Our Relationship With Mistakes

Mistakes are a part of life. We all make mistakes on a daily basis. For some reason though, we feel that we shouldn’t. We feel the need to hide our mistakes. Artists of all levels tend to struggle with this. We hide our work away, waiting to reach some imagined perfection. Only then can we call ourselves “artist.” Only then will our art be worthy of sharing with the world. For many of us, this fear of mistake prevents us from ever even starting a new project. What if it doesn’t work out? What if we waste our time and supplies? What if someone ridicules us? What if we disappoint ourselves? These fears can be paralyzing.

Line and shape exploration into a coffee spill that looks like a butterfly.
Line and shape exploration into a coffee spill.

The challenge then becomes, how do we progress through these fears? How do we reframe them and change our relationship with mistakes so that we can create? Creativity takes courage. It comes from a place of vulnerability.

The first step to reframing our relationship with mistakes is to give ourselves permission to be vulnerable. Start by acknowledging your fear:

“I see you. I know that you exist to try to protect me. I am good, and I do not need your protection now.”

Next, practice releasing any judgement you may have placed on this fear:

“I accept that mistakes are inevitable and I release all judgements. I am free to make mistakes and to follow my curiosity to see where it takes me. I accept that some creations I will like, while other I will not, but I know that both experiences are valuable.”

Now, follow your curiosity and see where it takes you!

Exploring the shapes in a paint splatter, resembling abstract flowers.
Exploration of shapes in a purposeful “mistake,” paint splatter.

Still having trouble? The blank page can be daunting. Sometimes it can be challenging just to begin. Try this exercise: Create a purposeful “mistake.” You could spill your coffee on the paper, drip paint, tear a hole in the paper, close your eyes and make a random mark, etc. Now look at your “mistake.” Turn your paper around and look at it from a different angle perhaps. What do you see? Do any shapes stand out for you? Do you feel compelled to add a new mark or color to the page? Ask yourself, “What if…” and then follow that curiosity. Let your creative experiment unfold however it will and practice releasing all judgement or expectation. Allow yourself to simply enjoy the process of creating. You may find that you love the final piece, but you may also find that you don’t love it. Either one is fine. Your time creating it was the real value. The product created was just a bonus.

Cover of the book, "Beautiful Oops!" by Barney Saltzberg

Journal Prompt

  • Scrape Painting
  • Torn Paper Collage
  • Color Wash
  • Layered Textures with paint: sponge paint, bubble wrap prints, etc.
  • Purposeful “mistake”

Published by Art-Breaks presented by J. MacIsaac Studios

Art Breaks are for everyone! They are moments of creativity big or small for infants, kids, and adults. They offer a connection to mindfulness that can enrich your life. A practice in creative mindfulness is perfect for anyone looking to establish a richer connection to themselves. You do not even need to be an artist to explore creative mindfulness practices. We are all born to create.

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