I’ll start with a statement.
Mistakes can be good.
I can hear a collective groan from you. The sound of a barely stifled sigh as lids flutter to closed. The rolling of eyes at the adage you learn from your mistakes. I can hear you screaming ‘I don’t want to make mistakes!’ ‘I want to be perfect all the time!’ ‘I want everything I do to be brilliant immediately and without fail, always and forever!’
Well if you haven’t already fallen asleep or given up on reading this item then listen up buttercup – mistakes CAN be good. THEY CAN!
Now, I’m not saying all mistakes are good.
And some of them can be pretty darn painful / scarring / scary / embarrassing to the maximum but if you want your life to have any element of creativity to it then I’m afraid this isn’t an audition for ‘The Voice’ and you HAVE GOT TO make mistakes to achieve anything.
Actually that’s pretty unfair on those coolio judges because they are always on the lookout (or hear out) for something different, a risk-taker, originality.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not encouraging you to go out and make mistakes on purpose. I don’t want to think of you all tripping yourselves over or painting the worst painting you can ever imagine or (if you want to be like me) accidentally upsetting people with badly timed jokes at parties.
What I am encouraging you to do is to be less hard on yourself. It’s something I’m trying to do. *Reminds self to be nicer to self sometimes. Feeds chocolate to self.*
Here is a very short list of mistakes I have made and how they have impacted my life. Believe me when I say this is only a tiny selection from an absolute plethora of mistakes.
I was an actress for a long time. Goodness only knows how or why. I think I got side-tracked by the feeling of applause. I was like the proverbial square peg trying to hammer itself into the unyielding round hole. I was an ok actress but it wasn’t what my soul was meant to do. On the flip side it made me able to create characters, live other lives, really examine voices. I use all of this in my writing.
Taking the wrong sized cake tin to school for Home Economics. I blame my dad who actually sold catering equipment and still gave me the incorrect baking implements. What I made was not so much a cake as a biscuit with a huge amount of jam in the middle to try to give it height. Consequently I buy my cakes from yummy cake shops and spend the time I would have spent baking on doing things I like instead. More reading time for me – win!
I wore a puff ball skirt. This is a painful admission. There is no up-side to this unless you want to look like a character from Elizabethan times. A badly dressed character from Elizabethan times at that. I have learned nothing from this mistake except perhaps that fashion is for fools at times and I am (was) a fool for fashion. This is one of those mistakes I just laugh at though I am slightly scared by a photograph of me sporting the skirt whilst trying desperately to look cool. I also had a ra-ra skirt but that was slightly more acceptable. Actually, I take it back. I have learned from this! It is ok to look absolutely awful once in a while. I’m still here. The world is still spinning. Just.
Not seeing more of my grandmother before she died. This is a BIGGY. I miss my grandmother so much. I beat myself up for a long time because I didn’t see enough of her. I would give anything to be able to spend another day with her. It’s hard to see what I’ve learned from this mistake but there are things. To spend more time with people I love. To consider them more. To understand that time is the most precious thing you can give to a person. I wish I’d worn those itchy mohair jumpers she knitted me every Christmas. I wish I’d hugged her more. Thankfully I have her face, as the older I get the more I look like her. I’m also writing a book that starts with her as the inspiration. Huge up-side is that I was lucky enough to know her at all. I hope I won’t make the same mistake with other people I love.
Thinking I was more of a cat person than a dog person. I love all animals but now I have my first dog, Watson Jones. Up-side to this mistake is now having Watson Jones and everything about Watson Jones. We are NEVER looking back. Sorry cats. I still like you but it just isn’t enough.
Some of these mistakes are more serious than others but the point is we are all making them all the time. With the best of intentions we are falling, re-writing, picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down, learning and starting all over again consistently. And this is good! The greatest people are mistake makers.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” – Mahatma Ghandi
“I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being–forgive me–rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Writing is nothing without re-writing. Well, that’s not quite true. It is something. But that something is usually a jumbled up mess of words and phrases that could be better. So I have to make mistakes as part of my job and it’s the freedom to do that which makes creativity so entirely marvellous.
So, here endeth my lesson. Go easy on yourself. Feed your soul with things you love. Tell yourself that when you make a mistake it means you are a fully paid-up member of the Human Race. Make sure you remind yourself that it is a good thing to make mistakes sometimes. Remember that everyone has made msitakes (Ha!).
And if nothing else you can use your mistakes to enhance your biography on your writing agent’s website…