Sometimes in life (and in writing) I can get hung up on trying to be perfect. On wanting something to be fabulous. On needing to be the best I can be, every time.
But what if I approached the whole process of creation differently?
In my new book, Zeroes and Ones: The geeks, heroes and hackers who changed history, I look at the people behind the tech innovations we take for granted today. And I discover that…surprise, surprise…success doesn’t always come easy. Inventions, solutions and stories don’t always arrive fully formed and perfect.
Many successful, creative people give themselves permission to fail. Why not give it a try?
Building Star Wars droids
For a Crinkling News story, I interviewed toy designer Jon Carroll, the creator of Star Wars droid toys such as BB-9E and R2D2, about how he approaches the job of creation.
Jon works as Director of Prototyping at Sphero, the company that created the new toy Star Wars droids, BB-9E and R2D2. His team also helped invent the toy BB-8, and Sphero, the roly-poly robot being used to teach coding in 2500 Australian schools.
“Prototyping is trying to build something that someone can play with and use and touch and feel as quickly as possible,” says Jon, who studied computer science.
“Our job is to fail or succeed as quickly as possible.”
Sometimes, when his team members discover that a toy or feature they’ve invented isn’t fun to play with, they can feel discouraged. But Jon says failure is part of the inventing journey.
“If we take a long time to fail, that’s a failure for us as a team. If we’ve failed fast, we’ve done our job.”
How does this translate to writing (and to life)?
Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid to give something a go, but do it as quickly as you can. There’s no point spending ten years on a project only to discover it’s a dud.
Far better to work swiftly, get some feedback, take that feedback on board (a crucial, yet oft-forgotten step), then rework your project. Swiftly.
Try and fail. Write and rewrite. Take what makes your project sing and discard what’s holding it back.
Failure is part of the journey.
But it’s only one part.
PS: Want to be a toy inventor?
Jon regularly goes toy shopping, so he can understand what makes a toy fun to play with. “We play with a lot of toys at the office,” he says. “Right now, we have a huge Hot Wheels track set up.”
Although he spends his days inventing high-tech toys, Jon still enjoys playing games with his friends.
“There’ll always be a place for board games. Half of the fun of a board game or dominoes or cards is that face-to-face interaction that you get with someone.”
Parts of this post first appeared in my article in Crinkling News.