Last week my daughter and I went shopping at a local fabric store where I promptly lost a favorite hat I had bought in India. It must have slipped between the bolts because it hasn’t been found yet. A simple pillbox style, its loss prompted me into a hat making spree – I’ve been accumulating various scraps of wool and fabric for just this purpose.
The simplicity of construction is perhaps deceptive. I made 4 hats (see pictures) but only two of them really worked out. I had a 50% failure rate! Or mistake rate to be kinder. Yet this doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel I will be judged by these unsuccessful hats – I will either rework them or never wear them (or maybe give them away?) I can go public with the ones I like to wear but even if I wore the other ones I would not feel judged by their success or failure.
That hit me very strongly – I would not feel judged by their success or failure. It is not a reflection on who I am. Because this is not what I feel about other aspects of creativity or artistic endeavor. I don’t draw because I don’t feel like I can do it. That I will be judged (and more importantly) judge myself by what would likely be a “failure” – that is a drawing that looked like a 5 year old did it.
Similarly, when I write, and I believe I’m pretty good at it, there’s always the chance that I will be judged by my work and found wanting. I WANT to be a good writer. And for me that means a writer that is published and lauded (to some degree). I want not only the writing, but the recognition that might come. I want to be judged and I fear being judged. Because to fail at this is not quite like failing at making a hat.
And yet it is. Or could be.
I wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month back in November. I gave myself December off although I did send a “beta” first chapter to about five people to see if it was worth pursuing the next level of editing. A couple people haven’t gotten around to it yet (reminder if you’re reading this!) but I got enough positive to feel like I should keep going.
Here it is the third week of January. Have I done anything? (besides make hats?)
In fact, I’ve slacked off on most of my writing.
Because I’m scared. Scared I will put all this time into something (like my hats) that won’t be successful. But hats have a fairly limited time/pay off ratio tempered with a sense of “so what”. My writing is another story. There’s more of me, my expectations and my hopes tied up in it. And more of the possibility of external judgment.
When my kids were little, they got the message that “mistakes are information.” Of course we quickly forget that message and learn other messages that are not so benign or useful.
Mistakes, or even failure, should not make you and I feel like all is lost. They are pieces of information, clues if you will, to a future success.
They are a hat that could fit.
I have a feeling I may be writing more on this topic!