Why making mistakes is good

We’re often told, correctly, that one of the ways to free our creativity is to stop being afraid of making mistakes. It’s easy enough to say, but even if you can get your head around the idea that perfectionism is a barrier to creativity, how do we go about accommodating them?

Creativity Quotes:
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams

Why making mistakes is good
Mistakes, errors, blunders, faults, imperfections – call them what you will; all our training has been to remove any reference to them – to erase if we’re drawing, delete if we’re typing; restart if we’re singing or playing an instrument.

We see mistakes as interruptions to our plan, even if we didn’t think we had one – they’re not what we intended, and therefore not good. But what mistakes do is offer us the opportunity to explore beyond where we thought we were going – they introduce that rare element of ‘chance’ into our work.

When we find ourselves with a slip-up, a really creative alternative is to leave it just as it is, and try to work it in.

It’s not always going to produce a beautiful result, so I don’t recommend doing this on anything you’re under pressure to deliver – it will simply undermine your confidence. Rather, set aside some “mistake making” time, a time in which you give yourself absolute permission to err, to make a mess, to stuff things up. If you’re musical, bang away without rhyme or reason for a while. Visual artists can scribble, draw, dribble paint and randomly combine images. Allow words to flow unselfconsciously if you’re writing – and if you’re cooking, it helps to find an equally creative audience J

The human mind is wired to find patterns, to look for logic, to find a repeatable path. This is to our detriment when we’re stuck in a rut of “proven methods”, but when we’ve silenced our critical voice for a while and given ourselves creative freedom, our logical mind will soon start to find new meanings and patterns from the seemingly random combinations we come up with. New sound combinations will resonate with different emotions, and new visual and literal images will create fresh associations, containing the seeds of new directions ready for you to explore.

Practicing making mistakes also makes it easier to be gentle with ourselves when we do make that colossal oops – when that off note can be left as it was without kicking ourselves; where the line out of place just doesn’t matter that much, and the wrong mix of herbs can be smoothed over with ice-cream. See the post below for some more ideas to get started with…

As we learn to be less critical of ourselves, we become more open to new possibilities that unplanned events might hold.

Wishing you a gentle and accepting month of discovery.


5 comments so far

  1. Sylvia C. on

    Great post! I completely agree. The way I see it:
    the only way one can truly fail, is if they fail to try!

    (Someone famous probably said it in a bit different of words…)

    Sylvia C.

  2. Robynn on

    This works beautifully in knitting. For most mistakes you have a choice of different ways to fix a mistake (most of which involve swearing, and possibly a fortifying drink), but there’s always the alternative consideration: could this become a Design Element?

    I’m very fond of spontaneous Design Elements, myself.

  3. Cara Faye on

    And Jules replied by mail:
    But sometimes making mistakes is BAD, like when they forget to send the parcel to the ship, nothing creative about spending a fortune to airfreight the parcel to Singapore because it missed the ship in CT!!! (Sorry bad Friday – me thinks I will not show this to my staff…….)

    Ouch – so sorry to hear it! Yes, there definitely are mistakes that can hurt… I’m not entirely getting the impression that this was done in someone’s attempt to be more creative 😉 I suppose the message is that we shouldn’t let fear of failure stop our progress – not that we shouldn’t aspire to success. But hugs anyway!

    @ Sylvia C. – Hi and Welcome! Yes, I wish I could find that quote – it’s so true. Great beading, btw, and I *really* like your “Life is Fabulous” card!

    @ Robynn – … I wonder how many of those were involved in my beautiful shrug… as long as there were lots of fortifying drinks, too 🙂
    I’m thinking about photography as a way to capture those possible elements, so you can go back and “fix”, but keep a record of the possibilities to refer to when starting new projects… kind of the exact opposite of erasing – treasuring…

  4. Robynn on

    Heh! Actually, I think the shrug was pretty much mistake-free. But the photography idea is a good ‘un.

  5. […] Why making mistakes is We’re often told, correctly, that one of the ways to free our creativity is to stop being afraid of making mistakes. It’s easy enough to say, but even if you can get your … […]

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