Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Creativity and Making Mistakes

Most of the creative people I know have one big quality in common. Mistakes don't scare them. They don't really care if they get something wrong. What they do care about is getting better.

Many of my creative type friends are perfectionists, too, but that seems totally different from fear of failure in the souls of these intrepid groundbreakers. They won't suffer imperfection in their own work. But they acknowledge the mistakes, the flaws, and sand them out. Striving for perfection requires mistakes. I don't know how they always knew this but I had to learn it. I'm lucky I've always gravitated toward people who are lots cooler than I am.

These people who are so much cooler than me did things I would never have had the balls to try. One got an MFA. She is now a sculptor. A couple majored in glass blowing. I thought they were nuts, but really cool. Wished them luck with that. They now have their own studio where they do custom work, their own stuff, and give lessons.

A friend from high school wanted to act. Even at seventeen I knew that was pie-in-the-sky but I certainly hoped it would work out for her. Maybe she could teach drama and speech when she grew out of it. But guess what? Her acting credits now include Spider-Man (yes, THE Spider-man, not the cartoon), Beauty Shop, Never Been Kissed, and a buttload of other stuff. She narrated the audio book for The Help.

Another friend from high school read cheesy romance novels all the time. I knew they were cheesy because they had people kissing on the covers but I didn't judge because all my books had dragons or unicorns on the covers. She also wrote cheesy romance in her spiral bound notebook. I figured it was as good a hobby as any. I didn't have time for hobbies because I was too busy taking all the A.P. classes my high school offered. Her third book just published in April.

I have a double major in Biology and English. English because I just liked it and Biology because I knew I would never use the English part of my degree in anything that would pay the bills. I now find the science portion of my educational background to be extremely useful in Trivial Pursuit and making an educated guess as to whether my children's runny noses are due to allergies, bacterial infection, or virus.

I sure wish sometimes that I had grown a pair a little younger. I always liked writing. It just seemed so stupid to think I could do anything with it. I finally got over being too chicken to try it and even if I never get it right it is the most fun thing I have ever done. Even the mistakes.

So cheers to all of you who had the courage to do what you loved even though it really was pretty dumb. I always knew you could do it!


  1. For some, it just takes a little longer to figure out what we love to do! I know I could never have written my WIP 10 or even 5 years ago. Somehow, the time is right now.

    You never know, it might not have been as fun if you started earlier. I'm glad you're enjoying what you're doing, Laurel!

  2. Striving for perfection requires mistakes.

    That, my dear, is thoroughly quotable.

    I'm lucky I've always gravitated toward people who are lots cooler than I am.

    I'm going to assume you mean me. Okays? ;)

  3. Tkx, Kris!

    And Lydia: But of course! I engage in bunkhouse logic. Figure out what you want to be/what qualities you admire and then surround yourself with people who are more accomplished in those areas than you. Slumming makes you feel like a rock star since you're the coolest person you know, but it does nothing to move you forward to where you want to be.

    And no, I don't mean socially. I mean people who do good deeds, are interesting and smart, know a lot and share what they know. Always keep in your circle of acquaintance someone you can teach and someone who can teach you.

  4. Always keep in your circle of acquaintance someone you can teach and someone who can teach you.

    I really like that one.

    I also love this definition that was on a sugar packet (you know we read everything).

    Experience: The ability to recognize a mistake when you make it again.

    So very true.

    Lately, I think I have more fear of success than of failure.

  5. Always keep in your circle of acquaintance someone you can teach and someone who can teach you.

    Well, aren't you just full of the snazzy quotes lately? ;)

  6. I love diving into different things and working hard to master them (to a point)! Once you're competent, time to move on to something else. Writing has held me for a long time, though.

  7. @ Sarah: Ha! Success carries its own baggage, doesn't it? Especially when you work toward one thing for soooo long. You get it and then what?

    @ Lydia: If I start referring to people as "grasshopper" feel free to smack me.

    @ Jason: That's the best thing about pursuing an art. You're never finished.

  8. Wow... your friends' stories are really, really cool and inspiring.

    Giving up isn't an option for me, but sometimes... I try less. Le sigh. I need to buck up.

  9. That's the spirit, Wendy! The spirit I need to embrace....

  10. I also often think how things might have been different if I'd committed myself to my creative loves when I was younger. But all in all I'm pretty happy where I am today, and there's really no other road that could have brought me to the place I am now. So no regrets--you can change the future, but you can only learn from the past.

    I don't think your friends are cooler--just luckier. They were ready early on. I had to go through so much more living before I was really ready to write. I think if I'd tried to make a career with creative writing too young, I'd have failed and burned out and quit... and maybe never come back to it. Now, I feel like I'm at the beginning of possibility without the pressure of having to "make it."

  11. @ Pete: I hear you on the being ready. I always had the words but when I was younger, I didn't have the stories. Simply did not have the seasoning to tell a tale.

    Maybe not yet, either, but definitely bringing a lot more to the table than my younger self.

  12. Simply did not have the seasoning to tell a tale.

    There's much wisdon in that.
    Thank you, Laurel, for your lovely words on Moonmouse's blog.