Friday, May 09, 2008

You Must Be Mistaken

Over at Enchanting Juno, she got talking about stash and that led to talking about being open to making mistakes and forging ahead anyway.

Yesterday, I watched this video about education and creativity. It wasn't anything new to this unschooler but lovely to hear and to feel the reinforcement of ideas that are so often seen as going against the tide or just plain crazy. One of the speaker's main points was that children are not afraid of mistakes: they just go with it and correct as they go and sometimes they come up with something great. He was saying that creativity is about not fearing mistakes.

I am a lucky person - my stock and trade is creativity. As someone once said, you become an artist because it is impossible to do anything else. And if you can do something else, do it! You will be much happier (I would add, and richer and have less stuff cluttering your house). I think the idea that one would be happier NOT being an artist is related to the way mistakes go hand in hand with creativity.

Mistakes are funny things, really. I remember, back in my painting days, knowing in my gut from the first brush stroke - the very first one! - whether or not a painting would work or would suck. And those paintings that were doomed from brush stroke one were so infuriating every time because, every time, I would keep going, knowing that it sucked but believing I could make it right. No amount of paint applied and removed could ever fix it. I know other painters who have described the same experience. Now that I am no longer painting, I have had the experience knitting. Not exactly from the first stitch, but definitely from the first row, I know that the piece just isn't right . I keep adjusting and convincing myself that somehow I can make it work but really I should just chuck it and start something else.

So why do we persist, even when all the signs are clear that this one is doomed? I wonder if this is how George Bush feels about his Iraq caper? He started it, it sucked from the very first moment, but he is sure, sure!, that if he just adjusts this and twists that, it will all work out in the end.

Unlike Bush's war, a failed painting or knitting project is something we can laugh about eventually. We can try again, start fresh or, even better, transform the mistake into something unexpected and new and wonderful. And that's the beauty of mistakes and creativity. It is the only way, the only painful, humbling, irritating way to inch towards something new.

1 comment:

OfTroy said...

i have often credited my knitting success to the fact that i learned to knit when i was too young and stupid to know that certain things were 'hard'--and consiquently, taught myself fair isle and DPN's --in the same project--age 9.

when I teach i try and encourage my student to make mistakes.. and to laugh about them..

Learning is a joy.. and part of learning is making mistakes.. (the trick is to continue to learn after you've made a mistake!)