A conversation with a writerly friend today raised a topic which I have discussed frequently and at great length with my children and myself. I'd asked about a story he's been working on, and he replied that he wasn't sure he was going to nail it as he'd hoped to, but that he hated to have wasted time on it for nothing.
I am a perfectionist at heart. I do not like to fail. And I'm a natural enough learner that for several years in school, I never had to fail. I didn't learn early on the value of taking risks and learning from my mistakes. Mistakes were for other people. I was not allowed. (Note that this is not an attitude I blame on my parents. I was born with it, apparently.) I can distinctly recall a boy in my 5th or 6th grade class, flailing around on the gym floor as he tried to learn how to walk on his hands. He tried to entice me into trying it, too, and an argument followed, which ended something like this:
Him: "At least I'm trying to learn something new."
Me: "At least I don't look like an idiot trying to do something I know I can't."
I've learned a few things since then. (I hope.) I've had to pound them into my own brain repeatedly, and if you quote a few of the following lines at my kids, they'll roll their eyes and say "You've been talking to my mom, haven't you?" But these are truths that bear repeating:
No attempt to do something is a waste of time, regardless of the result. If you put effort into it, if you thought about it, dreamed about it, struggled with it, then chances are you learned something from it. Learning is not a waste of time. Ever.
It's OK to fall down. Yeah, I know it hurts. I know you feel kinda dumb right now. But at least you tried. (See the above paragraph.)
A mistake is only a mistake if you don't learn from it.
If you need me, I'll be over here making an idiot of myself and hoping I learn something from it.
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