“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” Miles Davis
Wow! When I read this quote emblazoned on a chalkboard at a local cafe, it took my breath away. No mistakes! While Miles Davis is a storied trumpeter with a glorious reputation for spirited, freewheeling improvisation, he was also a highly disciplined musician who surely knew a thing or two about false starts, missteps, mishaps or whatever name we choose to call a mistake by.
So let’s ponder this for a moment. In its simplicity, it holds great wisdom. There are no mistakes. To my mind, this means that we never really off track — we’re just taking a detour. Or, put another way: Everything we call a mistake is just an opportunity for learning, a kind of course correction that will either put us back on track or empower us to strike off in a new, bolder, more fruitful direction.
What a liberating idea! If we could open our minds to embrace it, how freeing it would be! If we apply it to our own writing life, here are a few ways it might help us:
If there are no mistakes, then that half-finished story sitting in a file or on our computer isn’t a mistake, it’s a five-finger exercise that somehow has strengthened us.
If there are no mistakes, then all those editors who turned down that story had the right idea. Could it be that it needed to be polished more and pushed to a higher level?
If there are no mistakes, then all those versions of our novel — all those drafts — were just like Babe Ruth’s strikeouts — each one is bringing us closer to the home run, the polished manuscript that will really sing and dance.
You get the idea! So next time you’re feeling blue because you feel you’ve made a mistake, don’t get the blues! Just pat yourself on the back for being clever and creative enough to improvise, just like the great Miles Davis. Then blow that horn of yours, loud and proud! Write on!