Failing to Succeed: Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect
There is a phrase that modern musicians have heard way too many times, and that is “practice makes perfect.” The problem is that perfection doesn’t exist, at least not in the the creative industry, because the idea of perfection is to be free of all flaws. But flaws are the special little tidbits that breed originality, artistic freedom, and attraction to the craft. Flaws are based on opinion of what is right, and perfection is really just entirely subjective. It is the kind of concept that makes people throw big abstract words and metaphors around to try to make sense of things they can’t grasp. I digress.
I want you to fail. I want you you pick up your guitar and come crashing down to your knees in a bloody gravel pit. I want you to taste the mineral astringency of rock bottom so you can find your artistic components. Because the absolute necessary tool to finding success with your instrument is outright failure.
Forgive me for sounding harsh. I don’t mean that whole blood and gravel thing literally. That would just be painful. But the thought is relevant, because scars develop character and beauty. Failure breeds individuality and stronger musicianship. It makes music vulnerable, which makes it accessible and relatable, which opens the door for change and emotional influence on the lost and lonely souls absorbing each note blaring through their headphones.
I wish I could say that this idea of failure as a necessity for success was completely original. Perhaps I am just trying to recapitulate recent discussions I’ve had with my own bandmates. They know very well that I’ve failed a number of times. In fact, I’ve failed hard. I’ve missed entire verses. I’ve forgotten leads. I’ve improperly restrung my guitar only to break another just five minutes later. l’ve lost hardware. I’ve been ignorant towards people’s feelings. I’ve neglected promotional opportunities. And with this endless collection of failures I have only learned right from wrong. I’ve zoned in on the elements that make me a better musician and have moved past my weaknesses. I’ve confronted my fears of not knowing what the hell I was doing and actually learned what the hell I was doing— mostly.
Practice doesn’t make perfect. It doesn’t make permanent. But practice does make perseverance. And professionalism. And purpose. And it can definitely piss you off. A true musician— no, a true artist— will be able to navigate painful mistakes as well as the depths of the occasional gravel pit, figuratively speaking, and sift through the flaws to find the gems that give them their genuine creative luster. A true artist will never stop failing.
Steph Castor is a writer, musician and performance poet currently residing in Kansas City, MO. She attended Columbia College Chicago for Poetry as well as the University of Kansas for Creative Writing and plays guitar for an alternative indie rock band called Vigil and Thieves.
She founded the #LFK Poetry Slam and has written for various publications including Guitar World, Tattoo, Curve Magazine and more. She enjoys indie music, tattoo culture, hip hop, vegan food, whiskey, and east coast beaches.