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Mistakes and the Creative Process

I came across this passage in Shaun McNiff’s Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go that speaks to the tension between fear of making mistakes and the necessity of them in the creative process.

When asked for advice on painting, Claude Monet told people not to fear mistakes. The discipline of art requires constant experimentation, wherein errors are harbingers of original ideas because they introduce new directions for expression. The mistake is outside the intended course of action, and it may present something that we never saw before, something unexpected and contradictory, something that may be put to use.

Management, generally by its nature and incentive system, attempts to remove variability and thus mistakes. Yet mistakes are a necessary component of creativity.

Fear also plays an important role in the creative process and how we come up with creative insights.