It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

Some days we just need to hear those words.

Lately I have been coining Newbie to Novelist’s catchphrase as “I’m making the mistakes so you don’t have to.” As much as I love to be a wealth of information about all sorts of writerly topics and information, I don’t know everything and I make a TON of mistakes.

Mistakes are bound to happen and are completely okay. To err is human, after all.

What works for one person won’t work for everyone

This is a great caveat to start with, as it provides a bit of a disclaimer for the rest of the post (or rather the entirety of my website). Writing tips, tricks, advice, and resources are all rather subjective. True, there are standards and trends and basics in human psychology, but most things about writing lie in the eye of the beholder.

If I had to give you a singular slice of wisdom, it is to try out as much as you can. Learn what works and doesn’t work for you. Don’t get stuck in one way of doing things. Explore and experiment, especially if you are starting out!

Mistakes are lessons disguised as errors

We all know that it’s important to learn from our mistakes. But that’s much easier said than done. Sure, when you were a kid you probably touched the stove, got burned, and learned to use the wonder that is the microwave instead, but there’s probably a small part of you that wants to touch the stove even though you knew what would happen.

Mistakes are great for telling you what NOT to do. Since mistakes typically provide the wrong answer, not the right answer, the difficult part is then figuring out what you SHOULD do.

That is when trial and error becomes cyclical. Keep in mind that every error must prompt a different trial. If you try the same thing, your history with the stove will tell you you’ll probably reach the same conclusion.

Accepting the error, burdening yourself with the small moment of discomfort it presents you, will set you up to try again and try something different.

Slay your fear demon

To quote Frozen (on Broadway, cause I’m extra): Fear will be your enemy and death its consequence

While few failures in a writer’s journey will have death as a consequence, getting strangled by fear can still be detrimental. It can lead to writer’s block, missed opportunities, and lack of growth.

Last week, guest author Emily Rooke discussed the importance of standing up to your inner bully. I like to think your fear monster and your inner bully are close pals and hang out with self-doubt monster. These personifications love to whisper negative thoughts in your ear to try to protect you from failure. How nice of them! Unfortunately, that failure is important and valuable.

Failures and bumps in the road aren’t fun, but it can be extraordinarily freeing to accept them and no longer let the fear or self-doubt get in the way.

You are your toughest critic

Let’s face it. You most likely tear yourself down more than anyone else. Which makes sense. If anyone in your life constantly belittles you, drop that baggage stat!

But because of our completely biased perspectives, we tend to place needless pressure on ourselves. This hardly helps anyone and can only escalate what you might see as mistakes.

My unsolicited advice is this: don’t sweat the small stuff! What seems like a big deal right now will weaken with perspective and hindsight.

Take a step back once in a while

This might be shocking, but I studied studio art in college, not writing. And one of my favorite professor’s would go around the room and force us to pause, step back from our easels, and examine what we were creating. I think this is a good practice for life. 

When I was in the studio, that step back would allow me to see where my marks were going astray and what I needed to rework or clean up. It also allowed me to see what direction I needed to go with the piece (aka next steps moving forward).

Allow yourself moments to pause, look at what you are doing, and reflect. When you are too close in, it is hard to see the bigger picture.

Here’s an activity to try:

  • Take a moment to sit with a blank piece of paper in front of you.
  • Start easily by writing the name of one thing that you’re working on (a current project or reoccurring task).
  • Then jot down what you’ve done thus far on the thing.
  • After you have a list, “take a step back” and recognize which items work well and which are weaker.
  • Then reflect not only on what you could try to strengthen the weak spots, but speculate on why you excel at the things you do well.
  • Find ways to use your strengths to bolster the weaker points.

If you found this post useful, let me know in the comments below. Message me with any content you would like to see in the future!

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