As creatives making things is what we do. We make paintings and stories and songs and new recipes and films and on and on and on. We consider the final product the thing we made. But was it when we finished our creative work that we got better at our craft? I’m going to say no.
It’s not the thing we make that makes us better. It’s the mistakes we make along the way. It’s the hours of struggling over one line in a song and coming up with a hundred wrong lines before the right one comes along.
It’s the scratching off of the paint a hundred times before we get to the right balance of light and shadow.
It’s the throwing away of an entire chapter and starting again.
It’s the mistakes and missteps that get us closer to the perfection we seek but will never find. It’s the accidents and purposeful self-sabatoge that keeps us from our goal of a finished product but gets us closer to the better artist we want to be.
In last week’s episode with film maker Luke Black (TheSparkAndTheArt.com/22) he said:
“You can learn smart or you can learn hard. I decided to learn hard. I would do things just to see how big a mistake they would be.” — Luke Black
I know exactly what he means. I do the same thing. It’s like the scientific method for creative work. The benefit I have for when i make a mistake is that it’s in the computer so I can just duplicate a file and start again. I can just hit cmd-z a couple times and move back in time and start from before my mistake happened.
I’m always jealous of people who can do things like sculpture or carpentry. It’s just so final. Measure twice cut once. I prefer mess up a bunch and ctrl-z my way back to a nice starting point.
When I was about 15 my parents bought me an SLR camera for christmas. It was great. I shot quite a few rolls of film. I took a photography course. I went on walks and took pictures of trees and the sky. I played with long exposures at night with sparklers and the moon.
I tried to keep track of what my settings were for each set of photos in a little book. Then when I got the photos back I would try and see if what I got was what I was expecting. The problem was the time between when I took the photo and when I finally got it back from the processors I’d forgotten what it was I was trying to do in the first place. So, I wound up making the same mistakes over and over without seeming to be able to learn from them. I eventually stopped taking photos.
But, when I was about 17 my parents bought a 4-track recorder for the family. It was like a mini recording studio. It was fantastic. It allowed you to record four separate parts onto one standard cassette tape. What I immediately discovered was I could play the guitar into the machine, listen back and re-record immediately if I didn’t like the sound or the playing. I could purposely mess up as much as I wanted and press rewind to try something new. Sometimes I felt I lost something pretty good but who am I kidding, I was a 17 year old who was just learning to play the guitar. The chances of me actually losing something spectacular was pretty slim.
The fact of the matter is after all these years I have a CD of songs and and website called SongsTuckerWrote.com and the only photos I really take are in Instagram on my phone.
It would be interesting to take a Digital SLR back to my 17 year old self and see if the immediate feedback of the display screen would have changed my passion for the art of photography. We’ll never know. Unless of course you lend me your time machine.
Here is where you get to do some thinking
Are you being held back by fear of making a mistake?
Who will know if you do?
What if you make mistakes on purpose just to see what happens?
What is the worst that would happen if you did make a mistake?
Would it cost time?
Would it cost money?
Are you making the same mistakes over and over but don’t know how to stop?
What is a new mistake you could make?
It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned this but if you visit TheSparkAndTheArt.com and subscribe to the podcast via email I’ll send you the commentary edition of my 5 Song EP Born To The World free as a thank you for trusting me with your email address. You’ll also get the podcast in your mailbox first thing each Thursday morning.
And as always if today’s episode made you think of someone you know who could use a little help getting over their fear of making mistakes you can share this episode with them with the share URL TheSparkAndTheArt.com/23
Thanks for listening and remember, you won’t get the art without the work and you won’t do the work without the spark.