Climbing Rocks, Getting High, and the Mysticism of Risk
One of the best memories of making a thing when I was a kid was the time a friend and I decided to make a boat. You know, like you do.
And it may be surprising, but at age twelve I had no idea how to build a boat. We slaved away for countless minutes planning and gathering materials and tools. Some used plywood, nails, a hammer, and a saw were about all we could muster. So we cut the pieces, nailed them together (yes, through the hull), and promptly launched our craft into the river...
I have seen rocks float longer.
Though we probably didn't fully realize it at the time standing in waist deep water, things could have been much riskier. Our creation could have floated just long enough to pull us into the main current of the river and to deeper waters. Our creation took risk, probably much more risk than we realized.
And knowing whether the risk was worth it or not required failure.
I love rock climbing. I used to love free-solo climbing (no rope). Often, people ask free-solo climbers why they take such a stupid risk when you could just climb with a rope. The answer is not immediately obvious. For most, it isn't an adrenaline junky thing, it's usually not a way to show off. I know for me, the allure was the complete focus that comes with the risk. The rest of the universe melts away when your feet leave the ground. The only thing in the world is you and that section of rock face.
That experience takes risk, probably more risk than is really comprehensible. And still, knowing whether the risk was worth it or not requires failure.
If creativity is anything, it is a risky endeavor.
What you're making may fail. But you won't experience singular focus if you don't risk the failure. If you only ever create a thing that is certain to succeed, you'll probably look successful, but it's unlikely you will feel successful.
I'm not saying children should almost get swept into rivers or that everyone should climb without a rope. I'm saying any worthwhile creative act is inherently risky.