"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." ~Albert Einstein
The poster and quote above comes via the Chicken Soup for the Soul facebook page. When I saw it this morning, I thought Isn't that the truth? We shouldn't stay in our comfortable little slot just because we fear making a mistake if we venture into unknown territory.
If you have written only textbook material and have a dream of being a novelist, try it. You'll have to leave the safety of the beach and move into deeper and deeper water. It might be a little scary, stressful or even terrifying.Then again--it might also be very exciting and satisfying. What if you try to write that novel that's been in your mind for years and it's a big, fat dud? But what if it turns out to be a great book? You'll never know if you don't take the first step and try something totally new to you.
How about the essayist who loves to read poetry but has always been reluctant to try it herself? She knows she can write essays that sell. But poetry? That's a whole new country to explore. The only way to find out if she can write a poem is for her to try. Like any kind of writing, the first draft will be in need of some editing and revision. I'm working on a poem that I've revised at least 5 times. It is getting better but I'm not sure it's quite right yet. If the essayist writes one satisfying poem, it will encourage her to try another.
Maybe a fine poet would like to write a memoir piece but he doesn't have a clue as to how to go about it. He thinks it's a nice idea but much safer to stay with what he knows--poetry. If he's a good poet, he could also be a fine prose writer. He needs to step into new territory. Will he make mistakes? Of course, he will. The good part is that he tried something new.
The positive thing about making mistakes as we move through our writing journey is that we can learn from our errors. Very, very few people can start a new project without making some kind of mistake along the way. When we note the mistakes we've made, we seldom repeat them. We learn a better way and move on.
If trying a whole new kind of writing leaves you doubtful and a little shaky, take a deep breath and move into a whole new world. If it is a successful effort, that's great. If it isn't, you know you've tried and that's important, too. I think it's invigorating to try new things.