Failure for a baby boomer is opportunity for creativity

Liz Kitchens of Maitland, Florida, is one of those “creative” types. But that doesn’t always lead to happiness. Which is why she has figured out how to make it do precisely that! Failure, she has figured out, is just another word for creativity.

We creative types feel a relentless urge to create. It’s not enough, however, for me just to enjoy the process of creation; I feel a concurrent drive to make money off my wares. Therein lies the rub.

I love creating sculptures out of colorful polymer (Sculpy/Premo) clay, and assigning tongue-in-cheek titles or descriptions, kind of an art with a message focus. Here is an example below. This sculpture is entitled Flower Power and features an SUV propelled by flower power (a little enviro message poking fun at gas guzzling Hummers.).


Sculpting these pieces takes hours and hours as they are quite detailed. I would like to mass-produce them but my 60-year-old hands aren’t capable. Therefore, I tried other means of mass production, creating posters, one called “Homeland Sweet Homeland,” which pokes fun at the color coding terrorist alert system at airports. I created magnets for a political issue. I created “Om for the Holidays” cards targeting the yoga community. I found though that neither the yoga community or politicians have much of a sense of humor. My mass quantities of unsold products now languish in my attic, out of sight so as not to remind me that I was unable to even recoup my costs in these failed endeavors.

Liz Kitchens

Liz Kitchens

My daughter in-law let something slip a while ago. She mentioned that a former employee (in our family business) had snickered about my Jack magnets, saying, “Seriously? Did she really think those things would sell?” I was crushed. To think people were laughing at my failed entrepreneurial attempts was more than a little humiliating. You see, when someone creates something out of nothing, whether it be a poem, a sculpture, or an idea, it is almost like creating a child; you feel protective of the concept, even vulnerable.

Putting one’s creative efforts on display elicits more than a little anxiety. To have someone I like and admire laugh at me was a little tough. I’ve tucked her mockery away in my heart for the past couple of years. Every once in a while when I conceive of a new idea, it pops out to ridicule the idea. However, today, I’m sharing this experience with all of you — after all, this has happened to everyone who is creative. Failure is even glorified in places like Silicon Valley where entrepreneurs say things like, “Failure means you just haven’t gotten your success yet.” Or, “Failure is mandatory; it’s as pervasive here as the weather.” Such statements actually are a great comfort.

My concurrent urges to create and succeed take heart in the Thomas Edison story about creating the incandescent lightbulb. He said after his thousandth failure, “I now know a thousand things that won’t work.” Now that is optimism!

So, let’s bring our failure monsters — the little barbs and big criticisms we’ve endured over the years — out into the light of day. This declaration represents my coming-out party. I think I will even plaster those Jack magnets all over my refrigerator to remind me that failure is just another word for creativity.

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  1. Thanks, not only great encouragement, but a take away lesson in thinking before one opens their mouth as there’s the possibility of a gentle soul on the other end of that hurtful comment.

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