As you know if you’ve read my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, the most interesting people come to Northwest Montana, whether to Jewel Bay or its model, Bigfork, the village where we live. One is Becky Blades, who summers here. She’s a delight, a writer, artist, and former marketer and entrepreneur whose most recent book is Start More Than You Can Finish: A Creative Permission Slip to Unleash Your Best Ideas (2022, Chronicle Books).
Last week, I mentioned a well-known watercolorist, Iain Stewart, saying you had “to be willing to ruin a painting,” and author and teacher Jane Friedman writing about the fear of failure. Becky’s premise is that starting projects is valuable in and of itself — regardless of whether we finish or see them as successful — for a variety of reasons; I’ll touch on a few over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, contemplate this:
“We are not the sum of our failures and missed opportunities, or our unfinished work. Nor are we made only of our big wins, the handful of things that turned out just like we wanted.
We are the sum of the imaginings we ignite and our ideas acted upon. We are the curiosities we chase and the potential that they illuminate in us.
We are the sum of our starts.”
— Becky Blades, Start More Than You Can Finish (emphasis original)
Mr. Right and I often go to gallery openings, both for friends’ exhibits and for group shows at galleries and museums we like. An exhibit we particularly enjoy is the annual Watermedia exhibit sponsored by the Montana Watercolor Society, frequently held at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center. This year, the juror for the exhibit, Iain Stewart, who also taught a workshop, said that if you seriously wanted to improve your work, you had “to be willing to ruin a painting.”
I was reminded of that when I read Jane Friedman’s article “How Can I Set Aside the Cacophony of Writing Advice and Just Write” and this passage describing the writer’s equivalent:
“There are some writers I meet who simply fear messing up and try to gather as much advice as possible before they even begin. Unfortunately, the writing process is more or less defined by messing up and starting over. Writing is revising. Good writing advice can help you avoid the serious pitfalls, or bring clarity to a confusing process, but creative work of any kind is going to involve countless bad ideas. It’s important to work through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. (And hopefully you’ve gained enough self-awareness to know when you’ve moved past the bad into the good.)”
So there you have it. Go forth and mess up.
More on this theme to come.
Watercolor by Leslie