There are No Mess-Ups in the Creative Process

After decades of following and sometimes wildly chasing after my creative muse, you would think I’d have this creative life all figured out by now. I spend my days encouraging, supporting, and guiding artists, dreamers, artisans, and all manner of creative thinkers. But even now, doubt sneakily creeps in. I have moments when I’m uncertain of myself and the work that comes from my hands and my mind. I’m guessing you, too, have these moments.

The creative process is a jaunt across rugged terrain. It’s an exploration into uncharted territory. While it’s appealing to think the path toward creative confidence is straight, I’ve found the only way to really arrive at our desired destination is to embrace every stumble and misstep along the way.

You know what, though? I don’t let that bother me. Why? Because with every terrible idea, every wonky macramé, every collapsed ceramic bowl, and every pastel painting gone wrong, we LEARN something. 

The act of creating is fundamentally about pushing boundaries and challenging established norms. The artistic life thrives on experimentation and taking risks. And while a broken ceramic pot or a tangled mess of colors may seem like a mistake, those “accidents” often bring about unexpected, groundbreaking discoveries!

We Simply Start

We don’t all begin the creative journey by immediately producing masterpieces. We simply start. We knot the thread, mix the clay, and put brush to paper. We start with an idea in mind or begin blind, allowing the art to shape itself as we let the muse work through us. We are her vessel. As she works through our hands, eyes, and touch, we learn, grow, and hone our skills under her tutelage. 

Some of my favorite pieces of art started out as mistakes. Mess ups that transformed into something unexpected. And some of my art will just never pass the giggle test! Plain and simple. (You’ve been there too, right?!) But through every piece, either created or designed, I’ve expanded, laughed, learned, and developed as a creative. 

Embrace the Exploration

We are explorers. (Yes, you!) Diving deep into the terrain of light and dark, movement and stillness, form and function. The subtle movements of a brush, the pop that arises from vibrant color, these are our mile markers, guiding us to the treasure that lay within the act of creating. Don’t be afraid to let your brilliance shine. Traverse your artistic medium, draw from that well of communal inspiration, then set all rules aside and CREATE!

So, laugh through the mishaps. Enjoy a good chuckle over your greatest flop and move right along. And through the giggles, realize that this is a gem of a completely valuable concept. Our mistakes make us better, and so we have to make them in order to grow.

If beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, make sure the beholder is YOU! As long as you’ve followed your muse, learned, and laughed along the way, you’ve created a thing of beauty. 

A creative prompt for you..

Reflect on a project that ended on the scrap heap. What did you learn from that experience? Were you, or are you even now, able to salvage your materials? What new horizon can you reach by taking your mess-up and turning it into a new form of art?

From the Archives!

For the past three years, the Windowsill Chats Podcast has inspired creative minds around the globe through in-depth conversations with artists, designers, and makers about their unique creative paths and the turns they take. 

Episode 29: “Do what you want, as long as you clean up when you’re finished.” How the messy bits move us forward with Katherine Quinn LINK

Episode 32: Permission to not be perfect with Sarah Hand LINK

Episode 49: Practice Makes Progress. Artful success with Mara Penny LINK

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