trained by life to avoid the feeling you get when you try things like that.
It requires an act of faith.
Faith is scary.
Even a small act of faith is not for the fearful.
(I believe there is no advancement in any part of life without an act of faith but that’s too big an idea to get into here, now)

It’s similar to the feeling you get when you think to yourself, heck, I should just kiss that girl.
Most of the time we don’t follow through.
Some of us are such dorks we not only stop our instincts, we compound our dorkness by moping for 3 days, and then—ask the girl if we can kiss her, and in that moment damn ourselves as not being men of action.

Don’t ask, kiss.
Sure you might feel stupid if someone laughs.
Get used to it.
Could be worse.
You could do crummy work all your life and never know why.

You can try to skip the looking foolish part.
But you miss the part that allows you to understand what makes a great ad great.
Let the great French essayist say it:

“To learn that we have said or done a foolish thing, that is nothing. We must learn that we are nothing but fools, a far broader and more important lesson.” -Montaigne