Wrong, Wrong, Wonderfully Wrong

“Sometimes it hits me that I’m wrong about most things. About time. About my place in space. About the nature of the body. About the nature of the divine. About human nature. About what death is. About who I am and who my kids are. And about what the creek needs to support the salmon and all its visitors.

But heavens, let’s not worry about being wrong! I’m gradually learning that, paradoxically, it’s the foolsgold–the blunderings, giving ups, breakdowns, in spite ofs, chance encounters, shatterings, letting gos, and mess-ups, that has led to most of the creativity in my life, not the sweet making of something beautiful, or “enlightened” inspiration, and certainly not feeling in control. It’s the opposites, listenings, buzz hums,  the falling (leaping) down the rabbit hole, the stepping through the looking glass, barefoot, with no suitcase, in new territory.”

–Susan G. Wooldridge, Foolsgold, p. 88.

After reading that, I began to wonder why it is that when we notice we are wrong, we are so concerned with having been wrong, instead of pleased and delighted in our ability to detect a mistake and fix or change it.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach.

10 thoughts on “Wrong, Wrong, Wonderfully Wrong

  1. Speaking of mistakes — I was logged into a different account when I posted the above comment. I meant to post it from this one. Sorry! 😀

  2. Some thoughts from a student of engineering design failure:

    We are inundated with stories of the bad consequences of mistakes and errors — an airplane crash due to pilot error, a bridge collapse resulting from a design change, a space probe missing its mark due to a misplaced decimal point in the code. In the interest of efficiency, we tend to design and engineer our systems with the smallest possible wiggle room for error.

    Creative, discovery-oriented, serendipity-driven activities are very different creatures, and they benefit from mistakes. But as kids we are taught to approach them with the same logic as for engineering a system. That there is a “right” way to write or paint.

    I think the issue is whether the activity is goal-oriented or process-oriented. If you have a goal in mind (land the plane safely, build a safe bridge) there are only two kinds of actions: those that move the process toward the goal (i.e., “right”) and those that don’t (i.e., “wrong”) — even if, during the process, you may not know which is which. If the process is the important thing, then there is no path to stay on and there is freedom to go in many directions.

    Both orientations have their own advantages, unique internally-consistent logics, and proper applications; but we aren’t taught to consider those when choosing which one is best for a given circumstance, and so we often end up picking the wrong tool for the job.

    • This is a really important line of thought–and logic. I could just hug you and tell you how proud I am of how nicely you’ve grown up in the last 10 years–but that doesn’t sound very professional, now does it? My first thought, in the early part of your second paragraph was–“Well, if they let them make more mistakes before you got to the end product, when people’s lives are at stake, you’d have less mistakes.” But then you got to that idea on a completely different–and more interesting–route. Nice seeing you here again!

      • Hugs can be very professional! I don’t comment here (or anywhere!) very often anymore, but I am still a regular reader…

        So much more to say on this subject! I think I may have to go blog about it … thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Although it refers to science, heck, science is creativity too.

    Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind.
    Marston Bates

  4. We are taught from a very early age in school that wrong is bad. Being wrong is so bad and has such dire consequences, it’s very much to be avoided at all costs. Get an answer wrong on a test? Bad! Spell a word wrong? Very bad! Get the wrong answers in math? You fail!

    Unlearning this early training is difficult. I think most of us don’t even realize how ingrained it is.

    • You are absolutely right. It’s ingrained. When I praise people for finding and fixing mistakes and ask them what they learned in the process, they always look like a dog that piddled on the floor. When I tell them that the important part is the learning and fixing they look dumbfounded. How sad is that?

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