“Mistakes don’t mean failure. Mistakes are a sign that you are trying something new. You might think you have to perfect, but life is not about comparing yourself to anyone else; it’s about measuring yourself compared to who you were yesterday. When you learn from your mistakes, they have the power to turn you into something better than you were before.” From Limitless by Jim Kwik
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein
Mistakes aren’t usually something we enjoy talking about. We’re taught as kids to be embarrassed or even ashamed about them. We’re judged on how many right answers we arrive at on tests and in class, and as time goes on, we tend to accept the idea that a mistake is something “incorrect” — to be avoided whenever possible.
All of this ignores the fact the reality of life: Life is full of mistakes and if we’re not making them, then we’re not learning from them. What if we rejected the old notion of a mistake and came up with a new, more positive spin? What if we saw mistakes not as missteps but as stepping stones? Wouldn’t that make us bolder? Wouldn’t it help us write more dangerously if we weren’t afraid of mistakes? If we found the courage to put out the welcome mat for them, instead of trying to shut the door?
Here’s what might happen if we invited our mistakes to support us:
We’d get more creative: If we weren’t afraid of messing up we’d be more likely to try something new, to experiment and play with different openings for a story, different character descriptions, different endings.
We’d leave our comfort zones: We’d stretch ourselves and let more fresh, exciting ideas find their way into our work and germinate there. We’d be more likely to try a new genre or medium: poetry, a play,
We’d mine our mistakes: We’d chase them down the rabbit hole and see where they led us. Just as many scientific breakthroughs are the result of serendipitous mistakes, so many wonderful writers have found that mistakes they’ve made — detours, false plot threads, and unworkable characters have actually sharpened and deepened their work.
We’d ask for help: When we get stuck and feel like we’re on the wrong path, one of the smartest things we can do is to ask for help — to find someone who’ll be a sounding board, or take a workshop to spark up our dialogue or find a sharp, insightful editor. Any and all of these steps can help us improve our craft.
Mistakes — let’s welcome and use them as we all write on!