-Make mistakes of ambition, and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. I had moments of passionate insight, when my heart beat like I was falling in love.
  3. In spite of my fear, fatigue, and self-doubt, I felt brilliantly, vibrantly alive.
  4. I learned that creating something, even something light years away from what I’d hoped to create, makes me happier than creating nothing.
  5. I learned several things to not do when writing a novel.
  6. 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,

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Niccolo Machiavelli (Click to Tweet)

Here’s why your creative reach should exceed your grasp:

  1. You’ll gain skills you’d never gain otherwise.
  2. Your life will be way more exciting.
  3. Each thing you create will be better than the last.
  4. It means no project is off-limits.
  5. 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.

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