Failure isn't Final – Guest Post by Jennie Pollock

Sketch of Battersea Power Startion

Sketch of Battersea Power Startion

Today, I’m very honored to have my incredibly talented sister writing for me.

When God was handing out the creative talent, he dished it out in bucket loads to my Mum, Dad and Sister. They’re all amazingly creative in ways that absolutely boggle my mind.

A few of you have ‘met’ Jennie online before but this is the first time she’s written for this blog – and it’s a great start. I’m going to be begging her to write more for me soon!

Here’s Jennie’s take on Failure:

Failure Isn’t Final

I can’t draw. I’ve never been able to draw. Art classes at school were always the most demoralizing part of my week – I could look at an object, then tell my hand to draw said object, and instead of obeying me, it would draw some weird parody of the object – wobbly lines, misshapen bulges, utterly ludicrous proportions… it just never came out right.

So I gave up. For years I haven’t even tried. Doodles have been random squiggles, any other creativity has been restricted to working with existing objects or with geometric shapes.

But I’ve always wished I could draw. I’ve longed to be able to pick up a pencil and translate something I’ve seen to paper, capturing it forever, highlighting the bits I like, showing others the beauty I see in the oddest of places.

Then, around this time last year, I finally snapped. I saw something so lovely I had to try to get it down on paper. I suppressed the idea for a few days, but eventually could ignore it no longer and decided to have a go. Now it’s not great. It’s not going to be hung in the Louvre any time soon, and I’m not even going to show it to you here, but it wasn’t awful either. The proportions were a bit off, but the lines were more or less right, and I didn’t immediately want to screw it up and throw it away, so I had another try, with a different subject, and copying from a photo this time. This one came out even better (see picture above), and is now hanging on my bedroom wall, if not in an actual gallery.

It’s a miracle! There’s hope for me after all!

One step back…

After these tentative steps forward, however, I had a go at drawing some members of my family, and found myself taking a big step back. Oh dear! They look OK, but something’s not quite right. I was telling a friend yesterday – my mum’s face is the one that looks most realistic, but somehow or other, she’s come out looking more like my aunt! How did that happen? My friend, an art student, asked me to show her the picture and the photo I was copying sometime. “I’ll help you see where you went wrong,” she said, “so you can do it better next time.”

It struck me that failure in any area is similar. If you can look, not at the mess you (think you’ve) made, but at what actually went wrong – the things you forgot to do, or things you did that weren’t quite right – you can either fix it or, more likely, do it better next time. I recently read the following in a book by George Bernard Shaw entitled Advice to a Young Critic:

“It is always worthwhile to do a thing the wrong way in order to find out how not to do it, which is an important step towards finding out how to do it.”

And the next day, the preacher at church said this:

“The failures and disappointments of the past do not disqualify me from success in the future.”

The enemy would love us to believe that one failure is a disaster, two a tragedy and three a sign you are causing more harm than good. ‘Get out quick’ he yells, ‘before you do some real damage!’

The ‘still, small voice’, on the other hand, tells us it’s all just part of the learning process. We all make mistakes. The secret of success is not getting it right the first time, but learning where you went wrong and fixing it the second, third and fourth time.

If I hadn’t done a bad drawing, my friend would not be able to help me do a better one next time.

Shaw, in the passage above, was advising his young friend to write five bad books as training for writing good theatre reviews. That’s a lot of ‘mistakes’ before one ‘success’! It paid off, though; the ‘Young Critic’ was RE Golding Bright, who went on to become ‘a shrewd and capable dramatic critic with an unrivalled knowledge of the theatre in all its aspects’, and a well-known figure in the theatre-worlds of both Britain and America.

Where have you failed, in the past? Are you letting those failures hold you back, or are you learning from them and moving on to greater things? Which voice are you listening to?


Thank you, Jennie for sharing this with us today.

If you’d like to read more of Jennie’s thoughts, ramblings and words of wisdom, check out her blog: NewSong40