When I used to supervise psychiatric residents, psychology and social work interns in their early efforts at psychotherapy I would tell them they should enjoy and make full use of their license to make mistakes. I would explain that mistakes are not all equal, i.e., violations of confidentiality, professional boundaries and patient rights were unethical and often illegal. I would advise them to seek out either me or another professional at the slightest glimmer of a problem in any of those areas.
On the other hand, mistakes in attempting to do therapy were unavoidable and actually positive because they provided opportunities to learn which cannot be gained in any other way. You cannot learn to do therapy by trying to avoid making errors. Treat a client with respect; show an honest interest in their well- being, and that client will forgive almost any blunder.
Writing is not so different. Early drafts are invariably full of errors and imperfections. You cannot write if you to stop each time an imperfection pops up or you’ll never get past the first paragraph. As long as you respect the process of writing, and continue to write regardless of the crap that shows up on the page or the screen at any given moment, mistakes you make can be corrected. I have started with the wrong protagonist, the wrong point of view and even the wrong murder. All mistakes are correctible except one.
The only mistake that will stop your writing is to stop writing. Writing, however flawed, can be revised. What is not written cannot.
As a psychologist and writer I have learned to value confusion. In terms of child development, Piaget described confusion is a sign that one level of understanding is no longer adequate for the current situation and a higher level of understanding has not fully come into focus. It’s also a sign that greater insight is on its way. Personally, when I identify the emotion I feel as confusion, I know I already am in the process of acquiring a something new. I find that comforting.
It is my personal plan to continue to keep making mistakes and getting confused for as long as I live.
How do you feel about making mistakes?