The Creative Necessity of Making Mistakes
For a number of years I was completely blocked. Frozen. And the reason I was blocked? I was making a mistake.
My mistake was simple (and common): I thought I had to have answers. I thought, if I was going to write, I needed to write from a position of — not authority, exactly, but — knowing.
Now that sounds good, but there quickly arose a problem. I didn’t know anything.
I’ve found the more I learn, the further I go through the world, the less I am certain of. I know less and less as the years pass. I have more and more questions. In general, I’m pretty happy with this state of affairs but it really got in the way of writing for a while there.
Until I realized I could write questions.
Questions drip with magic, with potential, with energy. Questions open us up, soften our edges, encourage us to peek out from our shells. Questions engage.
So this morning I am thinking about how making that mistake, enduring that block, allowed me to shut up long enough as a writer to grow for a bit. To learn new things. To embark on other adventures. So that, when I did come back to the page, I had something new to say.
A mistake bought me necessary time.
And so I have to ask myself, was it a mistake? Was it “accidentally on purpose”? Is there even, when we look at the bigger picture, any such thing as miss-takes? Or is every attempt, every spill, every botch and embarrassment just another necessary bump on the learning curve? We couldn’t get there from here without a few stumbles. No toddler learns to walk without falling.
Is our framing of mistakes-as-mistakes born out of a desire to avoid discomfort? And if we can soften around these ideas does it help us shrug off perfectionism?
What mistakes have you made that turned out to be necessary?
How would it feel to set out to make interesting mistakes on purpose?