Archive for 'mistakes'

Oops, you made a mistake
by Jessa Slade on February 15th, 2010


Currently working on: The last dash of Book 3
Mood: Breathless

I hate revising.  I understand the need for revising, in the same way I understand the need for flossing after brushing.  But I don’t have to like it.  Revising means I didn’t do it right the first time.  And I hate not doing things right the first time.

There was a School House Rock song from the 70s that shows a string of bloodless Kid Fail bloopers: spilled milk, falling off bicycles, shooting water from the water fountain up your nose.  The chorus goes like this:  “Oops, you made a mistake, that’s all.  Mistakes can happen to anyone.”


Despite the cheery tune, conciliatory message and studiously rainbow interracial casting, the sentiment irked me.  Then, like now, I found mistakes to be annoying, wasteful and embarrassing.  But — and I’m reluctant to admit this — mistakes aren’t all bad.

Mistakes are where a lot of serendipity happens. 
I made a mistake when I started writing Book 3 of the Marked Souls.  See, I sort of forgot to plot it. And I’m a die-hard plotter.  I love to plot.  I love charts and spreadsheets and workbook pages filled with plot.  But in one of my many spreadsheets, I forgot to schedule plotting into my calendar and so I never got around to it.

By the end of the first draft, Book 3 was out of control.  I had to make notes to myself on every page, notes like the following, cut and pasted from my manuscript:

  • What is this clue they keep talking about?!
  • Is this appropriate post coital convo??
  • Did we see where the body was last time? Whose body is it?!

Going back through the pages as I revised and seeing note after note of fumbling confusion was maddening…  And really interesting.  I had no idea what would happen until it happened, and I discovered new things about my characters, my storyworld and myself as a writer.

And I won’t ever make that stupid mistake again!  But I think I will try to preserve some of the sense of mystery that kept me turning pages.

Beading and collaging have helped me accept  work with work around my hatred of mistakes.  For a long time, I had trouble beading because I just couldn’t get started.  I thought:

  • I needed one of every bead in the world so I could be sure I had the right combination.
  • I had to get it strung exactly right the first time. 
  • I had to have an outfit that went with the beads.

Oh please.  #1, I’m never going to have one of every bead in the world.  And besides, I’d need at least two of every bead in the world so I could have matching earrings.  #2, I can just restring it if I don’t like it.  And #3, I can give the piece away as a present if it doesn’t work with my wardrobe.

Collaging (with the help of glue sniffing probably) taught me that flipping through all the world’s magazines (are we seeing a trend here?) to find exactly the right image is boooring and cutting on straight lines is for wusses.  I learned to flip, rip and stick and move along.  Sure, my collages are crooked and a little sticky (glue is every bit as messy as you remember from preschool) but they’re INSPIRING to me, and inspiration trumps correct every time.

Most importantly, mistakes are inevitable.
Knowing that I WILL make a mistake at some point, I try to cultivate a certain fatalism, even PLAN for the mistake.  I heard from a Navajo basket weaver once that the patterns in some Native American baskets are designed to include a visible flaw, because perfection belongs only to the gods.

I have no idea how true the story is, but it works for me.  Perfection belongs to the gods, and I’m just stumbling along behind, tripping over the flaws.  It takes a lot of the pressure off  :roll:

In the end, “Oops, you made a mistake, that’s all” was just the start.  Now, when the mistakes are coming fast and furious, I have my favorite mantras to get me through:

  • Don’t get it right, get it written.
  • We’ll fix it in post.

And lastly, a favorite quote:

  • Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
    Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

Do you have favorite saying or quote to console yourself after a mistake?  Or is chocolate enough for you?