When I was at MOMA last week, I saw a list of director and artist Tim Burton's projects. Here's the guy who's responsible for some of the most breathtaking movies of his generation, and the real surprise is this: almost every year over the last thirty, he worked on one or more exciting projects that were never green lighted and produced. Every year, he spent an enormous amount of time on failed projects.
A few: Catwoman, Conversations With Vincent, Dinosaurs Attack!, The Fall of the House of Usher, Geek Love, Go Baby Go, Hawkline Monster, Lost in Oz, Mai the Psychic Girl, Mary Reilly, Superman Lives, X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes.
One key element of a successful artist: ship. Get it out the door. Make things happen.
The other: fail. Fail often. Dream big and don't make it. Not every time, anyway.
Tim got his ideas out the door, to the people who decided what to do with them. And more often than not, they shot down his ideas. That's okay. He shipped.