On Dancing With Mistakes


”The seed of your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections (or mistakes, if you’re feeling particularly depressed about them today) are your guides — valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides — to matters you need to reconsider or develop further.”
— David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear.

My dance teacher had a saying, “There are no mistakes, only variations. Some intentional, some not.”

Edison is credited with saying, “I didn’t fail 1000 times, I found 1000 ways that didn’t work.” (paraphrased)

In my art and art history classes we often talk about Action Painting. Where the artist isn’t trying to use the painting to create an illusion, but the painting is evidence of the action taken. If I move my arm in this manner, the paint falls in this way and the canvas takes record of it.

In this same manner, I think that mistakes, failures, and detours are evidence of our having taken action. If you are moving forward, acting to make progress, trying and doing, then not everything will go according to plan. But it will go how it is supposed to go and you will get where you need to be, even if you take the long way to get there.