Boo! Failure is Scaaaarrrrrryyyyy!

In a series on Good Ideas, Our Flirtations with Them, and Our Commitments to Them.

Well Happy Halloween to you!  Today, our discussion is a bit dark and rather scary.  I want to talk about failure, because it has a very important place in a series on Good Ideas.  The creative life simply does not progress without failure.

dealing with failure as an artist

The Raven, mixed media by Mari Lowery, available on Etsy














I know this from experience!  When I was an art student, I took my first pottery class.  How exciting!  How wonderful to put hands in clay, and mold it on the spinning wheel into a sleek, organic, functional vessel!  I could totally rock my neuvo-hippie chick thing, sell some pottery at a festival or two, and have lots of Christmas gifts on hand for everyone!

Except that when I sat down at the wheel and hit the pedal, goopy wet clay spat in vicious circles and hit me in the face, covered the wall, and coated the other zen-clay students.  I was humiliated and so disappointed.

After that, the only time I’d return to the studio was late, late at night when few other students were working. I guess my hope was to work out all the kinks and appear one day in my day class as if nothing had happened, and as if I had all my “slip” together. 🙂  I progressed very slowly, as there were no teachers and not many experienced students in the lab at that time of night!

failure and creativity

Me - circa a long time ago

That was a long time ago, and I’ve learned some very valuable lessons since – primarily about grace and the freedom to be a fool and to fail. Here’s what I want to share today:  Not failing (and not failing publicly) will prevent you from succeeding.

  • Failing publicly means you tried to add value in a way that would impact other people.
  • Failing again means you tried again.
  • Making a variety of mistakes means that you are experimenting with a variety of “what if’s” and “maybe’s” and “hopefully’s”
  • Failing publicly means that you are in a position to be noticed (oh no!) and get some help, tweaking, direction…
I believe that purposing to add value, trying again, experimenting, and seeking critique as well as support, will lead to successes.  Purposing to achieve perfection the first time, and to make sure that everyone thinks well of you all the time will – ironically –  lead to defeat.
artists and failure

Finally... a teapot!

  • If you’ve ever felt paralyzed by creative failure, what got you going again?
  • What kinds of things have you learned from failure?
  • Do you put yourself in positions where you can fail publicly? If not, what can you do to be more vulnerable?
  • What advice would you give a friend who is stuck in failure?
Alright, talk to you later creative friends!  I hope I didn’t scare you too much today. 🙂  See you soon. 🙂
Mari Lowery is a former dog walker and a Brooklyn photographer and mixed media artist. Find more of her frightening creations at her Etsy shop.

And The Winner Is…

I’m so excited to announce the winner of the first ever Mish Mash Make blog giveaway! Yahoo!  Thanks to everyone who participated.  I like to give people things, and am looking forward to doing it again soon.

Our Super Top Secret Scientifically Calibrated Random Picking Machine

Here you can see my highly scientific method for choosing a winner.  I put the names on paper, cut them up, and my 6 year old, Miles, closed his eyes and pulled out a name.  One name only.  And that name is  (dah-dah-dahhhhh)…


Laura!  Laura is a Finnish blogger who writes about living a beautiful country life.  (Her blog can be translated with the click of a button – how cool is that?) Laura, I’m so glad you won! I hope that you really enjoy both of the books, and that they spur you on in your creative journey.

If you didn’t win, but are still interested in these books, click on the thumbnails to purchase a download.

This is Miles.  Today, he is dressed up as Super-Bat-Ninja-Man.  We promise that he closed his eyes while picking the name, and did not use his x-ray vision.  🙂

My (Good) Advice Column!

In a series on Good Ideas, Our Flirtations with Them, and Our Commitments to Them. _________________________________________________________________________ So I want to talk about the role that advice plays in our decision making.  Really, I should have brought this up before I told you to Just Pick One (a good idea, that is).  Generally, the time to seek counsel is before a commitment!  Oh well, better late than never, right?

good advice

2 divided by 2 equals 1, by Cori Dantini. Available on Etsy

You have your Big Idea.  You’re mapping it out in your brain, doodling it in a sketch book, detailing it in your idea journal, making Excel spreadsheets (or not! 🙂 ), checking out your finances…

–  Do you reach out and ask someone for their perspective on your dream?  Why do you do this?  Or, Why don’t you?

– Who do you typically talk to, if you’re one who’s inclined to seek advice from others?

– Who do you wish you could talk to?

– What do you hope to gain?

I feel like there’s a tension there for us creatives.

On one hand, as expressed by the comments on this very blog, we need people to help us filter our idea-prone minds.   On the other hand, a creative can’t be successful if she is always waiting around for someone’s approval.  (And we do want approval, don’t we!?)

And this, friends, is why life is challenging.

  • We need both the tenacity to hold on to an idea in the face of dismissal, and the good sense to listen and let go of it if it isn’t quite right.
  • We need the patience to see our ideas from many angles, over a period of time, through other’s eyes, and the decisiveness to act now, when the time is right.
I’ll sum it up by saying this: I believe we all need a strong inner compass AND a map.

From the Direction series, by Heidi Sorensen Muller

What do you think?  I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and experiences with this…   Thanks! 🙂
Cori Dantini is a full time illustrator, full time mother and full time wife from Pullman, Washington.  She says of herself,  “I love a sharp pencil, and a 005 black pen, i heart walnut ink, and japanese pen tips, OH and a new pad of paper, i love ANYTHING shiney or sparkly, and consider myself to be a bit of a crow in that way”.
Here is a link to her lovely Etsy site.


Book Review and Giveaway!


Melissa Michaels, of The Inspired Room, is someone I want to meet, visit with in her home, have coffee with and listen to.   In an unassuming but authoritative way, she nails (or shall we say “pins”) the trouble we get into when our desire for just a little more/ nicer/ better/ newer becomes a current that pulls us away from the things that are actually most important to us.

In her new e-book, Not a DIY Diva – How to Create an Authentically Inspired Life in a Pinterest World, she neatly and warmly packages much of the sentiment she’s shared at her blog over the years.  It’s very interesting to me how she weaves together the ideas of creativity, contentment, function and beauty in our homes.

You’ll find lots of inspiration in this little fifty-some page book, but most of all you’ll find a much needed contrast to the pretty-shiny-image-obsessed culture we live in.  Melissa is not an ascetic.  This is not an “either/or” book.  It is, however, a look at living authentically, and with substance – not appearance – formost in mind.  She’s put together a thoughtful, engaging read.  I’m quite sure that lots of you will enjoy it!  The book is launched tomorrow, October 25, so head on over to The Inspired Room to secure a copy!


1.  This is my first giveaway on Mish Mash Make, and I’m SO excited!  I feel like a grown up blogger.  (Well, maybe an adolescent blogger…).

2.  I’m giving away not ONE, but TWO great e-reads!  First is Melissa’s e-book, Not a DIY Diva.  Secondly, I’m offering  Untitled: Thoughts on the Creative Process by Blaine Hogan.  (available on iTunes and Kindle)

3.  So how do you get your creative little hands on these goodies?  Just leave a comment on this post telling me why you’re interested!  It’s that easy.  I’ll announce the randomly selected winner on Thursday.

– If you’d like your name to be entered twice, just share the link about this giveaway with your friends on Facebook.  (Please let me know you’ve shared it, so I can make sure to get your name in again!)

Let the Giveaways Begin!!

Just Pick One

This is part of a series on Good Ideas, Our Flirtations with Them, and Our Commitments to Them.

I’m a person who doesn’t know that I’ve thought until I’ve spoken it out loud, or written my thought down.  This is why I LOVE friends, coffee, and fresh paper. Whether you’re my type of an idea-phile, or more of a reserved “just between me and my diary” type; writing, documenting, and listing the ideas that pop into our heads is essential to harnessing their energy.

Keep a List, and No “Pooh-Poohing”

When I used to work at Urban Concern, a co-worker would always remind us that there was to be no “pooh-poohing” of ideas that came up at staff meetings.  Well, initially, at least.  That is the sense in which you are to keep your idea notebook.  It is a dumping ground for every idea that comes into your head:  the good, the bad, and the “maybe you should see a therapist”.

Oh, and this is just the best for idea-philes.  It’s absolutely guilt free day dreaming. How fun is that?  Of course, though, none of us really aspire to be only dreamers.  We are, after all, Makers.  So what to do when this ongoing list keeps growing, and we still remain hesitant (fearful) to stop jotting and act?

Please Pick One

Just Pick One  

There are unlimited good ideas in life, but our lives themselves are limited – even if only by the 70 or so years we’re given.  A very wise friend counseled my idealistic and driven- dreamer husband this way…  She said that life is like a box of chocolates (no, I’m not going all Forrest Gump on you!), and that eventually you have to pick one to eat.

Once you choose your chocolate, you need to enjoy it, savor it, be grateful for it, and STOP wondering what it would have been like had you picked the one that may have had truffle filling!

(OK, I have to confess – I DID eat every. single. piece. of chocolate in that box after I took the photo.  That doesn’t really work with my analogy, but I had to tell you anyhow. 🙂  )

This week, I encourage you to give your ideas a voice in a notebook.  (Remember to work on your Yes List, too).  We’ll wrap up with some thoughts on the value of counsel in the next few days.

Good Idea, I Think I Love You! (Focus)

We’ve established that there are a lot of good ideas out there, and that a lot of us have them, a lot of the time.  We’ve also established that despite this fact,it can be difficult to grab hold of this kind of creative energy, and really see it through to fruition.

For the next couple posts, let’s talk about strategies that help us weed through the pile, pick a good idea and commit!  – This post is a little longer, but read through to the end to see how it bears on your creative ideas.  I’d LOVE for some of you to share your “Yes” lists in the comments!


1.  Know your Big Picture focus  (What will you say YES to?)

This is so much more fun to think about than all the things you might have to say “no” to! I’ve learned that part of growing up is that you make:

fewer and fewer decisions between good and bad…
–   should I get really drunk tonight at my work party, or should I remain sociably sober?

and more decisions between good and better.
–  should I spend Saturday hiking with my friends or baking cookies with my kids?

The simplest way to deal with the constant barrage of “good v. better” decisions is to clearly know what you will always say “Yes” to.

Grab your cutest notebook, and start to jot a list.

What will I say "yes" to?

– I will always say yes to my family.
– I will always say yes to my friends.
– I will aways say yes to my neighbors.
– I will always say yes to spiritual growth, to God.

3 Things:

1.  This is my list.  Yours doesn’t have to be like it.  My list is not perfect, and will get tweaked as I learn more and fail more.

2.  Keep your list short.  Leaving something off doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means that you won’t do it at the expense of a “yes” on your list.

3.  “I will always say yes” has a context.  For instance, I do not mean that every time my kid wants something, I will give it to him, or that every time a friend asks for coffee I will drop everything and head out.

Example:  My oldest son plays football.  Most of his games this year have conflicted with the time that we go to church.  There’s a tension there, to be sure…  it seems that there’s almost a cultural mandate to be at every one of your kids’ sporting events, or risk being a bad parent.

Theo, #54

With my “yes” list in mind, I talked to my son, and told him that I love him being in football because he loves it.  I want him to learn to stick with the things he commits to, so I endorse his participation, and want to be there often.  However, his participation in football can’t compromise my spiritual growth, the nurturing of my closest friendships, nor the rest of our family’s interests. (My kids all LOVE going to church – probably because our church is not churchy. 😉 )

So see, there are 3 yeses there…  my family, my friends, my spiritual growth.  They helps me to make this good v. better decision.

Good Ideas

OK.  That’s Cool. But How Do “Yeses” Help Me Creatively?

The great ideas that you can do, that you will do, that you will complete successfully, are the ideas that work in your life.  If you go into an idea enterprise blindly, what happens is that a few months into it, you realize it’s not fitting into your life.  It’s pushing up against “yeses” that you didn’t know you had.  You will drop that idea, after having likely already jeopardized some “yeses”, and wind up feeling discouraged about the whole “good idea’ thing.

Yeses help you trim your idea list to the ones at which you can succeed!

(We’ll talk about idea lists later – keep all of those good ideas!  Your “yes” list will change as your life changes, and you may find you can then succeed at some of those “listed” ideas.  Pie Shop, anyone?)

Please note:  This post is about the BIG ideas – business ventures, new directions in life, time consuming commitments.  If you have lots of good ideas for tweaking a Toll House cookie recipe, or painting your bathroom, or writing a poem, have at it!  No need to consult the “yes” list. 🙂

Alright now, peeps – let’s hear about some Yes Lists in the comments section!  I’m sure it will be thought provoking.  See you next week!  I’m out for a weekend away.  Yay!!!



A Mess is Made and I Clean it Up

So I’ve confessed to being the girl with 101 great creative ideas…  Does it follow that one of those ideas is not to clean my house?  Today, however, is the day.  THE day.  The DAY. This blog is about making.  Well, a mess has been made.  Today I aim to make things pretty again.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

artists art crafts

All Crafts, All the Time

Transformers are taking over my house. Really - they are.

messy artist cleans house

Some of my co-conspirators in mess making...

artist cleaning house

Laundry for 7. Need I say more?

Wish me luck, folks…

Tomorrow, tune in for the conclusion of the Too Many Great Ideas series!


Fellow Creatives: How Do You Choose a Good Idea?

Juggling too many things

This is Not Chaos, *Lisa Telling Kattenbraker - available on Etsy

After learning about my frequent flirtations with Good Ideas, many readers responded that they, too, find themselves in creative overload. They are either overcommitted and overwhelmed, or just fruitlessly moving from one idea to the next.

  • To what extent is an abundance of good ideas paralyzing to you?
  • How do you weed through all the wonderful ideas, schemes, projects and plans that come your way?
  • Do you have people in your life (possibly of a different temperamental disposition) who help to constrain and focus you?  How does this work, and how do you respond?
  • Do you have priorities that guide what you do?  If so, what are they?

Short of starting a support group, let’s come together and share what works (and doesn’t work) for us as we strive to be makers and creators.

Join the Conversation!



*Lisa Telling Kattenbraker is a batik artist. She works on cotton fabric, using traditional methods and tools, combined with experimental approaches to create vibrant, contemporary american batik. She lives in Washington State with her artist husband, children, chickens, cat and puppy.

She says of her work, “The process of batik is, in many ways, a contrast to my daily life. It’s slow going, it’s meditative. I’m drawn to that process part of it…the journey.”

A Good Idea is (Not) Hard to Find – Part 2: The Honeymoon is Over

So yes, I fall fast and hard for good ideas, and can be rather obsessive about them… lots of daydreaming and the like.  The trouble is, once it seems like I’m moving toward something a bit more long term, a bit like commitment, trouble sets in.

For instance:

Me, to Idea #1:  “You know, we’ve been spending an awful lot of time together lately. Frankly, it’s a bit tedious.  I feel like all we do is research tax codes and profit margins and try to make websites.  We used to have fun!”

To Idea #2:  “I had another idea last night, and as much as I like you, I’m just really feeling like it might be “the one”.  You know?  I’m not sure why I ever thought we were a good match anyways…”

I guess this is the stage at which I’ve gotten close enough to see the dark side…

  • My ideas usually require a lot more work and time than I imagined they would.
  • Often, I must do cumbersome behind the scenes tasks before I get to the fun stuff.
  • Sometimes, my ideas just seem stupid the next day.
  • Sometimes, I am too full of self doubt to see how any of it could work out.
So, if I’m not to be the kind of girl who just hops from one good idea to the next, what am I to do?
Next time, read + comment on “I Learn to Commit” – an open forum for creatives to share what is working, and not working for them!

A Good Idea is (Not) Hard to Find – Part 1: Flirting

Good ideas for the creative process

"She Was a Terrible Flirt", Amy Abshier-Reyes*, available on Etsy

I am a flirt.

Well, I was a flirt in my mix and mingle single days, before I met someone who grabbed my attention and has kept it for a long time.  So, no, I don’t bat my eyelashes or stand “a little too close” when I meet new, interesting men.

These days, I save the eyelash-batting for ideas.  I fall in love with them regularly, and I fall hard.

Idea #1.  I’m going to travel to Africa and import textiles that I design along with traditional artisans.  I’ll host trunk shows, run a website, and maybe open some small boutiques.

Idea #2.  I’m going to write a blog in which I interview artists and other creatives.  I will study Terry Gross and Ira Glass and Andy Rooney.  I will be known for both my compassion and direct hits.

Idea #3.  I will open a pie shop with my mother as baker-in-chief.  We will introduce her amazing baking skills to the wider world.

Idea #4.  I will have another baby to keep my (suprise) 5th baby company.

Idea #5.  I will eat only foods that are close to the earth.  All the time.  And I will walk everywhere I go. And everywhere I walk, I will be stylishly, yet naturally styled.  Yes, I will have a style, and people will like it.  Maybe I’ll also design clothes for women with my body type… with the textiles that I import…

the creative process and good ideas













It happens every time.

I meet a good idea, or catch a glimpse of one across the room, and my heart starts to beat a little faster. My eyes sparkle. I get a little sweaty. You wouldn’t believe how good these ideas are when I first think of them.

I lie awake at night imagining our lives together in ten years.  Everything is in technicolor. I’m always so happy during this phase of our relationship… a little high, even.  I get more done around the house, I’m nicer to my family, I call a whole bunch of people to talk.  It feels GOOD to be that close to a good idea.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s come to my attention that I need to commit to some of these ideas. This is where the trouble starts.

Next time, read, “The Honeymoon is Over“.  



*Amy Abshier-Reyes was raised on the Texas Gulf Coast, in a small farming and ranching community. She graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute and has shown paintings in galleries all over the country, as well as providing illustrations for books and magazines internationally.

She’s happily married to a sweet guy that builds motorcycles and plays guitar, and has two awesome little kids, a cranky old cat, and a huge record collection.