How I Found Value in Mistakes

I like to think we're all a little like this window, rough around the edges, reflecting out to the world all that we see.

In the past few months, my eyes have been opened to the value and absolute necessity of mistakes.

I started to see mistakes in a whole new light when I read a blog post related to knitting. Basically, the author talked about how she learned so much about herself through the craft of knitting, including that it is a skill, and like any skill, it takes time and practice to be good at it. She also admitted that in the past, she’d been guilty of assuming knitting was a simple craft, and as such, it should be easy to master.

But you see, it took her own struggle with learning how to knit and making the mistakes that come with learning any new skill to understand the value of learning something.

In reading the post, I realized I had been guilty of two things: fear and cheating.

Because I was afraid to make a mistake, I was cheating myself out of learning a skill I find useful and really want to know. I bought a kit to teach myself to crochet almost two years ago, but I was unable to finish anything. Mainly because I never started.

I’d start making a row and then I’d get dissatisfied with the variation in tension, or I’d make a mistake, so I’d rip my loops out and put my hooks and yarn away. I was so afraid of crocheting a scarf and seeing uneven rows, uneven tension and other mistakes that I’d never made a single thing.

I’d missed out on learning a whole new worthwhile skill because I was afraid…of what exactly? That the crochet critics would come to my house in droves with the intent to inspect my first project and point and laugh? How foolish I’d been. If I’d just shrugged off the mistakes the first time and kept going, eventually, I’d gotten better. Instead, I spent a year and a half not knowing how to crochet and thinking I’d probably never learn it, because I was no good at keeping control of the hooks and having even tension in my rows.

So after I read the blog post about knitting and realized my ignorance, I began to wonder, what else was I missing out on?

In the months since I read that post, I’ve taken the “a-ha moment” I had about missing out on learning how to crochet and have applied those thoughts to my writing.

The first thing I did was to change my address. My blogging address, that is. I knew I wanted to start blogging about writing, but didn’t know if I could make myself start doing it.

I wrote a lot of safe posts on my other blog because I was afraid of expanding my voice. My old blog had decent traffic (around 1,500 hits each month) and I feared losing readers if I changed my tone or my topics.

Finally, after two months of debating, I just took a leap and started this blog. I knew I’d be starting over, but figured if people found me before, they’d find me again.

I wish I could say that was the only mistake I feared making.

I have also spent a lot of time worrying about how to write my third book. I’m not even sure why I’m worried or what mistake I’m afraid of making.

My work in progress focuses on the themes of downsizing and living a simple life, a subject I know more than a little about. I left Corporate America in order to pursue writing almost six months ago and before that, my husband and I spent four years whittling down our debt (about $40,000 at its peak) in order to live simpler, less stressful lives.

Knowing all of this, I still understand that my new book could bomb, but if it did, guess what that would mean? I’d put forth even more effort on the next book. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be disappointed. Of course I would be, but I’d try again. Writing, like knitting and crocheting, is a skill, it’s learned through practice, and also through making mistakes.

I’ll leave you with a wonderful quote I found online regarding mistakes:

“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.” ~Sophia Loren

I’d love to know what you’ve learned through mistakes, or what you have avoided out of fear of making a mistake. If you’d be willing to share, feel free to leave a comment below, or reach me online: Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

6 thoughts on “How I Found Value in Mistakes

  1. I think, in a lot of ways, it’s a little fear amid a LOT of perfectionism we writers/artists tend towards.

    We see a fantastic painting or read an incredible book, and it’s easy to not see how much work and practice it took to make such wonderful things.

    Most of all, I think it has to do with patience with ourselves. Sometimes, I think we get all too easily frustrated (I know -I- do, anyways! lol), and do a /ragequit on whatever it is. 🙂 ( A /ragequit is when someone who’s playing a video game with you, gets mad, and just quits the game without talking or working it out. )

    I think learning to manage our frustrations and negative emotions is absolutely key to creativity! 😀 I know I feel a LOT better about something if, after I get irritated, I put it down and go for a walk or do something else for a bit. Y’know?

    1. Liz, I agree, writing and the arts do tend to be filled with perfectionistic people. In fact, I just read somewhere online that Hemmingway rewrote A Farewell to Arms thirty-five times!
      It’s my hope that by sharing the very simple lesson I learned I help others who may have put their projects on hold because they were too afraid of making a mistake. Without mistakes, how can we be expected to grow, not only creatively, but as people as well? 🙂

  2. Mistakes are merely opportunities to learn. It’s what we do with them that counts. Your blog is right on target. I, too, struggle with moving forward at times because of the fear of looking foolish. Every day, I pull up my own blog and look at it, trying to figure out what I’ve done wrong and what looks right. Just like you, I wasted time avoiding it which got me no where. When I decided to try and improve one thing a day, it became more manageable. Can’t wait to read your next blog and your next book.

    1. I know this is something we all must struggle with, it’s part of why I decided to write this particular post. I wanted to tell my readers, hey, it happens to everyone. Even though fear is a part of life, we can’t give in to it, we simply miss out on too much. Thanks for the comment, Diane. I think your blog is great, by the way! 🙂

  3. The only people who never make mistakes are the ones afraid to try anything new. If we don’t make mistakes how are we going to figure out what works and what’s good for us?

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