The Value of Writing Mistakes

Are you like me? I hate to make mistakes. When I have to fess up, I sometimes feel like a little kid. I tell myself, “I know better than that.”

The perfectionist in me tries to correct them. The little kid in me says, “Maybe if I hide them, nobody will ever know they happened.”

Then the negative tape starts its loop once again. “You’ll never make it. Whatever made you think you could be a writer?”

If I struggle with this too long, I’ll stop writing completely.

When I catch myself falling into this trap, I remind myself perfection can never be obtained in this life. We’re imperfect people in an imperfect world.

Perfectionism robs us of the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.

Mistakes are really the opening of pathways to becoming better writers.

Here are some things I’ve learned about mistakes.

Mistakes can either freeze me or free me. Whether the mistake has a negative or positive effect is my choice. My mistakes can teach me a lot if I’m willing to learn.

I’ve learned to not beat myself up. Telling myself I’m no good or I’ll never make it are lies from the pit of hell. Doing this takes me out of the game.

We need to give ourselves space to mess up. Perfectionism is a myth and a lie. Perfectionism stifles creativity.

Fear of making a mistake cripples us.

Instead, look to using our mistakes to move ourselves forward. Look at each mistake as a discovery about my craft and myself. Paula Manier wrote a mistake is me “figuring out to do it.” (Writer’s Digest, May/June 2016)

Studying my mistake takes one step closer to getting it right the next time. It’s the opportunity to identify weak areas in my writing, to examine them, to see why they didn’t work.

Discovering the right way frequently means exploring the wrong way first. Remember Edison and his light bulb. He never failed; he just found 1,000 ways it wouldn’t work.

Even my worst writing is worth something. Through it, I learn more of my desires and tendencies. It shows me new possibilities and reveals way to shut the door to bad habits.

Every line I write has value. Even if it doesn’t make it into print.

How have you learned from your writing mistakes?

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