In the creative process mistakes are a blessing in disguise. If you don’t get caught up by the fact that you just did a mistake, the mistake itself may be turned around and used as a tool to creatively reach something you otherwise wouldn’t have thought about at all. It may open doors for your vision and bring new ideas to mind—as long as you don’t discard the mistake as just that.
Quite a few years ago Seymour Jacklin wrote a blog post called Mistakes: The Departure Point for Creativity. What he wrote caught my attention and I want to pass his thoughts on to you, my readers.
In his post Seymour writes: «Accept that you will make mistakes as everyone does. If mistakes are so inevitable would it not be better to incorporate them into your creative process and use them as opportunities to be exploited rather than set-backs or even fatal flaws in the project». I think Seymour hits the point right on. Instead of getting irritated by or discard mistakes, we as creative persons, should re-examine what went wrong, and make the best out of it, either by seeing the mistake as an opportunity to learn or actually as something valuable to incorporate in our creative process—a new opening.
Let me give you an example. As you may know, almost every year I go back to Cuba as part of a personal photo project. One part of the project it so visit a farm and the family living there, way out in nowhere land. When I met them first time they didn’t have electricity or running water, but their hospitality were by no means restricted by their tough living conditions. They have over the years become my close friends. Anyway, some time ago when I visit the family I was photographing them—as I always do, and one of the shooting sessions was occurring during the dark hours inside the house. Unfortunately the photos came out too noisy and too blurred to my likings, thus I just saved them on my computer and thought no more of them. But the other day I was looking for some pictures for a customer and came across the discarded pictures—the failures in my opinion. Suddenly I discover one of the pictures that I actually liked despite the obvious technical flaws. I proceeded working on it in Photoshop and made quite a nice black and white photograph, which at least for me is telling something very profound about the family and their lives.
I made what Seymour calls a Zen Out. In his post he comes with suggestions for how to use mistakes as a departure point for creativity. He talks about various approaches: Get Socratic, Get Freudian, Get Existential and Zen Out. As to the latter Seymour Jacklin writes: «Walk away from it for a while and settle your mind on something else. You may have made a “mistake” because you were trying too hard or wanting it too much. If you take a break and look away as if you do not care quite so much, you give your mind a chance to engage the subconscious». How appropriate for my case. For other suggestions on how to approach mistakes have a look at his post.