Do you let yourself make mistakes?
This morning I took out a sketchpad and some felt tip markers. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I want to create yet, but I touched the tip to the paper nonetheless. As I was drawing, a slip of my hand threw off my design and I was forced to re-adapt. As I worked around the “error”, I was transported back to a time in fourth grade…
The assignment was simple. Everyone was given a blank cardboard umbrella and was told to paint it with a design of their creation. At the end of class, I handed in a bright red umbrella with big black polka dots.
"Lovely," Mrs. Boone said. "Were you inspired by ladybugs?"
I explained to her that actually, I had a different idea, but as I was painting a big black blob of paint fell on my umbrella and I was forced to change my pattern.
"I like it," she said. "You used a mistake instead of letting it ruin your project."
The moment has stuck with me forever because of the impact her words had on me. The thing is, I never thought of the big black blob as a “mistake” until she said it was. To me, it was simply a thing that had happened, and I adapted accordingly.
Thinking back on the moment this morning, I realized that this is the essence of improv. You simply start something and keep moving in whatever direction it takes you. There are no “mistakes” unless we call them that way.