Make Creative Mistakes and Seek Your Own True North

We learn early in life that the results are more important than the process. But the reverse is more correct. When you are playing around with a novel idea, you need to make creative mistakes.

Creativity is Exploration

You don’t really know what will or won’t work until you try it out. You need to explore the nooks and crannies of these newly invented lands, mapping as you go. Only then can you discover what’s worthwhile and what simply doesn’t work. 

I recently took up playing Overwatch and was daunted by the sheer number of playable character options. As I tried out each one, I felt overwhelmed and sloppy in my game play. I simply couldn’t achieve the results I was seeking and felt I was letting everyone down.

However, by giving myself time to explore and try out each option in turn, I soon realized which character fit my own style of game play. 

Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi, the Hungarian biochemist who first isolating vitamin C, had this to say about investigation: “If we knew what it is we were doing, it would not be called research. Would it?”

As you explore, you need to trust your internal compass and see your own true north. 

There Are No Rules

Ever watch kids play? They invent new rules on the fly and also toss them out just as rapidly. They aren’t concerned with the “right” way to do something. They are exploring. They simply keep going and see how things work out. 

If you are creating something from scratch, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. This is your journey and you get to pick the destination.

Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, had this to say: “Making mistakes is not the same thing as being creative, but if you are not willing to make mistakes, then it is impossible to be truly creative.”

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

The simple idea of a mistake means you are comparing your work with someone else’s. But this is your idea, so there can’t be any mistakes. 

When you create, you set off toward some distant goal. Perhaps it’s a novel or a song. Sometimes we mistake other people’s goals for our own. Then, when we compare our creation to theirs, it comes up short.

This is because that artist or writer was seeking their own true north — their own personal vision. You can’t hope to match that. But you don’t have to. You aren’t them.

Instead, you must follow your own passions and interests. These will lead you to a destination that is completely yours — your own true north.

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, says: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

In the words of Billy Joel: “You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes but they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own.”

Go out there and mess things up. It’s the only way you will create anything. 

Tim Kane

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