Make Mistakes of Ambition: Creativity Tip Number Nine
If my first novel had been published, any critic would’ve called it a failure.
I wrote it in 30 days for National Novel Writing Month. The plot was pointless, the characters were annoying, and cliches festooned it like tinsel. I didn’t bother revising or submitting it.
I’m glad I wrote it, though. Here’s why:
- Even though reading it would be a punishment I wouldn’t wish on a violent criminal, I proved to myself I was capable of finishing a novel.
- I had moments of passionate insight, when my heart beat like I was falling in love.
- In spite of my fear, fatigue, and self-doubt, I felt brilliantly, vibrantly alive.
- I learned that creating something, even something light years away from what I’d hoped to create, makes me happier than creating nothing.
- I learned several things to not do when writing a novel.
- When I’d finished, I felt like a kid who’d cried for the duration of a roller coaster ride, only to hop off shouting, “Again! Again!” I knew I’d write more books, and the next one I wrote would be better. It was. It still wasn’t anything I’d want to read, or even show anyone, but the one I’m writing now is.
In other words, I didn’t fail. I made what Machiavelli might’ve called a “mistake of ambition”: I’d tried to make something I didn’t yet have the skills for. It’s an approach Michelangelo recommended. He said,
Here’s why your creative reach should exceed your grasp:
- You’ll gain skills you’d never gain otherwise.
- Your life will be way more exciting.
- Each thing you create will be better than the last.
- It means no project is off-limits.
- As Seth Godin puts it, “We rarely look back on our lives and say ‘I’m disappointed that I made my art.'”
I’m certainly not. I’m still reaching for a book that’s beautiful, hilarious and impossible to put down, and with each word, I get closer.
What about you Reader? What are you reaching for?
Featured Image: “Ballet Dancer,” photo by lassedesigner, Adobe Stock.
Amanda Truscott writes short and long fiction. Her blog, Creative Unblocking, helps artists across disciplines be more inspired, passionate and productive.