No More "Mistakes"

11:40 AM

Art Time. Precious words, aren't they? Especially this time of year when we're all so busy.

Surprisingly, I found myself with some art time on my hands and made my way to the studio.

I managed to step away from the computer a good part of the Thanksgiving weekend and I started on a couple of pieces of art that are going in a new direction for me.

Which I can't show to you just yet.

However, that's not going to stop me from talking about a very profound experience I had while painting...I made a mistake (and no, that's not the profound experience I'm talking about.)

It's been a while since I've done any work outside of my journal and I should have been expecting a slip, but I wasn't.

I was giving myself a really good tongue lashing, talking about how stupid I was to make such a mistake and that I should know better. I'm telling you, I was really giving myself a good thrashing. I was furious.

Here's the odd part—the mistake wasn't fatal to the piece of work. Mistakes are seldom fatal. Annoying, aggravating, and irritating, yes, but they are seldom fatal. It simply meant I would have to work in a different way to "fix" the piece.

In the middle of my tirade, I realized what I was doing and stopped. After all, if you've been on an Imaginary Trip with me, you know that I encourage making mistakes because that's how we learn.

Taking a breath to calm down, I asked myself, "Okay, what did I learn?"

As the question settled over me, I felt the tension ease and the feeling of defeat began to dissolve. I didn't feel quite so bad about messing up. And I was no longer tempted to quit and walk storm out of the studio.

As I started to evaluate what I had done and what I would do differently if I started over, I could easily see where I had gotten into trouble. By asking what I learned, I minimized the situation rather than make it gargantuan when I was busy insisting it a mistake.

You may be thinking semantics. But I disagree this time.

Take out a piece of your own art that you've made a mistake on and ask yourself, "what did I learn?"

Take note of your breathing, how tense you are, and how you feel about yourself when you focus in on the mistake. Are you still mad at yourself? Angry that you messed up the sketch? Now, think about what you learned. If you truly focused on figuring out what you learned, did you feel the tension and anger drain away?

Are you feeling tempted to pick up your pen again rather than being so annoyed with yourself that you had no desire to create another page?

That feeling right there, my friends, that feeling of wanting to try again rather than quitting is what I'm talking about! That feeling is the key to not only creating more art, but also to feeling good about it! For me, it's priceless. It means less downtime, less de-motivation, and more confidence!

Cool, huh?!

Now, if you're like me, you'll see a lot more application of "What did I learn?" than just art. It applies to just about any part of our lives where we're less than perfect.

So for the holidays, I am going to ask you to give yourself a gift. Remove the words mistake, mistakes, screw up, messed up and any other similar words from your vocabulary until the end of the year.

If things go in a different direction than you planned, ask yourself what you learned rather than beating yourself up. Take note of feelings, thoughts and your energy level. Take note of whether you finish the page and start another or if you still hang your brushes up until the feeling of defeat fades.

Give yourself the gift of no more "mistakes" by focusing on what you've learned. 

And please let me know what you've learned here on the blog!

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7 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Just a quick thought (there are many but I want to keep this mostly short),
    on your "trips" you don't allow us to berate ourselves like this (I know, I did it and you called me out on it, lol)..... it makes me kind of sad that you talk to YOURSELF this way.
    And I'm glad you were able to step back and treat yourself like you treat your students, with more kindness, eh?
    PS. I think of you every time I sit down with my paints, which is almost every day. And I hear you say "Stop that nonsense!" every time, too. I love it! Thank you for your gifts....

  2. I'm intrigued with your words and and I'm glad that you called my attention to this. I can really relate to what you've described although I wasn't aware of it on my own. I've seen myself get frustrated with some of my pieces, but sometimes (not always) I find myself sticking with it, talking to myself, and working through it. And those are the times that I really remember "this doesn't work" and "this is a better way to do that". I guess I imprint those lessons on myself when I talk to myself - even when it is only virtual talking in my head. Thanks for the reflection.

    P.S. Can't wait to see what you've been working on.

  3. What a great lesson for all of us!! And not only in Art, but in life! Thanks for reminding us!

  4. I always find your posts very inspiring and I too can so well relate this one not just to art but other parts of my life too. I have actually copied the statement "If things go in a different direction than you planned, ask yourself what you learned rather than beating yourself up." to keep with me as a reminder! Thanks. Oh and I would love to see what you are working on!

  5. Great post Laure and so timely too! I just went through one of these "learning" experiences! Rather than discard a creation that I made a mistake on, I took it apart and corrected the mistake only to find out that I hated the end result! Now it's in the Goodwill pile! So you are absolutely correct, this definitely applies to all aspects of your life!

  6. There are more times that I just don't pick up my art supplies than times I worry about one failing although I seldom do anything that isn't journal related anymore so the pressure is less already. When I do have a failure or an "I don't know where to go further with this" kind of piece then I set it aside. I almost always find a way to use it in whole or part some other time. My biggest problem lately is just doing. I have been knitting my son slipper socks trying for 6 pairs for Christmas (they wear out faster than I can knit them) but I haven't been doing any painting or drawing. I too think of you when I paint or don't paint and how you encourage us to just start and not worry about the outcome. It's the doing that matters and my empty pages lately have been bugging me. Christmas is almost here so I am thinking of giving myself another painting trip to get me back in the game. I'll have to go see what's coming up. I hope you've found joy in the piece you are working on now. Merry Christmas if I don't get back in time again (we are taking a trailer and truck load to our new house tomorrow so I'll be pretty busy between now and Christmas).

  7. So very true. It is easy to become frustrated or discouraged, but it is more important to see it as a creative journey, making progress and just enjoying it! :)
    Lovely share, thank you.


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