I like to ease into the day at work by sipping a hot beverage and browsing online news (I like to think I make up for it in soaring productivity afterwards). Lately my browsee of choice has been the online magazine Slate.com
, where I can find articles covering everything from the oil spill, the latest How I Met Your Mother, thoughts on governmental policy, and advice columns.
They’ve been running a blog called the Wrong Stuff
the last few weeks, which leads to my Musings of the Day: Wrongness and Mistakes.
I’ve had a lot of opportunity to make mistakes over the past year or so–starting a new job, figuring out how to sew, a first year of marriage…all of these are inherent with making scads of mistakes, some dumb, like when I forgot to include paper in our office supply order, some honest, like not someone’s prefence to keep the conference chairs the same height.
In all the situations, though, I was wrong. A lot. And I had to admit it, as it was usually quite obvious.
There’s something huge in being able to admit you’re wrong. And something so valuable in it, because that’s how you get better. When I’m sewing, I’m wrong all the time. It’s a wonder to me how my clothes actually stay on me, because about 80% of the time I’m working on it, I’m glazing over all these mistakes or just making it up as I go. But you know, my zippers have gotten better. I understand why you “press” interfacing and don’t “iron” it. I’m better at taking my own measurements before deciding what size to make. And I don’t wash my fabric right after Jesse bleaches his white shirts anymore.
All the same, the other night I was laying out pattern pieces to make a pretty new blouse with some pretty silky fabric, and about halfway through cutting, I realized the stripes were running the wrong way. Who makes a blouse with horizontal stripes? Apparently, I do. A few moments of thinking could have prevented that, but instead I just charged in. And now I am faced with either saying “Oops, I messed up,” and thinking of something else to use it for, or saying “No, horizontal stripes are the new style,” and spending hours matching up those dumb lines. I still haven’t decided which road I’m taking.
In Slate’s blog, the author interview’s NPR’s Ira Glass, who has this to say:
“Well, I register the danger that [something] might not work. But honestly sometimes you have to just do it. There are definitely interviews that we all go into knowing, “Ehhhhh, here’s all the things that can go wrong and here’s the one or two things that it can go right.” And you just gotta do it.
I had this experience a couple of years ago where I got to sit in on the editorial meeting at the Onion. Every Monday they have to come up with like 17 or 18 headlines, and to do that, they generate 600 headlines per week. I feel like that’s why it’s good: because they are willing to be wrong 583 times to be right 17. ”
Imagine saying you’re wrong 583 times. In a row. Ug.
And yet, there’s something thrilling about a culture where it’s okay to really screw up. Creativity is actually just a willingness to be very, very wrong, and once in awhile be right. So, I admit. I messed up my blouse. It might be a wreck. But it just might work out.
I’ll let you know.