The new school year is here upon us again and the kids have gone back to school this week. My eight-year-old is starting a new school. Although all summer he was excited about it and he was looking forward to it, as the first day of school got nearer he started becoming anxious.
When he came back home on the first day of school, he said to me, “Mom, school wasn’t so good today”. So I asked him what happened. He said, “the teacher was mean to me”. “She yelled at me because she thought I was talking to the kid sitting next to me in class. And I wasn’t. Then at lunch, I was confused. I didn’t know how things worked in the cafeteria in my new school.
So I said to him,
“Son, it’ll take a few days to learn how everything works in your new school and to understand your classroom rules”.
Then he replied.
“But that means I’m going to keep making mistakes before I can figure out what all the rules are”.
What wisdom!!! Out of the mouth of a babe…. has come the story of everyday life and of creativity.
I can’t understate this important point made by my eight-year-old boy. We only make mistakes when there are rules to judge the mistakes by.
Where there are no rules, there are no mistakes
When we’re creating, we’re making original things. We’re transforming novel ideas into new things. How then can you make a mistake with something that has not been done before? Where are the rules to judge it by?
Secondly, the word mistake inherently suggests comparison. Comparing one thing to another and finding it falls short of the standard.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep ~ Scott Adams
Creativity should be fun, exploratory, and should involve experimentation and play. There are no mistakes in creativity. There’s only finding out what works for your vision of what you want to make. When you make something, your vision is your guidepost. You can only make a mistake when you make someone else’s work your guidepost and you compare your work to theirs. But when you stay true to your vision of what you wanted to create, then you have fully expressed yourself. And there’ll be no comparison.
Comparison also means you’ll have to pass judgement. Because when you compare any two things, you’re automatically tempted to pass judgement on them. For example, one is better than the other or one is taller than the other. But passing judgement during the creative process serves as an obstacle. It stops you from exploring many opportunities to get your most creative thing done. It makes you discard interesting possibilities prematurely.
Withhold judgement and comparison during the process so you can allow yourself to do some things you haven’t done or seen before – truly creative things. There’s always time for evaluation. Later.
When asked for advice on painting, Claude Monet told people not to fear mistakes. The discipline of art requires constant experimentation, wherein errors are harbingers of original ideas because they introduce new directions for expression. The mistake is outside the intended course of action, and it may present something that we never saw before, something unexpected and contradictory, something that may be put to use. Shaun McNiff’s Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go
Remember, there are no mistakes. There’s only creative work.
Question: Do you fear to make mistakes when you’re creating? Does this fear stop you from creating truly original stuff? Share your comments below.
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No, I cannot say that I let mistakes hinder me. I have worked with some of the most creative kids ever. They keep me recharged and looking all the time for new directions and artwork. One thing I do now that helps not only me but new students is a very freeing five minute doodle brain dump or in the case of one eight year old a take a noodle for a walk.
It is a line, there are no mistakes or if you will a dot dog chasing his/her ball. Thanks for the reminders Clara and I love your blog.
Keep up the good work.
For those with the “new” kid at home this week.
1. Introduce yourself to everyone you meet with sparkle. “Shine brightly”.
2. A quote attributed to Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you are born to stand out?”
3. And lastly, be nice to everyone you meet even those scary mean teachers. Kindness is like sprinkles, or glitter, spread that stuff everywhere.
Clara Nartey says
Oh, what a beautiful comment. I’m glad to hear you’ve figured out ways to overcome the need to not make mistakes for both yourself and your students. I can’t wait for school to be over today to share your advice for new kids with my son. Thanks so much.
Carol Cspozzoli says
I think the 3 points of your advise is good for anyone, any age, and at all times.
I am going to pass them on to some grandkids.
Clara Nartey says
That’s the thing about creativity. It’s a life skill. You can use the skills in every aspect of daily living, no matter who you are. Glad these tips will benefit your grandkids.
I am a self taught quilter and artists. I once saw a quote that I used often for myself , my children and my students as a teacher for 30 years “ it takes courage to be imperfect”
I am proud to say I am apparently VERY courageous!????
Clara Nartey says
Way to go, Suzanne.