For many years I was very tough on myself. As a career coach I expressed more compassion for my clients than I did for myself. With help from spiritual studies and self-exploration I learned to accept mistakes as positive experiences. I still strive for excellence in everything I do, but I evolved to where I replace the word “mistake” with “opportunity”. I believe that “failure” is simply nature’s plan for growth. I now give thanks for seeing the beauty, growth and meaning in challenges. If you suffer from perfectionism I hope this article, that I’ve sprinkled with inspirational quotes, helps you release perfectionism and celebrate mistakes in your art career.
The “Mistakes” Made by Famous Artists
Many great masters from Caravaggio to Picasso painted over their original, often failed paintings. When they got a new or better idea for a new painting, they painted over old ones. Conservators have often detected many earlier attempts gone awry. If great artists often failed at their attempts surely we don’t need to pressure ourselves. Knowing that to succeed we must make many attempts puts things into a more positive perspective.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~ Andrew Wyeth
Let “The Spirit” In
I read that Navajo Indian women deliberately leave an imperfection in every rug they make. This “mistake” woven into the corner of the rug is meant to all “The Spirit” to move in and out of the rug. it has been said that Persian rug weavers believe that mistakes prevent them from slowing down their progress with needless worry. This freedom allows them to continually improve their craft. They support the paradox that that practicing imperfection can allow you closer to perfection.
“I like to make my own mistakes.” ~ Mikhail Baryshnikov
Although we may have not attained every goal we have tried to reach does not mean we have failed or we are a failure. We are simply human on a journey. We do not have complete control over every experience in our lives.
It’s a waste of time and energy to become angry and fret over the spilled paint or ripped canvas, the lost manuscript that the computer chewed up and swallowed, or the letter of rejection from someone who probably has poor judgment. The exact reason for why something didn’t turn out as planned may not be fully apparent at the time but may reveal itself later.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Confucius
The spilled paint and torn canvas may inspire a new work of art or even a new style. The application you wrote for a grant proposal may not get accepted, however you may learn a better way to write it next time. Or perhaps the timing wasn’t right and another more beneficial funding opportunity may be on its way to you.
The exact reason for why something didn’t turn out as planned may not be fully apparent at the time but may reveal itself later. Just because things don’t always turn out as originally imagined, it doesn’t have to be labeled as a failure. It simply means we have been redirected to pursue a different path for a good reason.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
~ Albert Einstein
Mistakes in My Art Career Have Been the Seeds of Success
There is great meaning in the advice to make many mistakes early. I surely did. I recall two major events of several. I organized an art exhibition at a major NYC venue and the owners, who were high on cocaine, made last minute changes to the show without my consent. The other experience was when I agreed to write the text (at a very reasonable rate) for a major gallery exhibition catalogue in order to get publicity for myself as a young writer. Unfortunately, the gallery owners forgot to credit me as the writer in the catalogue.
Devastated by both experiences I avoided making those mistakes in the future by making better choices and having contracts.
The truth is, I still make mistakes. They just aren’t as huge, painful and debilitating. Now, I help artists avoid making as many of them as possible including having contracts that protect their interests.
“Failure is nature’s plan to prepare you for great responsibilities.” ~ Napoleon Hill
It’s All About Attitude
How you react to the experiences and how you apply the lessons will outlive the experiences themselves. And they will influence the level of integrity and self-worth you develop.
Give yourself permission to release inhibitions. Get totally immersed in the joy of creativity without concern about the outcome. Welcome all the messy moments as preludes to creative innovation. Embraced a new kinder, self-accepting attitude.
Ask yourself, in the face of a mistake, “What is the positive lesson that is being presented and how can I grow from this? After all, isn’t that what we want — to grow, evolve and achieve our fullest potential?
Consider viewing unfortunate experiences as life’s little treasures. They are opportunities that will strengthen your confidence and lead you closer to new doors of empowering possibilities. Remember these words:
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” ~ Helen Keller
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