How do we make the most of our writing mistakes? We learn from the messes of experimentation, not from the misery of hoping for perfection.
‘Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism – while messes are the artist’s true friend.’ ~Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Back in primary school, we had an art teacher who was passionate about colour and experiment. “Fill up the white space,” she used to say. “Fill up the whole page.” I was never much of a Picasso, but I remember loving her classes—we were always trying new things, experimenting with colour and creativity.
It was the same feeling I had when I discovered Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life. Her advice was the same—don’t think, write. Don’t worry if you’re writing the worst junk in the world.
Take some time today to think about what it was to make a mess in childhood. Remember the messy mud pies in the bottom of the garden, taking every toy out when friends came over to play, and the games you used to play in the pool, on your bikes, in the school yard.
“We need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here,” Lamott writes.
The same applies to writing. We learn from the messes of experimentation, not from the misery of hoping for perfection. The bad short story, the clumsy poem, the clichéd character in your novel—none of that matters us much as the sense of adventure you bring to your writing.
Go ahead. Grab a notebook and start writing. Fill up the white spaces. Have fun.
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