“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” –Joseph Chilton Pearce.
What does it mean to live creatively? Just as the above would state I guess; we must stop being afraid of being wrong.
But how difficult this is, especially when we have been raised with “right and wrong” and ridiculed and embarrassed by classmates, colleagues and even friends when we do get things “wrong”. According to Joseph Chilton Pearce, renowned author on human development, we must change this mind-set, and I am inclined to agree. But how can we do this?
I’ve come up with a few steps that I think could help us stop fearing what might be deemed as “wrong”, and help those around us realise that – really – there is no wrong.
#1 Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Life is full of uncomfortable situations; moments that scare us, make us sweat and flush and blush – life is pretty much a string attaching one awkward moment to the next, then the next, and the next. We are constantly being put (or putting ourselves) in awkward situations, and we are well acquainted with the feeling of being “uncomfortable”. And I think the first thing we need to do to lose the fear of being wrong, is to get used to the fact that we are going to feel uncomfortable. We need to stop getting anxious about anxiety, and start feeling things as we feel them. Have you wondered recently why, as of late, conditions like anxiety have become so prevalent in our society? I know I have. I feel like every other person suffers with some kind of anxiety – increasingly our younger generations – and it is so saddening to see. Why is this? I think, it may be because we are so afraid of getting the answer wrong, or getting life wrong in general; feeling “awkward”. When actually, getting things wrong is the biggest learning experience we can have. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be so terrifying. Being uncomfortable doesn’t have to be so… well… uncomfortable.
#2 Show your support for others
No matter what and in every situation, show your support. Even if it isn’t your immediate disposition to be totally compassionate, find a little empathy and show your support. I think this one is a particularly important thing to teach our children. I went to a Secondary School (High School) that was riddled with bullies, and at some point along the way I became a victim. Part of my victimisation was ridicule; I’d always been the girl that would try. Even if I didn’t quite have the answer I’d put my hand up in faith, knowing that at some point I’d get my answer straight, and that no matter what as long as I was trying I was learning. But come my adolescent years people started to be cruel, and this became a “stupid” way to learn, and I’d be made fun of for my wrong attempts, or my slightly incorrect answers, or for even putting my hand up in the first place. Eventually I stopped putting my hand up at all; I let those who knew the answers talk, and I sat by and watched.
But my biggest regret of the whole situation was standing by when I saw it happen to others. When it happened to me there was only so much I could do, but when I saw it happen to others there is so much more I could have done. Even just turning around and saying “Good try”, or “you made a really
great point there”, no matter what their answer was. At least then they wouldn’t be afraid to maybe try again, knowing someone had their back through the ridicule. And this is something I really wish we could see more often, even in the adult world.
#3 Stand up to ridicule
Let’s then teach our kids that they don’t have to sheepishly shy away from raising their arm if they are ridiculed, and they don’t have to be embarrassed and afraid of being wrong. They can be the ones to turn around to the bully and say “at least I tried”. Let’s teach them that as long as they are trying, they could never be wrong; even if their answer is inaccurate, to attempt the challenge is right in itself; they need not be afraid. To attempt the challenge and fail is far better than to never attempt it at all.
#4 Embrace the different
As human beings we are all alike, in that we are all so beautifully, uniquely different. Even the things we do the same we do slightly differently. Think of it; we all eat, but we all have different eating habits – different foods, different utensils, different manners. And so it is with all of our humanisms. Even in our sameness we are totally different.
So why is it that we have created uniforms and rules and regulations for particular practices of simply being human? Such as manners: isn’t it simply important that we just eat over doing so with overt politeness? Maybe that’s an extreme case, but let me expand.
Let’s think of our kids again for a moment. My daughter loves to sing. She sings all the time. One of her favourite songs is, of course Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. When she was younger she’d sing the tune over and over again with nonsense words that tiny children use, and I’d find myself singing the words to her over and over as she continued to learn. But once she knew the song well and had sung it correctly many times, she would often start to change the words and use the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle to maybe narrate her day, or sing about her teddies, or even about me. The first couple of times I found myself reiterating the correct words to her, but then I thought to myself “Who am I to quash her creativity? Why would I want to change the way she sings her own song?” She was obviously singing about what mattered to her: she didn’t care about the twinkling stars at that moment; she cared about her fairytale tree house and the giant snail. She was creating, and she was creating something fabulous (I may be biased).
And it occurred to me how often as parents and carers and exemplars of the younger generation we might be doing this, and not just with Twinkle, Twinkle and other Nursery Rhymes our pre-schoolers may sing, but with all outlets of creativity. Why are art students encouraged to copy Da Vinci’s work, when they could so readily come up with their own if we just allowed them to? Why as a writer can I not start my sentence with “and” or “but”? (As you can see I very often do anyway…)
If we begin to embrace what is creatively different, and generally different in any way, then maybe we’ll stop being afraid of being “wrong” quite so much, and start seeing a truly more beautiful world.
#5 Realise there is no wrong
Even in math – yes there is a definitive mathematical answer, but – any way the person has tried to get there is an attempt, and is therefore right. Just because you do something one way, and another person does it another way doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong; however you came to your answer or conclusion or wherever you are now, there was a journey, and on that journey something was learned; and to learn is never wrong.
And I guess that’s the takeaway I’d like you to have from reading this. Life is one big learning curve; we are often going to get things wrong – I know I do every day. But by getting things wrong I’m opening myself up to so many more creative opportunities. Some of the greatest creative works in History were built around negative feelings. Just think of Picasso’s [in my own opinion] greatest work, Blue Nude. And think of Hemingway’s whole life! And some of the best songs you’ve ever heard – probably written from a place of despair, but released and let go through creative power. Because these greats? They didn’t care. They told society to “suck it”, lost their fear of getting it all “wrong”, and created something incredible. And so could you.