Even though it makes no objectively rational sense, we all cling to our impossible dreams. Everyone knows that the odds of having a work hung in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition are just 1 in 50, but more than ten thousand artists submit work every year. Very few people have a hit record, but thousands of musicians, at this very moment, are making albums. Why do we do it?
There’s something about infinite possibility that makes you experience a sense of unlimited freedom, even if that freedom is imaginary and illusory in fact. What you experience, though, is very real. It’s an actual, material state of being. It can have profound effects on your mental and physical health. The act of feeling the freedom is almost as good for you as being free. This is why humour and comedy flourish under tyrannies. No matter how repressive the regime, how savage the dictator, how compliant and evil his henchmen, the imagined world of the humorous situation is an escape and a respite.
When you start your enterprise, you can’t predict whether it will meet with success, or if you will join the majority of attempters, ending your endeavour in abject failure. Those are the numbers. The possibility of failure is undoubtedly real and the most likely outcome, but we get so much mental energy out of believing in the chance of success, that it almost doesn’t matter. If you feel you are starting from a ”nothing to lose” position, what’s the problem with a little more failure, however likely, as opposed to even the remotest possibility of success? You can’t become more of a failure, if you’re already washed up (or feeling like you are). I’ve never met a failure’s failure. At some level, it all plateaus out.
There’s no such thing as an accurate forecast, but there are lots of close forecasts and lucky forecasts. That might be as good a filter as you can apply to the particular impossible possibility you choose to pursue. In the mean time, just working toward the goal can give you some feeling of purpose, meaning, accomplishment and an escape from the constricting despair that invades so many people’s lives. You also learn and grow, no matter what the outcome. You can’t help getting better at what you do, just by doing more of it.
The reality is that although we feel like failures, sometimes, we always have the agency of our creative abilities. Often these abilities are, in any one’s terms, formidable. The difficulty, the challenge and the battle is to harness those creative facilities and make them change your outcomes to something that feels less like failure. You have the power to change the world. You just have to do it.
The up side is that, just by happy accident, once in a while, one of these impossible projects succeeds and the artist becomes the next big thing. That’s a nice wave to ride and you never know how long the wave’s crest will last, but enjoy it for as long as it does. You’ve earned it.
Impossible possibilities are a life line and our salvation. They keep us going; even when it feels like it’s time to give up. They brighten our thoughts and lighten our load. They help us temporarily forget the less than perfect reality we may inhabit and instead live, even if for just a short while, in an altogether perfect moment. They give us hope. They let us have fun. A sense of fun and a feeling of hope is very important, both when creating art and when living a life. We deserve at least that. Everybody does.